Dark Sky Parks – a ticket to the Milky Way and back
After the stress of Christmas, many of us are contemplating a time-out. A few days away to switch off and recharge our batteries. The best place to do it? In a Dark Sky Park. Here’s how.
Sometimes our busy everyday lives mean we lose sight of what’s important. And after the Christmas and New Year festivities, stress levels can quickly peak again as we return to work. So why not change your perspective? Our suggestion: head for a Dark Sky Park and focus on the heavens.
What is a Dark Sky Park?
Those of you living in built-up areas know that it’s not always possible to see the stars. Light pollution from artificial sources like housing, offices and traffic overshadows the stars in the skies. Which is why light use in so-called light protection areas or Dark Sky Parks is strictly monitored. So if you’re after awe-inspiring views of starry night skies and the Milky Way, this is where to head.
But where’s the best location for a Dark Sky Park? A map compiled by the Dark Sky Association provides answers. It’s based on data collected by US DMSP satellites and shows light pollution on Earth. And Dark Sky Parks are located wherever there is least of it.
So why not spend a weekend in a Dark Sky Park instead of the city? There are parks and reserves all over the world so head online for more information. Here are three sites in Germany.
Eifel National Park
A huge protected area around 65 km south of Cologne where you can see the Milky Way on a clear night or pay a visit to the “Stars Without Borders” workshop. The Dark Sky Park aims to expand by 15 km and achieve Dark Sky Reserve status, allowing it to avoid even more light pollution and protect more species native to the park.
Rhön Biosphere Reserve
Enjoy some impressive skies in South Germany along the borders to Bavaria, Thuringia and Hesse. The reserve offers romantic stargazing walks and some exciting night-time tours. Why not book a group trip or give someone special a gift voucher? The perfect present for Valentine’s Day!
Westhavelland Nature Park
Watch the sun go up in Brandenburg where Germany’s first Dark Sky Park was designated in 2014. Stargazers can watch the night skies from the comfort of one of the park’s holiday cottages. Weirdly, there’s no official entrance to the 1380 m² area so hobby astrologists should prepare for an adventurous weekend.
Galactic tip: the annual Lyrid meteor shower is on 22 April. The name “Lyrid” comes from the radiant of the meteor shower located in the constellation Lyra. And from 17 July to 24 August, the Perseids will again light up our skies. Look out for meteors galore when the shower peaks on 12 August. The perfect opportunity to book a trip to a Dark Sky Park near you.