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Tender is the night – New interactive map shows England’s night skies under threat

( Last Updated: 07-09-2016 )

The most detailed ever satellite maps of England's light pollution and dark skies have shown the Blackdown Hills as the fifth darkest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England.

A map of the Blackdown Hills AONB showing light and dark areas in the night timeThe interactive online maps, released this week by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRS), were produced using satellite images captured at 1.30am throughout September 2015.

The Blackdown Hills AONB has very low levels of night-time brightness - 99% of its area has a radiance of less than 1 Nano Watt / cm2/ sr.  53.4% of the AONB is in the very darkest category (< 0.25 Nano Watts / cm2/ sr). Overall, the South West is the darkest English region, with the highest proportion of its area (67%) in the two darkest categories. 

The CPRE Night Blight report launched alongside the interactive maps outlines the impacts of artificially bright night skies: "It is a sad fact that many children will grow up never seeing the Milky Way, our own galaxy." More information is becoming available about the effect of light pollution on wildlife, interrupting natural rhythms including migration, reproduction and feeding patterns. Light spilling up into the night sky is also a waste of money and energy.

The dark, star-filled skies contrasting with the light pollution of the surrounding towns is one of the qualities that make the Blackdown Hills AONB such a special place.

The AONB Partnership supports measures to conserve and enhance dark skies. For example, encouraging people to consider the impact of artificial light in their plans for development.

To help individuals and organisations minimise light emitting from their homes and premises, the Blackdown Hills AONB has published a series of information sheets.

For those who wish to enjoy the delightfully dark skies the Blackdown Hills AONB has to offer, there are two great events coming up in the autumn:

A night with the stars 1

Saturday 22 October, 6.30pm - 8.30pm | Culmstock Village Hall

Take a look at what we can see in the night sky and learn about the myths and stories surrounding the constellations. A fun family evening with Jo Richardson (ESERO-UK Space Ambassador) and Space Detectives.

A night with the stars 2

Saturday 29 October, 6.30pm - 9pm | Membury

Join local astronomer Simon Ould on a walk in the hills above Membury to enjoy an evening of guided stargazing under the dark skies of the south-eastern Blackdown Hills.

Both of these events are free (booking essential). For more information, contact Blackdown Hills AONB on 01823 680 681 or blackdownhills@devon.gov.uk.

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Walk, cycle and ride on our suggested routes around the Hills.

Click here to see all routes.

Planning a visit or looking for something to do this weekend? Check the Diary of Events here


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