STFC welcomes new forest of stars

The new Dark Sky Park in Galloway Forest marks a new high in the growing interest in the UK's dark skies. It follows three years of STFC-led UK Dark Sky events which have been have been rekindling curiosity in the night sky and switching people on to the wonders of the universe. The Dark Sky Park status, awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association over the weekend, means that Galloway Forest Park is the first place in the UK landscape where dark skies are now safeguarded for people to experience for themselves.

Since 2007, the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre has led Dark Sky public events across Scotland, opening up the night sky and the world of astronomy to thousands of families, community groups and schools.

Dr Stuart Lynn, a research astronomer at the University of Edinburgh who has led many dark sky events, says "We try to give people new ways to connect with science and the world, or even the universe, around them. The response has been fantastic - it has inspired me!"

Dan Hillier, Visitor Centre Manager at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and who leads the Dark Sky programmes across the UK says, "Our events help people to see our planet in perspective. They have also inspired a wave of support from outdoor and environmental organisations including forest parks, community woodlands and national parks - many of whom now regularly host public and community astronomy events. The new Dark Sky Park shows how wide and deep this interest is. People's curiosity in the night sky has led to this new landmark in looking after the planet wisely."

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 gave extra impetus to the dark sky programme. Professor Ian Robson, who heads up International Year of Astronomy in the UK says "It is an incredible achievement for Galloway Forest park and the International Year of Astronomy that we have managed to secure this award. It means millions of people will be able to enjoy the unspoiled skies of Galloway Forest Park for years to come. This forms part of the Dark Skies Awareness cornerstone project for IYA2009, and builds on the excellent work done by the Dark Sky Scotland project in encouraging people to get out and look up"

To achieve the award, Forestry Commission Scotland has worked with the local Wigtownshire Astronomical Society, lighting experts and the surrounding community to ensure Galloway's skies remain pitch black - the best condition for viewing distant galaxies. The formal application was submitted to the International Dark-Sky Association six weeks ago. The final awards were decided at the Association's AGM being held in Phoenix, Arizona, over the weekend.


Boy with telescope

Since 2007, the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre has led Dark Sky public events across Scotland, opening up the night sky and the world of astronomy to thousands of families, community groups and schools.


Contact

Dan Hillier, Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre Manager
dan.hillier@stfc.ac.uk
0131 668 8406


Notes

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre is part of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and is also supported by the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh.

Dark Sky Scotland

International Year of Astronomy 2009

Science and Technology Facilities Council

The Science and Technology Facilities Council ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange.

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