Two Northumberland locations have been named as prime locations to discover the wonders of the stars by a pioneering new initiative.
Kielder Water and Forest Park and Cawfields Car Park on Hadrian’s Wall are among a handful of places across the UK that have been identified as offering great and safe spots to marvel at the heavens by Dark Sky Discovery.
A UK-wide partnership of astronomy and environmental organisations, it seeks to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the night sky by highlighting top places to safely view our solar system.
Both Kielder Observatory and Cawfields have been named “Milky “Way” locations – the highest ranking category where people can observe the shimmering ribbon of stars that makes up one arm of our galaxy from horizon-to-horizon.
Gary Fildes, Director of the Kielder Observatory, said: “The observatory’s profile has gone through the roof and the latest Dark Sky Discovery campaign will just add to the facility’s popularity. Well over half of the British public can’t see the Milky Way from their home, which is astonishing, and the result of growing light pollution.
“Some have never seen this wonder of nature at all, especially youngsters. That’s what makes the dark sky oasis we have at Kielder so important.”
Kielder Observatory is running a record 300 events this year to cope with demand and has attracted around 25,000 visitors since opening in 2008. The Kielder Forest Star Camp – named as one of the world’s top 10 astronomical gatherings by the influential Sky at Night Magazine – is also expanding, attracting nearly 300 observers from across the UK annually.
Dark Sky Discovery is led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and has been granted £176,000 by the Big Lottery Fund, awarded through Natural England’s Access to Nature programme, to fund the latest initiative.
To find out more visit http://www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk
More details on events at the Kielder Observatory – run by the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society – can be found http://www.kielderobservatory.org and for Northumberland National Park at http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/thingstodo/stargazing.
NB: From February 2012 until mid to late 2013 the Northern Lights will be visible from Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Read more here.