Few things are as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the sky on a clear, dark night. The problem is, most of us live in cities or towns and the lights blot out all but the brightest stars and planets.
The Isle of Sark, one of the Channel Islands, has decided to become the place to go for skygazers. Early this year it was named the world’s first Dark Sky Island by the International Dark-Sky Association. The little island, with a population of only about 600, decided to put itself on the map by altering their lighting to reduce what astronomers call “light pollution”. It helped that there are no streetlights, cars, or paved roads on Sark.
The Isle of Sark hopes “astro-tourism” will bring the local economy a big boost, especially during the winter. The island has been promoting tourism for some time. Being a small and somewhat remote member of the Channel Islands, it provides an experience most visitors to Europe miss. It offers some rugged hiking, caves, and a beautiful 17th century mansion. The dark skies, however, are what will really give the Isle of Sark a chance to stand out among the tough competition for tourists.
Of course this isn’t the only remote spot with dark skies. Twelve years ago I visited Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. Like the Isle of Sark, there was no public lighting or cars. In fact, there was no electricity at all. At night it was so dark I needed a flashlight to keep from getting lost on my way to the outhouse. The starry sky was the most brilliant I’ve ever seen and I’ve never forgotten it. Has anyone out there been to Isla del Sol more recently? Is it still that dark at night?
Photo courtesy Forest Wander, which has lots of beautiful free nature photography.