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ORIEL SCIENCE Celebrates Dark Skies Week 2024

Updated: Mar 28


 

This February we celebrated the third annual Welsh Dark Skies Week! Working with Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Swansea City Council and Faulkes Telescope, we put on a day of events where our visitors could learn more about space, the sky and the importance of protecting our landscapes from light pollution.


How did Oriel Science Celebrate Welsh Dark Skies Week 2024?

On Wednesday 14th February, Oriel Science hosted an entire day of activities that focussed on the night sky. We hosted two sessions: Faulkes Telescope and Stardust Hunters. With an excellent introduction from Gower AONB discussing Dark Skies, light pollution and our local area – we started a day full of discovery!


a woman presents images of the universe in front of a group of children, one has his hand up

Using the Faulkes Telescope, Dr. Sarah Roberts, a Swansea University astronomer and deputy-director of Oriel Science, looked at the night sky above Siding Spring, Australia. Taking control of the telescope, she showed our visitors the wonders of the night sky as well as explained the fascinating differences between what can be seen in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We were also treated to a

collection of fossils, including a fossilised T-Rex tooth!

The Faulkes Telescope Project provides 1000 hours of free usage to public schools. To learn more, click here: Faulkes Telescope Project | Dill Faulkes Educational Trust


Visitors could also spend the day being an astronomer themselves during our Stardust Hunters activities, looking for micrometeorites in dirt found in the local area. These findings could then be sent to scientists at Swansea University where they will be analysed to see if they have found tiny rocks from space! With the hope to prove that star dust can be found anywhere.


What are Dark Skies Places?

Dark Skies Places are protected areas of land and sky which implement measures to ensure that light pollution is kept to a minimum. Twenty-two countries have recognised Dark Skies Places, creating an international community dedicated to the preservation of our skies. Here, you will have one of the best views of our night sky, where light pollution is so low that visibility is amongst the best in the world. But this initiative is not just about viewing the night sky: light pollution is a great risk to wildlife and due to the wasted energy, it contributes to climate change.


What is it for?

Light pollution is caused by outdoor, artificial lighting which raises the light levels that occur naturally. This negatively impacts our wildlife such as hatching sea turtles, migratory birds, mammals as well as having a negative impact on human health. It is so prominent, that approximately 80% of the entire human population does not have a good view of the night sky. Light pollution has also been linked to sleep disorders, obesity, and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. Animals living in light polluted areas may be unable to use the Earth’s daily light cycle to properly regiment their life-sustaining behaviours. As much as 50% of outdoor light is wasted and no scientific evidence has been submitted to prove that additional outdoor lighting prevents crime, but the power needed to fuel this contributes to climate change.

For these reasons, the Dark Skies initiative was formed and has been an international success at sustaining Dark Skies Places and educating the public on why the natural, dark night sky is so important.


Can I visit a Dark Skies Place?

The UK currently has 19 Dark Sky Places, five of which are in Wales:

-        Elan Valley Estate


Eryri National Park is the largest Dark Skies Place in the UK.


Ynys Enlli is the first and only Dark Skies Sanctuary in Europe. Sites classed as ‘Sanctuary’s’ need the most protection and are some of the most remote and therefore darkest places in the world. Ynys Enlli is one of only 16 places globally to be given this ranking.

To learn more about each Dark Skies Place, click here: The Dark Skies Reserves of Wales | Wales.com


What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are areas of countryside and coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are under jurisdiction of their local councils to preserve their beauty and integrity. Different to National Parks, these are areas where people still live and work, but their beauty, flora and fauna are considered an asset to the nation and therefore have some legal protections. First proposed in 1945 by civil servant, John Dower, there are now 46 AONB across the three nations (Scotland has its own authority: National Scenic Area), five of which are in Wales.


Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have often been perceived as merely 'nice places to visit' due to their name. Therefore, since 2023 they are now being elevated to ‘National Landscapes’ (Cymraeg: Tirwedd Cenedlaethol) to position them alongside their larger and more well-known counterparts, the National Parks.


Can I visit an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales?

These Ardal o Harddwch Naturiol Eithriadol (AONB) can be found up and down the country:

-        Gower AONB

-        Anglesey AONB

-        Llŷn Peninsula AONB

-        Wye Valley AONB


To learn more about each AONB in Wales, click here: Welsh Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty | Visit Wales


Our partner for this event was Gower AONB, which was the first place given AONB status in 1956. This beautiful area boasts limestone cliffs, sandy beaches and salt marshes all the way through to rolling hills and wooded valleys.

To learn more about the Gower AONB, click here: Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - Swansea or find them on Facebook, here: Facebook: This Is Gower

 


Oriel Science wants to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended our Dark Skies event, it was one of our busiest workshops to date and we can’t wait to bring you more!


We will be hosting more FREE public workshops soon.

Go to our Upcoming Events page for more: Upcoming | Oriel Science

a webpage capure of a galaxy seen from the Faulkes Telescope in Australia

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