Stargazers capture stunning views of Northumbrian skies

07 November 2012

Moves to gain Dark Sky status for up 400 square miles of Northumberland are gathering pace as stargazers reveal the stunning beauty of the region’s starry skies.

Images attached: Star pictures by Dave Thompson, amateur astronomer from Medomsley, County Durham, taken at the Kielder Forest Star Camp.

An audit of external lighting is underway in Kielder Water & Forest Park and parts of Northumberland National Park and residents in selected areas have been sent letters to explain the process and ask for their co-operation. The exercise is a key step in an application process which will eventually be adjudicated by the Tucson-based International Dark Skies Association. The aim is to demonstrate a commitment to tackling wasteful light
pollution and helping us maintain the rural character of the area.

If successful, Kielder Water & Forest Park would become England′s only Dark Sky Park and the National Park would assume the mantle of Europe′s biggest Dark Sky Reserve. The ambitious project is a joint bid by the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society.

Meanwhile, high profile support has been received from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Director Dr Kevin Fewster said:

"The creation of a Dark Sky Reserve in the north east will help increase awareness of astronomy across the region as well as securing access to dark skies for future generations."

And with visitors still flocking to the acclaimed Kielder Observatory, amateur stargazers attending the Kielder Forest Star Camp have captured staggering images of celestial objects above the 155,000 acre wilderness. Nearly 150 people from across the UK camped out for up to five days drawn by some of England′s darkest skies, where light pollution doesn′t snub out the beauty of the stars. See attached images.

1. Kielder Observatory, run by the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, has become one of the region’s top visitor attractions since it opened in 2008. It offers an acclaimed programme of star watching activities and night watch events. To find out more visit www.kielderobservatory.org

2. Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place. It aims to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability, provide public recreation and leisure facilities, facilitate education in all aspects of the natural environment and advance art and architecture in the Park. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities. Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

3. Northumberland National Park encompasses the landscape and cultural heritage of 405 square miles (105,000 hectares) - over a fifth of Northumberland from Hadrian’s Wall to the Scottish border, and adjoins Kielder Water & Forest Park along its western boundary. With the help of our dedicated volunteers the National Park Authority looks after more than 1100 kms of Rights of Way - including two national trails and a number of long distance walking, cycling and horse riding trails, and the central, most visited section of Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. 32 Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering over 10,000 hectares, one Ramsar Site; three National Nature Reserves and 6 European Special Areas of Conservation fall within the boundary of the National Park. We are also home to one of the country’s official Dark Sky Discovery Sites (Cawfields) and are part of the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership. We work with farmers and landowners to maintain healthy soils, clean water and dark skies, to enhance wildlife habitats and help rural businesses adapt to climate change. We are supporting sustainable enterprises, transport and green tourism and encouraging domestic and community-scale renewable energy. We have also invested in a network of electric vehicle charging points at keys places in the National Park and along Hadrian’s Wall as part of a network installed around the North East. www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk.  

Media calls: Richard Darn - richard@richarddarn.com - 0775 367 0038

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