Gold-star skies

Gold-star skies

A huge swathe of Northumberland has been named Europe’s biggest Dark Sky Park. The 579-square miles of Northumberland’s National Park and adjoining Kielder Water is now set to become a hub for European astro-tourism.

The Arizona-based International Dark Skies Association is the only recognized organisation that can grant Dark Sky status, and the gold tier award bestowed on Northumberland’s huge open spaces means that the region will be protected from light pollution.

Steve Owens, dark skies consultant and chair of the IDA’s development committee, said: “The quality of Northumberland’s night sky, and the huge efforts made by local communities to preserve them, make Northumberland Dark Sky Park a gold tier site, and one of the best places to stargaze in Europe.”

Kielder Observatory has had about 50,000 visitors since it opened in 2008, and more are set to make the journey to this part of north-east England following its Dark Sky endorsement.

Gary Fildes, director of the Kielder Observatory, was part of a joint application by Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water and Forest Development Trust and the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society to gain dark-sky status. He told the BBC new website: “We have big plans to develop the Kielder Observatory further and cement its place as the UK’s most successful facility of its kind. Hopefully the award is going to protect that for generations to come.”

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