The dark skies initiative is all about connecting people to the natural world after dark and extend our relationship with wildlife around the clock. By helping people to embrace and learn about the nocturnal environment we are hoping that we will begin to learn about the importance in preserving the dark. By tackling light pollution there will be a whole range of benefits for wildlife but also for our own wellbeing, health, tourism and businesses. You can learn more about the importance of the night using our resources and information. In order to share the importance of Devon’s dark skies with people the LNP organised a Dark Skies Day in 2019 and a Dark Skies week in 2020 which you can read about below.
Devon Dark Skies Week 2020 #DevonDarkSkies
Devon Dark Skies week saw over 400 people attending events both in person and online with activities designed to help us all embrace the night sky and raise awareness for light pollution. The #DevonDarkSkies social media campaign reached over 45K people and almost half the attendees of the week’s events were people who previously weren’t aware of the LNP. But don’t worry if you missed out, all our resources, activities and webinars are available below so you can keep on learning. Thank you as well to everyone who supported the week.
A virtual tour of the night sky – by David Strange from the Norman Lockyer Observatory
An introduction to astrophotography – by Tom Pinches, amateur photographer
What is lighting? – by Bonnie Brooks, lighting designer and engineer
Embracing nature and darkness to inspire creativity and wellbeing – by Tiffany Francis-Baker, nature writer and illustrator.
Artificial lighting and wildlife – An evening of presentation and discussion by four speakers Prof Fiona Matthews, Dr Julie Day, Douglas Boyes and Will Scott
What future for dark skies? – by Bob Mizon MBE from the Commission for Dark Skies and Ivan Buxton and Penny Mills from Devon CPRE
A virtual bat walk – by Sarah Butcher from Devon Bat Group
Download our lighting survey and then go through our checklist for each light fixture around your home, business or community. This guide will help you to spot any changes that can be made to lighting locally to minimise the impacts of lighting on wildlife.
Dark Skies Challenge using our activity sheet and try to complete all the challenges. You can still share pictures of you completing the challenges or your finished sheets with us on social media (#DevonDark Skies)
Make a telescope to see the stars up close or use it in the day to see wildlife high up in the trees.
Create a sky chart to help you find objects in the night sky and identify the constellations you can see with this hand step by step provided by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA).
Make a Planisphere also known as a star wheel, this is like a sky chart but you can adjust it to show what the sky is like at different times of the year or when visiting different hemispheres. Step by step provided by the IDA.
Learn the basics of stargazing, how to prepare for a stargazing trip and what to start looking for with this guide from Sky and Telescope.
How to Spot Venus – Look for one of the brightest planets in the sky, also known as the morning star.
How to spot the North Star – The North Star is also known as Polaris. It’s special because unlike most stars the Earth’s axis points directly towards it so it remains in the same place in the sky throughout the night.
Visit a Dark Sky Discovery Site, Devon has two Dark Sky Discovery Sites outside of Exmoor National Park which are easily accessible and offer the potential to see the
Nominate a Dark Sky Discovery site, Devon only has two nominated Dark Sky discovery sites but if you’ve got a green space near you where you’re away from the worst light pollution, there are good sightlines and there is good public access you can nominate your site. Nominations are also widely accepted from community and school groups so you can do this activity with others.
Build a hedgehog house – Follow this guide by the Wildlife Trust to make a space for hedgehogs near you. This is also a great way to encourage hedgehogs into a garden.
Identify a Moth – See if you can identify any moths this week, this nature spotter guide by the Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Watch might be a good place to start.
Go on a night time nature walk – Going for a walk at night can let you see and hear things you’d never see in the day and is a great way to see somewhere you know well differently. This guide by the National Trust will help you know what to look out for throughout the year.
Twilight activity sheet at home – Have fun completing the activities and learn about night-time forest animals by Forestry England
Twilight activity sheet in the forest – Take a visit just before dark to see many animals at their most active. Use this sheet when you go on your twilight adventure and see what you can spot by Forestry England
Visit a Virtual Dark Skies Reserve
While it may be difficult to look at dark skies from different places around the world right now, we’ve brought a collection of videos together so you can still experience some incredible dark skies.
Dartmoor National Park – A time-lapse film by Arthur Cauty, taken from the depths of Dartmoor National Park.
Exmoor National Park – Exmoor NP was the very first designated International Dark Sky Reserve. Discover what this means and learn how you too can explore the dark night skies of Exmoor.
Northumberland National Park – Head north to Northumberland and watch the stars travel through the sky in another time-lapse video created by the National Park.
Galloway International Dark Sky Park – A short time lapse film by Alasdair MacLeod set in the Galloway Forest National Park in south west Scotland. The park is a designated dark skies location, and is a fabulous place for viewing the night sky.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – A time-lapse compilation showcasing the night inside and around Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand’s South Island. Aoraki Mackenzie is the largest gold rated dark sky reserve in the world, covering 4367 square kilometres.
Citizen Science Projects
Galaxy Zoo – Help astronomers learn how galaxies form by classifying telescope images of distant galaxies according to their shapes, you may even be the first person to ever see these images.
Solar Stormwatch – Track eruptions of material from the solar atmosphere as they expand through the inner solar system so we can improve space weather forecasts.
Moon Mappers – Map craters on the moon so that any robots can find safe spaces to land.
Stardust@Home – Find tiny interstellar dust particles that originated in distant stars light years away, collected on an aerogel from space.
Resources for Schools
Below are the links to two lesson plans provided the CPRE which might provide some inspiration for schools and education groups wanting to learn more about dark skies and light pollution.
Resources and Information
If you’re feeling inspired by Dark Skies week 2020 and want to learn more we’ve collated informative resources from our partners that give further insight into lighting and the effects on wildlife, tranquillity, health and the environment.
The general status of lighting and what can be done to reduce the impact of lighting for businesses and individuals.
Natural Devon Guide to Lighting
An overview of lighting, dark skies and what can be done
Good lighting guide
A reflection on the current status of LEDs
The changing light pollution over the past decade in the South West
Technical lighting guidance informed by work in the South Downs
Introduction to light and lighting
Lighting and Wildlife
Light and Insects
The impacts of lighting on insects and the roles of insects after dark
Light and Amphibians
The impacts of artificial lighting on bats
How lighting threatens bats
Technical guide for bats and artificial lighting
Technical guide to protecting bats in waterside developments
Devon Bat Project’s lighting guide for businesses and property owners
Light and birds
The impacts of artificial light on nesting, migrating and garden visiting birds
Light and health
An introduction to lighting and health
Lighting and safety
Lighting and health infographic
LEDs and blue lighting
European Health Committee report into the effects of lighting on health
Exploring how landscape can reduce the health effects of light pollution
The relationship between artificial light and certain cancers