Starry Starry Nights

Maintaining our precious dark skies and further reducing light pollution across the AONB, revealing the majesty of the heavens.

Over millenia humans have gazed at the stars above us, and created legends and culture around them, finding constellations and meaning in the dark night skies.

Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, can be seen clearly on a dark night, a bold strip of light across the sky, but for many light pollution means that this is a rare sight.

The night skies over the ruined church at Knowlton, within a neolithic earthwork.

In 2019 Cranborne Chase AONB was awarded status as an International Dark Sky Reserve – the only AONB in the UK to have this designation across its whole area, and one of only 16 Dark Sky Reserves in the world. We have some of the darkest night skies remaining in south central England, an oasis of dark.

The Chase & Chalke Partnership will celebrate and build on this status in the Starry Starry Nights project, creating Community Dark Sky Custodians and provide them with the knowledge and skills to share their enthusiasm for the myriad of sparkling stars with others and volunteers who will lead stargazing evenings and being trained to monitor their local dark skies.

Community Dark Sky Custodians will learn about the multiple benefits of dark skies; benefits to human health, wildlife, saving money and carbon by reducing unnecessary lighting, better targeted lighting for security purposes and the amazing wonder, enjoyment and learning that comes from a better understanding of the nightscape that forms 50% of our environment. The project will provide at least a dozen Champions to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with communities, groups and visitors to the Chase & Chalke area. They will also learn how to take regular Sky Quality Meter (SQM) readings to record and measure light pollution. They will share simple remedial actions in their communities to minimise and monitor light pollution, protecting dark skies for future generations.

The project will encourage the identification of local ‘Dark Sky Discovery Sites’ for regular stargazing evenings and events enabling sharing of community knowledge, enthusiasm and pride in their dark skies.

The magical starry skies will also be brought alive to schoolchildren, scouts and brownie groups via ‘Space Detective’ themed workshops and talks allied to school Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 and to assist uniformed groups to gain Astronomy badges.

The project will offer training to tourism-related businesses in how sharing their knowledge and interest in dark skies could add value to their businesses by offering tailor-made ‘Dark Sky’ packages to visitors, encouraging increased visitor wonder, knowledge and enjoyment, becoming ‘Dark Sky Friendly’ operations themselves and encourage others to do likewise.

Get involved

Become a Dark Sky Custodian, or attend special stargazing evenings, suitable for all ages, led by the Wessex Astronomical Society (these will be advertised on our website).

Contact the team to find out more.