There has recently been a lot of hype in the media about the new Star Wars film and tonight I am going to find out what it is all about. I have seen all of them and have always been a great fan of science fiction and the question ‘is there anybody out there’?
When we get the opportunity (living in well illuminated cities and towns) we gaze up into the heavens and each one of us has a different experience of the stars. Some of us identify star groups and planets, and other dream of other worlds out there that one day we may reach. None the less, since ancient days the stars have fascinated us. We have unfortunately diluted those skies with light pollution and unless we can find an area that is free from this we cannot see the stars in all their glory.
So where does all of this fit in with the Isle of Man?
On a clear night the night sky of the Isle of Man is simply stunning when many astronomical sights can be seen by the naked eye and even more can be discovered through a telescope or binoculars. The Island is also ideally placed on occasions to see the magnificent sight of the Northern Lights. The Manx Night sky is an amazing experience that will astound even the most experienced stargazer. Home to currently 26 of the British Isles Dark sky discovery sites, it has some of the darkest skies in Europe.
The UK Campaign for Dark Skies carried out an analysis of the best places in the British Isles for stargazing, factoring in both light pollution and cloud cover. Whilst cloud cover is an issue throughout the British Isles, the clarity of the sky and the almost total lack of light pollution make this Island unique.
Howard Parkin from the Isle of Man Astronomical Society said the lack of light pollution has been key to achieving the international status. He added: “This award means we now have the highest concentration of Dark Sky Discovery sites in the whole of the British Isles. “Light pollution means that more than 85% of the British population has never seen a truly dark sky, but with a low population density and few built-up areas, the Isle of Man provides the perfect spot for stargazing.”
In October 2012, seven sites on the island including Smeale Nature Reserve, Niarbyl and The Sound were given Dark Sky status – the remaining 19 accreditations were announced by the The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) on 6 January 2014. According to the STFC, Dark Sky Discovery Sites are given the status on the basis of being “accessible and free enough from light pollution to get a good view of the stars”.
So when you plan your visit to the island, do take the opportunity if the skies are clear to go out to one of the dark sky areas and see how spectacular it is.
May the Force be with you !