Enjoy Exmoor’s Dark Sky Reserve

LIGHT pollution is a fact of 21st century life – look at one of those satellite night-time photographs and see how few dark places there are in Europe or the USA – but there are a few special places where the night skies are still dark, and one of these is Exmoor.

In 2011, a large part of Exmoor National Park became Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.  It sounds impressive – but what does it mean and why is it important? It is official world recognition, based on collected data, that Exmoor’s night sky is among the darkest in the world, and it includes a commitment to maintain the dark sky.

In a Dark Sky area, millions (literally millions) more stars, star clusters and even distant galaxies are visible with the naked eye than can be seen in an urban area polluted with street, car and building lights.

Stargazing is a healthy, free activity needing no equipment.  Just choose a dark night on Exmoor, lie down on a ground sheet, eyes open and wait for 20 minutes to allow your eyes to adjust – then just gaze at the stars and contemplate how small we are in comparison to the cosmos. You won’t find a better place in Europe to do it. For the best dark nights for stargazing, choose a date when there is little or no moon.

Following a successful first year, the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival will return in October with a two-week long programme of events aimed at inspiring people of all ages about the wonders of the night sky. Events will take place across Exmoor suited to beginners and interested families, as well as those more experienced in astronomy.  The events will include a night walk during the Orionid meteor shower, during which up to 20 meteors an hour may be visible.

The festival runs from Saturday 20th October to Sunday 4th November – for more information visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival