BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
Posted: 27 March, 2009
As part of International Year of Astronomy celebrations, the world’s first two Dark Sky Discovery Sites have been announced in Scotland.
The Dark Sky Scotland partnership named two sites as Newbattle Abbey College and Highland Council’s Glen Nevis Visitor Centre grounds near Fort William. Both sites offer excellent viewing conditions of the night sky, since they are relatively free of light pollution and tall buildings, and are also safe and accessible to the public.
Students study the stars at Newbattle Abbey College in Dalkieth which, together with the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre near Fort William, have become the world's first Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Image: Forestry Commission Scotland.
“Many of us live in light polluted towns and cities yet in every community there is somewhere that is the best local place to go to look up and discover the stars,” says Dan Hillier from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre. “From these places, which might be a park or playing field, you can see planets, hundreds of stars, space satellites and other wonders of the night sky. The organisations that have identified these first two Dark Sky Discovery Sites have taken a world leading role in helping people to discover the Universe that is on their doorsteps.”
Noah Fitzcharles from the nominated site at Newbattle Abbey College is delighted with the result and hopes that students, staff and members of local community groups who live in an urban environment will now be encouraged to explore the sky. Jeremy Thompson of Forestry Commission Scotland, which works closely with Newbattle Abbey College adds: “Woodlands are a fantastic place to view the stars from. Not only do you get a still silence but it adds a natural feel to the whole experience of stargazing. This project is a great example of adding a new and exciting dimension to visiting a woodland at night.”
Rebecca MacKinnes making her own night sky umbrella at the Dark Sky event at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre. Image: Miriam Iorwereh
Further Dark Sky Discovery Sites will be identified throughout 2009 in other parts of the UK and Ireland, and a similar initiative is being adopted in the United States. Once a Dark Sky Discovery Site has been announced, it is added to a database to enable the public to locate their nearest site. For more information visit www.darkskyscotland.org.uk