Wales

Bardsey Island starry nights prompt 'dark-sky' bid

  • 25 February 2011
  • From the section Wales
Rosette Nebula
Image caption Steve Porter captured this image of the Rosette Nebula from his home-made observatory on Bardsey Island

Stunning images of starry nights on the Gwynedd island of Bardsey have prompted a bid to secure international "dark-sky" status for the community.

The location of the island off the Llêyn peninsula means it enjoys almost no light pollution during the evening.

It has allowed the Porter family living there to take detailed images of the night sky.

Steve Porter has even built a small observatory on the farm they run on the island, to take advantage of the dark.

"It is a privilege to live under such wonderful dark skies and to see the amazing sights that pass over our heads each night," said Mr Porter.

"Visitors are often astounded by the clarity of the stars and Milky Way here."

The Porter family, Steve, wife Jo, daughter Rachel and son Ben, moved to the island from Conwy in 2007, to look after the island farm on behalf of the Bardsey Island Trust.

The youngest family member Ben has become so engrossed in the night sky he is now studying for a GCSE in astronomy - as well as taking detailed photographs with his father of the solar system and distant galaxies.

Those images have even found their way into the prominent Sky at Night magazine.

Image caption The island trust gave Steve Porter permission to build his own observatory to capture the skies

Now the island trust says it is exploring how it could secure official 'dark-sky' status from the International Dark-Sky Association.

The body recently awarded the status to Sark Island in the Channel Islands.

Like Sark, Bardsey has no public lighting, in fact most of the houses on the island do not have any electricity at all.

Mr Porter said the nearest lights visible at night from the farmhouse observatory are a faint glow of orange from Dublin - 60 miles across the Irish sea.

"This is something worthy of recognition and preserving and it would be encouraging to obtain the support of the International Dark-Sky Association," he added.

The images taken by Mr Porter and his son Ben have won praise from leading academics.

Dr Rhys Morris, of the University of Bristol Astrophysics Group, commented: "These beautiful images are very fine examples of astrophotography and show what can be done if you have modest equipment, a lot of patience and a really dark night sky.

"I hope these pictures will be an inspiration to those suffering brighter skies and encourage them to travel to Bardsey in search of an unspoilt view of the heavens."

Bardsey Trust Chair Richard Williams added: "We know that Sark in the Channel Islands was recently designated the first official International Dark-Sky Community.

"We believe that Bardsey can also appeal to amateur astronomers and to those who may not have the opportunity to see a really dark sky."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites