Dark Sky Discovery sites in the UK hit the big 50


The Dark Sky Discovery (DSD) network is today unveiling six new Dark Sky Discovery Sites on the day that BBC Two's Stargazing LIVE gets underway. (Tuesday 8 January 2013). Dark Sky Discovery Sites are areas identified by the public as safe, accessible viewing spots where it is dark enough to view stars in the night sky*. The addition of six new sites takes the total number to over 50. In line with the BBC show, the Dark Sky Discovery initiative, that fosters opportunities for thousands of budding stargazers throughout the winter, is also involved with some of the BBC-led events and is running several other this week. More details can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019h4g8/features/events and on the Dark Sky Discovery website (www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk) where further events will be added throughout the winter.

Dark Sky Discovery is a unique national network of local partnerships between astronomers, open space organisations and community groups. Last winter, over 15,000 people took part in DSD events in a single month. Led by STFC, and funded in England by the Big Lottery Fund through Natural England's Access to Nature scheme, Dark Sky Discovery events include among other things, planetarium shows, mini rocket building and talks from astronomy professionals along with numerous other family-friendly activities to engage keen star-gazers whatever the weather.

The six new Dark Sky Discovery Sites being unveiled today are:
Dalby Observatories, North York Moors, Yorkshire
Leitir Easaidh All Abilities car park, Assynt, North West Scotland
Glan Morfa Lodge, Anglesey, North Wales
Gerazim Chapel, near Swansea, South Wales
Parc Penalta, near Pontypridd, South Wales
Dare Valley Parc, near Aberdare, South Wales

Dan Hiller, Project Leader of Dark Sky Discovery, says "Congratulations to all the new Dark Sky Discovery Sites. A fantastic array of other venues is hosting Stargazing Live events in January. Many of these places are ideal spots for regular stargazing throughout the winter and we would love to have them join the growing family of local Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Community groups, schools and environmental organisations can all nominate their best local stargazing site - our website explains how you can do this."

Free public stargazing events supported by the DSD network include:

-- STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, Friday 11th January between 4.30pm and 8pm. There will be both indoor and outdoor stargazing activities, telescope clinics, the RAL Space Robots, planet painting, face painting and planetarium shows.

-- Putechan Hotel in West Kintyre, in association with West Kintyre Stargazers, will host an event on 13th January between 2pm and 8pm that will include indoor virtual stargazing, outdoor night time sky observation, children's activities and astronomy-themed food.

-- The Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre in Cumbria will hold an event on both the 12th and 13th January between 12pm and 12am, giving some of the best views of the night sky in this light-pollution free zone.

-- Events will also be held at Nettlecombe Field Studies Centre in Exmoor and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

-- Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre, stargazing every Friday - last few places still available in January!

For a full list of BBC Stargazing Live events, including Dark Sky Discovery activities, please visit the BBC Website http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019h4g8/features/events

A full list of Dark Sky Discovery sites can be found on the interactive map http://www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk/dark-sky-discovery-sites/map.html
You can also find Dark Sky Discovery on Facebook (Dark Sky Discovery UK)

A selection of images is available. Please contact the STFC Press Office for more details.

For more information on The New Dark Sky Discovery Sites please see
http://www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk/dark-sky-discovery-sites/map.html

Contacts

Corinne Mosese
STFC
+44 (0)1793 442870
Corinne.mosese@stfc.ac.uk

Lucy Stone
STFC
+44 (0)1235 445627
Lucy.Stone@stfc.ac.uk

Dan Hillier
Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
+44 (0)7821 800356

Big Lottery Fund Press Office
+44 (0)20 7211 1888

Giles Merritt
Natural England Access to Nature Team
+44 (0)300 060 1228 desk
+44 (0)7900 608 479 mobile

Steve Roberts
Lead Adviser (Communications) - Access to Nature Team
+44 (0)300 060 0123 desk
+44 (0)7900 608 394 mobile

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Notes to editors

Launched in October 2011, Dark Sky Discovery is based on the successful Dark Sky Scotland programme which, since 2007, has been enabling thousands of people to enjoy informed, first-hand experiences of astronomy in the company of friends, family and others from their local communities. 52 Dark Sky Discovery Sites have already been unveiled in England, Wales and Scotland - illustrating the range of great local spots that people can use for stargazing and inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds to come together in their local area to enjoy the night sky in a radically new way. For a list of partners and more information on Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the UK, visit http://www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk/

Further Information

Stargazing Live
http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/features/stargazing/

About Access to Nature
1. Access to Nature has awarded a grant of #176.8k to the Dark Sky Discovery initiative in England.

2. Access to Nature is run by Natural England and is part of the Big Lottery Fund's Changing Spaces programme launched in November 2005 to help communities enjoy and improve their local environments.

3. Natural England manages this #28.75 million Lottery-funded programme on behalf of a consortium of twelve national environmental organisations comprising BTCV, British Waterways, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Greenspace, Groundwork UK, Land Restoration Trust, The National Trust, Natural England, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust.

4. Through this programme, it is Natural England's ambition to create opportunities for people from all backgrounds to have greater access to our natural environment and bring a lasting change to their awareness and understanding as well as improved links to the natural world, which many of us can take for granted.

5. Access to Nature closed to applications in May 2010 but for further information about the programme visit www.naturalengland.org.uk/accesstonature

6. The Big Lottery Fund is the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. For further information about the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security.

The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including:
-- in the UK; ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR. STFC is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.
-- overseas; telescopes on La Palma and Hawaii

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

STFC also has an extensive public outreach and engagement programme. It is using its world leading research to inspire and enthuse schools and the general public about the impact and benefits that science can have on society.

STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

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