It’s not just in Texas where the stars at night shine deep and bright.
Exciting moves have been revealed to create what would be the third largest area of protected starry dark sky in the world in deepest Northumberland.
Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority are consulting on securing dark sky status for nearly 400 square miles of spectacular countryside in England’s wildest county.
The prestigious designation is awarded by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), based in Tucson, USA.
Worldwide there are just 12 such preserves, including the two largest in Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Mount Megantic in Quebec, Canada.
Project chiefs are in talks with residents, parish councils and businesses to explain the proposals and gauge feedback before any application is made.
If successful, Kielder Water & Forest Park would become England’s first Dark Sky Park, while adjoining Northumberland National Park would be Europe’s largest Dark Sky Reserve – both committed to reducing light pollution and engaging the public about our dark skies.
But what would it mean for local people and businesses?
Elisabeth Rowark, Director of the Kielder Water & Development Trust, explained, “Northumberland is a magical place both by night and day.
Dark Sky status would allow us to protect, cherish and promote our natural nightscapes.
“It’s crucial to understand that Dark Sky status does not mean turning lights off.
“Rather it is about working with people and Northumberland County Council to create better and less wasteful lighting and promoting the night sky as an asset for the region.”
Northumberland has more dark skies than anywhere else in England, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The Milky Way stretches from horizon-to-horizon, while galaxies millions of light years away are naked eye objects.
But such breath-taking views are becoming a rarity.
Light pollution means that over 85% of the UK’s population has never seen a truly dark sky. Even Northumberland is not immune.
Between 1993 and 2000 the North East’s area of dark skies shrank by nearly 30%. Since then the spread of light pollution has continued.
But it is not too late.
Duncan Wise, who is leading the Dark Sky Reserve Project for the Northumberland National Park Authority explained,
“Dark Sky status will help us protect the quality of the night sky.
With public support we believe we can make this happen.
“It will be a spur to sustainable tourism, help cut energy costs and benefit nocturnal wildlife.”
Since the start of the year Forestry Commission wildlife rangers, stargazers from Kielder Observatory and Newcastle astronomical societies, National Park Rangers and volunteers have taken hundreds of light metre readings across the proposed dark sky area on clear moonless nights.
Readings confirm that the North East retains some of England’s darkest skies.
Visit www.visitkielder.com to find out more.