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STARGAZING

On a clear night, you don't need to visit an observatory, or even use a telescope, to experience the stellar displays in Sark's famous Dark Skies. Thanks to a complete lack of street lighting and general absence of light pollution, Sark is truly one of the best destinations worldwide to behold our constellations. 

Experienced astronomers and amateurs in-the-know have been flocking to the island for decades but it wasn't until 2011 that Sark was designated as the World’s First Dark Sky Island. Since then, the secret has truly been out, and Sark now hosts an array of stargazers keen to experience our inspirational night skies.

Over summer when the skies are likely to be clearer, it doesn't get completely dark until after 10pm. The winter and spring months are ideal for stargazing as the sun sets earlier and is lower in the sky. Whichever time year you head out, it's advisable to take a torch to find your way, plus sensible clothing and footwear.

Whatever your level of interest in our galaxy, you're bound to be impressed with Sark's glorious Dark Skies and stellar displays.

THE OBSERVATORY

Star watching on Sark is special. Due to the lack of cars and public street lighting, the night sky is exceptionally clear and free from light pollution.

In 2011, resulting from the efforts of the Sark Astronomical Society (SAstroS), the community was recognised by the International Dark Sky Association as the world’s first dark sky island.

Before coming to Sark, many people living among streetlights and highways have never seen the Milky Way or have experienced the wonder of true darkness with millions of stars overhead. You do not need a telescope to see scores of the constellations, the planets, or the craters on the moon. Just let your eyes get used to the darkness. Better still, use binoculars. If you want to see further....

Sark’s Observatory, built by SAstroS in 2015 and equipped with a permanently mounted 12- inch Meade telescope, is located in the centre of the island. On clear nights it is operated by enthusiastic members who are happy to welcome visitors whatever your previous experience or lack of it.

The observatory also houses a Coronado solar telescope which can be used during clear days to view our closest and brightest star, the sun.

If you would like to do some starwatching, you can either book online using the website above or by contacting Edd Stone on 07940 727500.

Meeting-up at the observatory will usually be about an hour after sunset, so this will depend on the season; in mid-summer it will be quite late (e.g., around 22.30).

Bookings are on a first-come basis and numbers are normally limited to about 8. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Once you have registered your interest for a stargazing session, your stargazing host will contact you to confirm a date and time to meet if the skies are clear enough to open up.

There are directions and a map on the Society website, but we recommend familiarising yourself with the location during daylight. The sign at the corner of St Peter’s graveyard points you westwards. Keep to the right, beware of ruts and puddles. It’s about 300 metres to the observatory in the northwest corner of the second field.

Wear sensible shoes and warm clothes. A small torch is recommended, but please turn these off on arrival to protect your night-vision!

A charge of £10 per adult is made for each stargazing session, which usually takes roughly 1-2 hours.

Find out more from the Society’s website www.darkskyisland.co.uk

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