Looking Up – Bob Eklund

Sark Island (inset) and the night sky over Sark
Sark Island (inset) and the night sky over Sark

Sark Becomes World’s First Dark Sky Island

(A Good Place for Looking Up…)

The Channel Island of Sark has been recognized for the quality of its night sky by the International Dark-sky Association (IDA), which has designated it the world’s first dark sky island, the latest in a select group of dark sky places around the world.

Sark has no public street lighting and there are no paved roads and cars, so it does not suffer from the effects of light pollution in the same way as towns and cities do. This means that the night sky is very dark, with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, meteors streaking overhead, and countless stars on display.

Located between the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, Sark is the smallest of the British Channel Islands, just 3 miles long and 1 _ miles wide. Despite its small size, it has ample tourist accommodations—from award-winning hotels and restaurants to campsites.

The announcement was hailed as a great success by astronomers. Professor Roger Davies, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said, “This is a great achievement for Sark. People around the world are become increasingly fascinated by astronomy as we discover more about our universe, and the creation of the world’s first dark sky island in the British Isles can only help to increase that appetite. I hope this leads to many more people experiencing the wonders of a truly dark sky”.

The awarding of the “dark sky island” status followed a long process of community consultation, which included the assessment of the sky darkness and an audit of all the external lights on Sark. Under a comprehensive lighting management plan, many local residents and businesses have altered their lighting to make it more dark sky friendly, ensuring that as little light as possible spills upwards where it can drown out starlight.

The government of Sark, the Chief Pleas, was supportive from the start. Conseilleur Paul Williams, chair of the Agriculture Committee, which oversees environmental matters, said, “Sark becoming the world’s first dark sky island is a tremendous feather in our environmental cap, which can only enhance our appeal. Sark is a wonderful island and this recognition will bring our uniqueness and beauty to a wider audience.”

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.

Steve Owens, the dark sky development officer who led Sark’s application to the IDA, recognizes the benefits that this might have for the community on Sark. “This is an ideal opportunity to bring stargazers to the island throughout the year, and I think that Sark is about to see a boom in astro-tourism, especially in the winter months,” he said. “We’ve seen a surge of public interest in astronomy in recent years, with the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and more recently with the success of BBC “Stargazing Live,” and it’s great that places like Sark and Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park are allowing people from towns and cities to come and experience a dark sky.”

To learn more about Sark:

You can contact Bob Eklund at [email protected], or visit his websites at www.bobeklund.com and http://firststarbook.com.

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