Of all the many compelling views on Earth, the most mysterious and mesmerising is the bright starlit sky.
With no cars, neon strip lights or street-lamps, the Channel Island of Sark was awarded International Dark Sky Island status in 2011.
Meaning it is officially one of the best places on the planet to watch the stars. Here, residents use the ever-present flicker of the Milky Way to site themselves, much like we may a tower or a satellite spire. The rugged ridge of La Coupée is hailed the best viewing site with Scorpius, Sagittarius, Lyra and Cygnus prominent from June to August. Visitors that arrive on the smallest of the four main islands without their own stargazing kit are warmly welcomed to borrow telescopes from the Sark Astronomy Society.
In the dark winter season, 80 miles off the south coast of England, Sark is darker than carbon,with exceptional blackness. Stargazing here on a cloud-free night is spectacular with countless stars across a vast expanse on which meteors speed from one horizon to the other. In the northern hemisphere, the darkest skies are visible between September and April, and for two hours after sunset. Sark’s 600-strong community ensure as little light as possible spills upwards into the sky, so there is nothing to blot out starlight. The result is a magical stargazing experience that brings home just how incredible the Earth, the sky and its constellations, and the cosmos is.
A STARGAZER’S GUIDE
Visiting the Channel Islands in Spring or Autumn?
Then be sure to visit Starfest on the isle of Sark - see the Sark Astronomy Society website: www.sastros.sark.gg Biannual Starfest celebrations mark both the beginning and end of winter (usually in May and October). It attracts legions of big-name stargazers as well as interested amateurs, from Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at Greenwich Royal Observatory to Professor Chris Lintott from Oxford University and presenter of BBC The Sky at Night.
Keen to stargaze in Jersey? Then keep an eye on the National Trust Jersey website - it runs family-orientated star-gazing events throughout the year. Most take place at the Sir Patrick Moore Astronomy Centre and involve a guided viewing through high-quality provided telescope at Les Creux, St Brelade visit www.nationaltrust.je
Looking for star-gazing events and venues in Guernsey? Then visit the Guernsey Astronomical Club website: www.astronomy.org.gg
Holidaymakers are welcomed to all events, meetings and workshops at its fully-equipped observatory. Topics include the planets, comets, deep sky objects (eg galaxies and nebulae), double stars, celestial mechanics, computers, photography, and imaging. The club, founded in 1972, is a member of the British Astronomical Association and the Federation of Astronomical Societies.
The third largest Channel Island of Alderney is currently in the middle of an application process to become recognised as International Dark Sky status. They are running several stargazing events in this year led by the incredible Michael Maunder, a contemporary of Patrick Moore and a highly respected astronomer who lives on Alderney. For details visit www.visitalderney.com/events/diary/
Pack hot drinks and extra layers of clothing plus a deckchair if you can - it’s important to be comfortable when stargazing.
If you haven’t got a telescope, bring a pair of binoculars - but don’t forget to use the naked eye to scan the sky for meteors.
Do some homework before you arrive to gain the low-down on what may be twinkling overhead.
Check for space stations, satellites and advance notice of the year’s recurring meteor showers.
Consult the many dark-sky maps available online to see what to expect.
Download the SkyView® app onto your phone and point at the sky to identify stars, constellations, satellites and more!