Exmoor National Park given night sky protection
The night sky above Exmoor National Park has been awarded a special protection status.
It has been granted International Dark-Sky Reserve (IDR) status by the International Dark-Sky Association.
The status means the night-sky is protected and lighting controls are in place to prevent light pollution.
Dr Nigel Stone, from the park, said: "We are delighted that the importance of dark skies has received this international recognition."
The park and Mont Megantic in Quebec, Canada, are the only two areas in the world with IDR status.
Astronomer Steve Owens, who was involved in Exmoor's application, said: "They have gone through the process of getting the designation so their skies are protected.
"Parks that don't have the status and the lighting controls might find their skies deteriorate over the decades as housing developments grow in size."
Mr Owens said lighting controls would make people think whether they needed lights, how bright they needed to be and which way the light was shining.
It is also hoped the status will encourage astrotourism with people visiting Exmoor during the winter.
Mr Owens said: "You'll see the milky way very clearly. In a big city like London you'll see maybe a hundred stars on a clear night, on Exmoor you'll see thousands. On a meteor shower in a city you'll see two-three shooting stars an hour, but on Exmoor you'll see maybe may 50-60."
A Dark Sky Reserve is considered to have an exceptional quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for scientific reasons and public enjoyment.