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National Parks back Big Dipper campaign to protect night sky

Bainbridge, 5 October

Businesses and homeowners across the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors are being urged to take steps to help protect the star quality of the national parks’ dark skies as part of a nationwide campaign to reduce light pollution.

The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks have joined other organisations and the Commission for Dark Skies in their support for the Big Dipper campaign which launched this week and aims to draw attention to the light pollution creep caused by beams emitted from powerful external LED floodlights and security lighting.

The National Parks are backing the campaign as they prepare for a number of stargazing and dark sky events during this October’s half-term and the fourth joint Dark Skies Festival which will take place from 15 February – 3 March 2019.

In particular the Big Dipper is highlighting how property owners can help reduce the orange-white glow, which is seen above built-up areas and is increasingly spreading across the countryside, by ensuring the beam of light from exterior lamps is dipped downwards rather than projected outwards.

The campaign is also backed by Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, who said: "It's important that efforts are sustained to cut light pollution further so we can all marvel at the night sky wherever we may live. This campaign deserves wide support."

Both National Parks, which have Dark Sky Discovery sites together with many other locations where astronomy events take place, have seen growth in visitor interest in stargazing and astrotourism since the first Dark Skies Festival in 2015.

Helen Dalton, destination co-ordinator for the Yorkshire Dales National Park comments: “We’re keen to protect our dark skies as a beautiful natural resource which has really engaged visitor interest and importantly is also helping preserve our wildlife.”

Mike Hawtin, outdoor activity tourism officer for the North York Moors National Park adds: “We’re not expecting property owners to struggle in the darkness or compromise the functionality of their lighting. However there are situations where a single poorly installed exterior light can be seen for miles around by emitting a very powerful harsh blue-white beam which blots out views of the stars if it is angled too far outwards.

“By simply re-positioning the beam angle or ensuring lamps are on a motion sensor we can individually help reduce our contribution to light pollution.”

The Big Dipper campaign is asking people to:

* Ensure lights point down and are fully shielded.

* Only illuminate areas you need to and don’t leave lights on all night - use a timer or motion sensor.

* Employ lighting that is no brighter than necessary (a 500 lumens light is ample to illuminate a back garden)

* If possible don’t use LEDs emitting bright white/blue light, but rather warmer colours (packaging often states the light’s colour temperature – units of 3,000k and below produce a warmer colour which is less harmful to the night-time environment).

More details on the 2019 Dark Skies Festival will be available shortly on www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk/

Events over October half-term include a stargazing session with the Whitby and District Astronomical Society on 27 October at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby and the Woodland at Dusk events for kids on 31 October in Freeholders Wood at Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre in the Yorkshire Dales.

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