The beautiful starry night sky above Dalby Forest has earned official recognition for the scenic beauty-spot which has been named as a Dark Sky Discovery Site.
The 3,440 hectare (8,600 acre) woodland, near Pickering, has been as named as a “Milky Way” class venue for stargazers – the top rating – on account of its lack of light pollution and commitment to popularising astronomy.
Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society campaigned for the prestigious award with support from the Forestry Commission and it is only the third Dark Sky Discovery Site launched in Yorkshire and one of a handful in England.
Tanya Rex, from the Forestry Commission, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the society’s application for designation has been successful. Our relationship with the astronomers goes back over two decades, during which time thousands of people have been able to discover the magnificent starry skies we have here in the North York Moors. Dalby is a truly beautiful place by night and day and the stars can look staggering on a clear night.”
The UK Dark Sky Discovery Network, which awarded the designation, is a network of national and local astronomy and environmental organisations. Members include the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, The Institute of Physics, British Astronomical Association and Campaign for Dark Skies.
The late Sir Patrick Moore opened the first observatory in Dalby Forest in 2001, which was eventually replaced by the existing purpose built astronomical domes in front of the new visitor centre. Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society run monthly stargazing events in the forest and also stage one of the UK’s biggest star camps, Starfest, every August.
Society Secretary Andy Exton said:
“This will really help put us on the map and it is welcome recognition of the quality of our night skies. We get visitors coming from across the north to stargaze in Dalby at our monthly nightwatches and this news will help us draw even more people. On a clear night the Milky Way can look absolutely magnificent, so it’s brilliant we have been given the top rating as a centre for stargazers.”
John Harper, Honorary Life President and founder of Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society, added:
“Since we linked up with the Forestry Commission astronomy locally has gone from strength-to-strength. It really is marvellous that the forest has been acclaimed alongside other well-known dark sky sites like Kielder and Galloway. Light pollution means that many people cannot see the Milky Way from their doorsteps, which makes places like Dalby very important and needing protection.”
The Forestry Commission’s work with Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society provided the template for developments in Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland, where an award winning observatory has been established and which is at the centre of an ambitious bid to gain international protection for its dark skies. The Forestry Commission was also one of the driving forces behind the designation of Galloway Forest Park as Europe’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009.