More money may have been spent in one year bailing out the banks than has ever been spent on scientific research (yes, in all fields, ever), but there’s one shimmering product of that research nestled in deepest Northumberland, chest deservedly puffed with pride…
As I cranked up the radio over breakfast yesterday, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing — some really good news.
I joined just in time to hear that Northumberland National Park had finally been awarded Dark Sky Status by the International Dark-Sky Association. In fact, the highest possible accolade — Gold Tier Dark Sky status.
Why is this particularly great news? Because a key Northumberland National Park attraction, positioned very close to the English/Scottish border, is Kielder Observatory.
Coincidentally, right on the night of their big announcement, I’d booked to attend another of the observatory’s legendary Jupiter Nights — my third visit in the last year or so.
My companion for the journey, visiting from Korea, had never seen a true night sky.
Due to the terrible air pollution in her home near Seoul, the most she had ever seen was one or two stars attempting to break through the smog.
So, with such a great facility nearby, how could I not suggest the journey to Kielder to experience the night sky at its finest?
A Patchy Start…
On arrival, conditions were mixed and, at one point, heavy cloud completely obscured the sky.
Through one of the powerful telescopes, we’d managed an early glimpse of Jupiter along with its moons but it would be great to enjoy more.
Thankfully, the biting cold wind parted the clouds, unveiling the night sky — complete with a faint Milky Way and shooting stars to boot.
As the perfect half moon set in the west, the sky became darker and darker, the stars stronger and stronger — a near perfect night to observe the heavens and remind ourselves that we’re a ball of rock tumbling around in organised chaos. A gift.
A Breath of Fresh Air…
The award of Gold Tier Dark Sky Status is huge for the North East.
Northumberland National Park is one of only a handful of Dark Skies across the globe. Moreover, it’s the darkest sky in Europe and the third biggest Dark Sky in the world.
Gary Fildes can now press on confidently with his ambitious plans, which include a state-of-the-art planetarium (for those nights when the cloud-cover lingers) and the installation of a one-metre aperture telescope.
Not only that, 1500 square kilometres of Northumbrian countryside will now be protected from the vagaries of increased light pollution — any planning applications will absolutely have to take into account the area’s newly-awarded status.
All-in-all, a breath of fresh air to see less being recognised as so much more…
UPDATE 12/12/13: NEW PRINT AVAILABLE!
I’ve finalised the size of the print and made it into a beautiful, affordable trinket at 6×6″ on 10×8″ paper — you can find it at the top of the New Prints page.
Order by 16th December and receive it in time for Christmas!