In today’s world, according to Royal Observatory astronomer, Marek Kukula, 90% of Britain’s population doesn’t get to see the amazing spectacle that is the night sky.
Light pollution has stolen from many of us one of the most extraordinary sights on Earth – the brightest stars from the billions in our Milky Way, the streak of meteors, our neighbouring planets such as Venus and Jupiter, and the glow of other galaxies like Andromeda.
“People have been looking at the night sky, telling stories, for the entirety of recorded human history. But when we moved into cities, we lost that deep connection with the universe.” – Marek Kukula
On a brighter note, you don’t need to go far to reconnect with the universe, Bryan Cox style, and find the dark side. The Lake District National Park offers truly stunning stellar vistas with two designated sites that have been awarded Dark Sky Discovery status.
Dark Sky Discovery Sites:
Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre
Class: Milky Way
SQM Reading: 23.6
Description: The centre is endowed with a most spectacular night sky due to its remoteness, mountainous terrain and lack of light pollution.
Directions: NY 139 141. Proceed along forestry track alongside Ennerdale Water from Bowness Knott. Centre is the first property after two miles. Use turning circle at YHA.
Safety: There is no municipal lighting in the valley or at the centre other than that provided by our own generator. Visitors are advised to drive cautiously on narrow valley roads. Visitors are also advised to observe all site safety notices and carry a torch as the centres grounds are very dark.
Access: Free, open access to all walkers and cyclists. Vehicular access is by event and arrangement with the warden.
Allan Bank, Grasmere
Class: Orion plus Events
SQM Reading: N/A
Description: A historic house and woodland grounds perched on a hillside above the village of Grasmere. No street lights or surrounding buildings.
Directions: Allan Bank is a short walk up the hill from the centre of Grasmere Village. 437 yards from the Red Lion Hotel / Miller Howe Café in the centre of the village.
Access: Access only available when organised events take place in the evenings.
Orion: At these sites, the seven main stars in the winter constellation Orion are visible to the naked eye. Typically, this means away from, or shielded from, bright lights such as street lights, security lights or approaching car lights.
Milky Way: At these sites the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. They are much darker sites found only in more rural areas.
Top tips for stargazing:
- Take hot drinks, wear warm clothing and take a chair if you can.
- Binoculars and telescopes are great for stargazing, but use the naked eye alone when scanning the sky for meteors.
- If you need to read from a map, use red light If possible as red light affects night vision much less than white light.
- Plan ahead and check astronomy books and websites for information on the year’s recurring meteor showers and as a guide to what might be twinkling above your head.
Book to stay at The Lake next summer and get starry-eyed beneath the night sky.