AONB Applying For Dark Sky Status

After months of discussions with astronomers and Lifelong Learning staff, Scilly is applying for ‘dark sky discovery’ status.

The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is driving the application and their team has identified a site on each island, which they hope will meet the guidelines.

On St Mary’s The Garrison sports field has been earmarked. On the off-islands, the playing field at St Martin’s Pool Green, land near Bryher community centre, St Agnes cricket pitch, and Tresco playing field have been chosen.

All are being submitted to the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership, which is made up of astronomy organisations and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.

Rebecca Steggles from the AONB said the criteria for dark sky discovery status is very specific and that’s been quite hard to tailor for the geography of Scilly.

Sites have to be accessible to the public and should allow viewing of the Milky Way with the naked eye. They should offer sightlines of the horizon in all directions, be accessible for wheelchair users and risk-assessed for even ground away from open water or steep drops.

If the Scilly sites pass the test, then they’ll be promoted on the scheme’s national website as a good place for stargazing.

The status differs from the more significant international dark skies qualification granted to Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland and to Exmoor. Rebecca says the next step may be to apply for that status, which has more cachet amongst astronomers.

The Council has also produced a guide to help islanders reduce unnecessary light pollution, which affect chances to view the night sky.