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Malham Tarn and the start The night sky over water. Credit: Chris Werret

Why does our dark sky need protecting?

Artificial lighting is making our night sky brighter than it ever has been, limiting our view of the stars and having a negative impact on nature, wildlife and our own health.  

Light pollution effects everyone. But it’s not as obvious as other types of pollution, and many of us don’t know or don’t understand a lot about it. 

A brightening night sky disrupts the natural day-night pattern and shifts the delicate balance of our environment, it can be directly linked to:    

  • Declining populations of birds, insects and other species of wildlife 
  • Disruption to our circadian rhythm – increasing stress and disturbing sleep patterns 
  • Increased energy consumption 

The awe-inspiring night sky is a source of inspiration and tranquillity – but today only two per cent of people in Great Britain can experience a truly dark sky at night. Many children will grow up having never seen a sky brimming with stars. 

This image below, which you can download, shows the level of night light shining up into the night sky. These have been categorised into colour bands to distinguish between different light levels. The percentage of pixels that fall within each band is shown as percentage in the chart.

This Yorkshire Dales National Park 'Night Blight Map' shows the level of night light shining up into the night sky.
Night Blight Map

Becoming an International Dark Sky Reserve 

The Yorkshire Dales is home to some of the darkest skies in the country. We’re proud to have large areas of unpolluted night sky where it’s possible to see the Milky Way, planets, meteors and even the Northern Lights. 

This is one of the special qualities of the Yorkshire Dales, and why we have been working hard towards giving our dark night sky the protection it needs to thrive and survive. 

On Tuesday 8 December 2020 we announced our official designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve, recognising the Yorkshire Dales for the exceptional quality of its starry nights and nocturnal environment. This accolade means our dark sky is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational and cultural value and for its enjoyment by everyone. 

The Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Reserve is the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the UK and connects the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority with the many residents, landowners and businesses in the area who recognise the importance of our dark night sky. 

Our application for designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve was submitted in September 2020 and approved on Friday 20 November 2020. You can read it here.

A stunning image of a clear night sky above Pendragon Castle in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
An image of stars in the clear night sky above Pendragon Castle

Easy ways to protect and enhance our dark skies