Photo: sarkinfo: Sark by night
You may have never heard of a "dark sky island" before, but welcome to Sark, if you want to visit one.
It's a hard-won designation from the International Dark Sky Association which is an organisation devoted to preserving the darkest and most beautiful night skies on earth. The small island of Sark, 80 miles off the coast of England has just won the award.
Photo: chandlerscoachtours: Sark by day
Sark, a small island just 80 miles off the south coast of England is a bit of an eco-paradise, and the 600 residents like it that way. It is only three miles long, and a mile and a half wide and has 40 miles of picturesque coastline. More to the point, there is no public street lighting, no paved roads and no cars. That means that the night sky is very very dark and there is no light pollution.
Winning the designation took a lot of work and included community consultations, assessment of the sky's darkness and an audit of all the external lights. A lighting management plan was created and many local residents and businesses altered their lighting to make sure that as little light as possible spills upwards. Several of the hotels on the island have refitted their lighting, as has the school and other buildings.
The local government has pledged to make any future lighting conform to the rigorous standards. Said one of the Dark Sky officials: "It was clear to me when I began working with the community on Sark that they realize how precious and rare their view of the night sky is. The decision to seek designation as an International Dark Sky Place was really supported by everyone on the island, and great efforts were made to improve lighting, both by individuals and businesses."
Apparently in European cities it's rare to see more than about two hundred stars on a clear night compared with five or six thousand visible in Sark. The milky way is rarely visible in cities yet it's often very obvious there, particularly in winter.
This designation means that Sark joins the select group of international sites chosen for their dark skies, including Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, which became Europe's first International Dark Sky Park in November 2009.
The mission of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. They fight light pollution on a national and international level by working with communities, astronomers, ecologists and light professionals.
Photo: starry night photos
The Guardian has noted ten more places to see the stars. Stonehenge is on the list, and they have an evening of stargazing with storytellers and local amateur astronomers. Sounds like a stellar event.