Residents and visitors had the opportunity to explore the islands’ beautiful night skies last week when an astronomer re-visited St Mary’s to help officially launch five newly-designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites on Scilly.
Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society Simon Ould had been invited to visit by the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Assistant Rebecca Steggles and the Council’s Childcare and Youth Officer Helen McGuinness as part of ongoing work to inspire children with their understanding of the natural environment.
On the evening of Monday 29th October, Mr Ould gave a talk at Carn Thomas describing each of the five Dark Sky Discovery Sites (one on each of the five islands) and why Scilly’s night skies are some of the darkest to be found anywhere in the British Isles. The five Dark Sky Discovery Sites had only been approved by the national co-ordinating body less than two weeks before, so it was all very hot off the press!
Following the talk, some two dozen people joined Mr Ould at the Garrison Playing Field, one of the designated sites, to enjoy a successful guided stargazing walk, during which the group were able to see all four of Jupiter’s largest moons, the beautiful Pleiades star cluster, many different constellations and even the distant Andromeda Galaxy, more than 2 million light years away!
Over the course of the following two days, nearly 200 children and adults aged from 6 months to more than 80 years visited Carn Thomas Children’s Centre Hall and were able to experience first hand the wonders of the Space Odyssey planetarium. When inside the dome they were taken on a guided tour of the solar system and beyond. Young and old alike were enthralled by their experiences in the dome.
One local resident, Linda from the U3A Astronomy group commented, “A rare treat. Brilliant effects – and so informative.”
A local youngster added, “It was awesome inside the dome, I felt like I was floating in space.”
Mr Ould later said, “It was fantastic to be invited back to the Isles of Scilly five years after I last brought my dome to St Mary’s. To be asked to help launch the islands’ Dark Sky Discovery Sites was a privilege and it was particularly pleasing that the skies cleared so well for our guided stargazing walk on Monday evening.
“The dark skies of Scilly are, indeed, very special and I hope the fact they’ve been nationally recognised as being so good will encourage more locals to get outside and go stargazing and give visitors even more reason to come to these fabulous islands. I really appreciate all the effort that went into organising my visit and I look forward to returning again in the future“.