Experiences 31 March 2021

Stargazing on The Islands of Guernsey

The Islands of Guernsey are beautiful at all times of day, but on a quiet clear night, the skies are simply breathtaking.

The beauty of less populated areas of the world is the clarity of the night sky and the stars above. Many know our Islands for their wonderful views, scenic walks and temperate climate, but what surprises many is the wonder of the night skies once the sun goes down.

Why can you see stars in some places and not others?

The simple answer is light pollution. Nature is affected by excessive artificial light. When there is misdirected or obtrusive light, ecosystems are disrupted, energy is wasted and as a result wildlife and the climate can be seriously affected. As humans, our health can also be affected. On the Islands of Guernsey, we only have street lights in the more built up areas, such as along the main roads and ports or in St Peter Port on Guernsey. This is one reason why there is much less light pollution - and much clearer skies at night than more industrial, built-up areas of the world.

Sark: The World’s First Dark Sky Island

In 2011, Sark Island was designated an International Dark Sky Community, the first in Europe and the first island globally to be given such status. It is incredibly important to Sark’s 600 residents to protect the island from light pollution and preserve the island for the tens of thousands of visitors that enjoy the tranquility of the island. Sark has no motor vehicles, beyond farm vehicles and tractors and no public lighting in its lanes. This contributes to the fact that the Milky Way can be seen clearly from the island - it is even used by locals as a way to navigate. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the dark skies.

Dark Skies & Wellbeing on The Islands

In 2014, psychotherapist Ada Blair studied the role that the night sky plays in the lives of Sark residents as part of her M.A. work in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. She spent time talking to locals both individually and in a focus group. She found that those living in Sark “place a high level of value and enjoyment on observing the night sky, alone or with others, and feel that this strengthened family/community connection.” She noted that the sky, the stars and the Milky way were a part of daily conversation amongst islanders, that the community often come together to enjoy the night sky and that this significantly contributed to their wellbeing. You can read her study on darksky.org.

We know anecdotally that many visitors and tourists feel the same. And that all islanders in the Bailiwick also want to protect our Islands and the skies above them for all to enjoy for as long as possible.

How to Enjoy Stargazing on The Islands of Guernsey

Taking a walk at night on any of our Islands is a wonderful experience. It's easy to find places without any artificial light. Head out with a torch (provided in most accommodation options on Sark) and simply look up. Sensible shoes are advised on island pathways in the dark. On Sark, visitors welcomed to borrow telescopes from the Sark Astronomy Society or to enjoy the views from the Sark observatory.

On Guernsey, the Astronomy Section of La Société Guernesiaise holds regular talks and stargazing events with telescopes at the Astronomical Observatory. You can learn more about light pollution and International Dark Sky Week at darksky.org

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