It has been announced in the last few days that the Wales Botanical Gardens has been granted Dark Sky Discovery Site status by the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership. The Wales Botanical Gardens are near Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. They join 5 other sites in Wales which have previously been granted the same status, these being
- Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
- Broadhaven, Pembrokeshire
- Crai Village, Powys
- Parc Penallta, Caerffili
- Glyncorrwig Ponds, Port Talbot
I am going to be on live TV this afternoon talking about this story; I shall put a link to the programme when it becomes available online. I grew up in Pembrokeshire, which is the only county in Wales to boast two such dark sky sites. In fact, I lived only about 8 km (5 miles) from Broadhaven, and it is often where I would go to look at the night sky as a teenager.
In addition to these 6 sites with Dark Sky Discovery status, last year the Brecon Beacons National Park was awarded the more prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association, becoming only the 5th location in the World to be granted this status. I blogged about that story here.
As can be seen from the NASA satellite photograph below, Wales is one of the best parts of the British Isles if one wants to experience a dark sky, with large parts of the country unaffected by the light pollution which so badly hampers the view of the night-time sky from out cities and towns. This is good news for Wales, as there is an increasing desire among many visitors and tourists to be able to properly see the wonders of the night sky, so the tourism industry in Wales is getting a boost from its dark skies and its now several dark sky sites.
If you live in or plan to visit the Disunited Kingdom, here is the web page where you can find a map of the DUK’s Dark Sky Discovery sites. If you are lucky enough to either live or go to a place which boasts a dark sky then the number of stars one can see can be quite overwhelming. In a dark place one can see five to six thousand stars in the sky above if one gives one’s eyes enough time to adapt to the dark (about 20-30 minutes). In addition to the stars, including faint ones, one starts to also see nebulae (“clouds”), such as the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Nebula (which is actually a galaxy some 2 million light years away). And, anyone who has seen the band of the Milky Way (our Galaxy) sweeping from horizon to horizon will testify that it is a sight that you will not forget in a hurry.
With it getting dark so early at the moment, January and February are great months to get outside to view the wonders of the night sky, and doing so from a dark site will greatly increase your enjoyment.