Five deep dark places for stargazing this summer
Dark Sky Reserves are free of light pollution, allowing the Milky Way to fully shine. (Babek Tafreshi/Getty)
Ask your average travel buff what’s the best thing about the Brecon Beacons National Park and they may extol the virtues of a trek up the peaks of Pen y Fan or Cribyn. Few would mention just how dark it is at night. It is, however, the purity of this darkness that has seen the park awarded the status of Dark Sky Reserve for its optimum stargazing conditions – one of only five places worldwide to be granted such an honour.
"Dark Sky Reserves are a big deal for stargazing," explained Chris Bramley, editor of Sky at Night magazine. "With so many people living in cities, we’re becoming less aware of what’s up there, so it’s great that people can experience the skies in a place where they’re kept in a pristine condition."
The national park applied to the International Dark Sky Association to earn the status, a process that involved having its light pollution levels strictly monitored, and shielding outdoor lighting to make it more dark-sky friendly.
"Allow around 40 minutes to adapt your eyes to the darkness, and as your pupils expand you’ll notice much more.’"said Chris. "We’re so absorbed in the minutiae of our daily lives, looking at the night sky puts us in a much larger context."
Other Dark Sky Reserves
- Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve: let the kids stay up all night on an off-season weekend to sample some of Britain’s clearest skies in the southwest
- Mont-Mégantic Dark Sky Reserve: visit eastern North America’s most powerful telescope at Québec’s Popular Astronomy Festival in July and August
- Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve: make a pilgrimage to New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and Planetarium
- Namibrand Dark Sky Reserve: climb a red sand dune at night to feel the desert sands between your toes as you peer skyward in Namibia