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Society illuminates the path to Dark Sky status

Society illuminates the path to Dark Sky status

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Society illuminates the path to Dark Sky status

Tuesday 13 July 2021

A society that helped Sark to achieve its Dark Sky Island is celebrating a milestone of its own.

Part of the Sark's unique charms are its car-less roads, hidden valleys and peaceful landscape, but over the last ten years another reason has been added.

Boosted by the efforts of Sark Astronomy Societyand its enthusiastic volunteers, the island has gained International renown as the world’s first Dark Skies Island, a status it has held since 2011, when the collective of volunteers first came together. 


Pictured: Last year, SastroS Vice Chairman Dr Richard Axton registered a star in Sark’s name. The naming of the Star was a birthday gift from his grandchildren, and he chose to name it to celebrate Sark’s recognition as the world’s first Dark Sky Island. 

“The designation attracts visitors from all over the world," said Jan Guy from the Society, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

"It is easy to forget that what we might take for granted: dark skies, clear planet viewing, the swathes of the Milky Way, is a very special experience for those who live in cities and areas subject to inevitable light pollution.”

SAstroS, though relatively small in membership, has been very active in its first decade. As well as doing all the preliminary work for Dark Skies Island status to be achieved, the Society has hosted fifteen 'starfests' with visiting speakers such as Professor Andrew Coates (Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory), Professor Chris Lintott (Presenter of The Sky at Night) and the late David Le Conte.

At the heart of its work is astronomy, and the equipment used is pivotal to that. "The key aim of the society though is to look at heavenly bodies so initially a second-hand Meade 10 inch telescope was purchased, housed carefully at members’ homes and brought out when visibility was good," said Ms Guy. 

"A little later one of the founder members, Dr Richard Axton M.B.E, became aware that a family company in Norfolk was able to build a custom observatory which would be just right for Sark’s needs."

She continued: "The kit was shipped from the UK and assembled in one of Sark’s highest fields where there is good all round visibility. While it may look like a rather  posh garden shed, this little observatory, complete with a slightly better Meade telescope, star binoculars and other astral kit has enabled some 1500 visitors, as well as many residents, to enjoy a truly wonderful experience, helped by our three, about to increase to five, knowledgeable volunteer guides."

As befitting a milestone birthday, there will be a celebration. Details for that are yet to be finalised but will certainly include some star gazing, as long as good conditions oblige, in September.

The naming of Sark's very own star 'SarkStarIDA' was an early gift from the recently royally honoured Dr Richard Axton, while Guernsey Post has just issued a set of six stamps commemorating Sark’s Dark Skies.

Correction: A poster detailing SAStroS events in Sark on 18 and 19 September was published in error. It referred to events that took place on those dates in 2020. Details of the society’s 2021 autumn event will be made public shortly. Express apologises for the error. 

Lead image by Jan Guy. 

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