Seeking Dark Sky Reserve Status

Reserve Status

Cranborne Chase is hoping to become the UK’s first AONB to achieve dark sky recognition

Cranborne Chase is hoping to become the UK’s first AONB to achieve dark sky recognition.

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

IDAA very prestigious designation, Dark Sky Reserve status is awarded to only a small number of areas in the world. To date there are just 11.

To gain the status the area needs to have exceptional or distinguished starry nights and nocturnal environments that are protected for their scientific, natural, educational, cultural and heritage treasures and/or public enjoyment.

Find out more about the status on the International Dark Sky Association website

Why become a Dark Sky Reserve?

  • It is a designation for one of our most special qualities.
  • It will prevent further pollution and enhance our dark skies.
  • It will give us added recognition for our destination.
  • It enables us to increase our connection with half of our visual environment – allowing countless people to understand and enjoy our night skies.

What do we need to do?

The reason Dark Sky Reserves are prestigious is because they take a lot of earning - ie, there is a lot you have to do first to prove that you deserve the status. Here is a summary of the action plan:

  • Measure the quality of our night skies.
  • Assess how dark-sky friendly our lighting is.
  • Create a helpful plan to guide new lighting in the reserve.
  • Demonstrate that we are keen by making a difference in two or three places to reduce the amount of light pollution.
  • Celebrate our night sky by holding a series of events and talks to help people connect with the heavens above.

Isn’t that a lot of work?

Well, yes it is, but others have done it and so can we – with a little help.

How do we measure our night sky?

We are using a grid system to gather Sky Quality Meter (SQM) readings in the the 380 square miles of the Cranborne Chase AONB which we need to survey. The process itself is easy. With an iPhone or special handheld device, click a button to take a measurement and record it. However, some of the places are quite remote and will require going out late at night, so it will take some time.

...Surveying our lighting

There are three types of lighting we need to survey - public lighting, such as streetlights, businesses, such as warehouses and industrial sites, and domestic lighting. This doesn’t mean that there will be an inspector knocking on your door chastising you for bad lighting. No, quite the opposite. With experts we hope to do most of our surveys from the roadside and initial indications show lighting on the Cranborne Chase AONB is pretty good.

...Creating a plan

We will need a bit of help here. The plan will set out in easy terms the requirements, but it will need a lighting technician to do the techie bits. Once that is done, we will have a useful guide for everyone to help light the area efficiently but without damaging our view of the night sky.

...Good lighting projects

We are keen to work with a few people to show that we can make a big difference in retaining lighting, but making it dark sky friendly. This could be a council with street lights, a business or a community. We have some ideas, but we would love your thoughts too.

Let the celebrations begin

The fun part is opening a bottle of bubbly or two. We have planned and will continue to plan some stargazing events and talks. Would your community or group like to host an event? Would your school or youth group like a planetarium show? Get in touch via our contact page and we can help you plan an event.