UK sites awarded dark-sky status

A vast area of Northumberland and Scotland's Isle of Coll awarded dark sky status

Kiewlder Obs Aurora-4

The area around the Keilder Observatory will be Europe’s largest Dark Sky Park. Credit: Northumberland Tourism

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Two UK sites have been awarded the prestigious title of Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

The two parks combined, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park, cover over 1500 square kilometers, making it the largest protected area of dark-sky in Europe.

The award comes after two years of campaigning, spearheaded by the Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society.

Volunteers took over 300 light meter readings throughout the parks and any external lighting not found to meet the standard has been adjusted or replaced to keep skies dark.

Since 2008 the Kielder Water and Forest Park has been home to the Kielder Observatory, founded by Gary Fildes.

“This announcement is terrific news for all of us who have campaigned for a decade or more to protect Northumberland’s night skies,” he said.

“I’m relieved, excited and delighted to see that these magical skies have at last been recognised and protected.”

The IDA has also announced that the Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides would be named as Scotland’s first Dark Sky Community, different to a Dark Sky Park in that the area is populated.

The Coll Dark Skies Group have been working hard to reduce light pollution on the island in the hope of attracting more astronomy tourists to the area.

IDA member Steve Owens, who helped Coll achieve its dark-sky status, said:

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“This is a fantastic achievement for Coll. The fact that the UK now has one quarter of all of the international dark sky places across the globe shows that there is a real appetite here for establishing places where anyone can enjoy the wonder of the night sky.”