Dark sky over Buttermere

Cumbria bids for Dark Skies Status

There was a time, when I lived in London town, it was very rare that I ever saw a starlit sky, or indeed, a clear view of the moon for that matter. Light pollution, down in the South, ensures that star gazing is definitely off the menu!

Up here though, in rural Cumbria, things are so very different and it is a treat to look out at night and see a sky filled with thousands upon thousands of stars. It allows you to think and reflect upon life, the universe and everything. And, it makes you realise how insignificant we are in the wide scheme of things.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Anyway, I digress. Having ignored, for many years, how beautiful the night sky can be (it’s difficult to appreciate it if you can’t see it!), I have come to realise how lucky I am now. I take every opportunity to gaze at the cosmos and oftentimes wish I knew more about the night sky and had the skills to identify what I’m actually looking at!

You can image how pleased I was to hear recently that steps are being taken to see if a ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ can be established here in Cumbria. If so, we could join the likes of Exmoor, Galloway & Northumberland National Parks and the Brecon Beacons on the list of dark sky preserves in the United Kingdom.

Cumbria has some of the darkest skies in the country and would be an ideal place for people see the spectacular natural wonders of the stars above.

Locally, here in the South Lakes, work is being carried out towards preserving our dark skies. One of our local organisations, Friends of the Lake District is, over the next few weeks, carrying out a survey on how dark the night sky really is and I’m pleased to be one of the volunteers tasked to take dark sky meter readings in five different places around the county. Trained to use the meter readers and when to take the readings, I’ll be collecting data to add to an evolving map of dark sky over Cumbria. I’m excited to be part of this amazing project and can’t wait to do my little bit! The first round of readings will be taken between 23 – 30 November, when the skies are darkest at the time of no moonlight.

Drop by again soon and I’ll update you on progress.

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