The Brecon Beacons National Park is calling on people to switch off lights to mark 10th anniversary of International Dark Sky Reserve.
Due to low levels of light pollution, the Brecon Beacons National Park was awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2013, making it as one of the best places in the world to stargaze.
This year, to celebrate 10 years of dark skies, the National Park is launching a campaign to make the stars shine all the brighter. From 7:30pm to 8:30pm on Friday, February 17, the Park is asking businesses and communities in the Brecon Beacons to switch off all non-essential lights.
Low light pollution is not only good for stargazing, it’s also vital to nocturnal wildlife and to human wellbeing. Reducing light pollution keeps our circadian rhythm (our body clock) functioning normally. When this rhythm is disrupted it can cause behavioural, physical and mental changes.
Wildlife also needs darkness to maintain circadian cycles, just as humans do. Many nocturnal species, from hedgehogs to moths, are in decline. Bats will alter their routes to avoid artificial light, and this can have impacts on their ability to hunt or to avoid predators. By reducing our light pollution, we can help protect our nocturnal wildlife.
Carol Williams, Sustainable Tourism Officer for the Brecon Beacons, said: “We hope everyone will join us in switching off their lights on the 17th.
“If we’re blessed with a clear sky, the stars will be much more visible with less light pollution. It takes twenty minutes for night vision to reach its peak after being exposed to light, so we hope the full hour will allow people to see the stars at their best.
“Attractions such as Hay Castle and Theatr Brycheiniog will also be getting involved by switching off their floodlights for an hour.
“The Brecon Beacons was the first destination to receive International Dark Sky Reserve status in Wales and was only the fifth in the world to receive the designation. We are passionate about our night sky and want to share it with everyone.
“If the clouds stay at bay, people will be able to clearly make out the constellation of Orion. Jupiter will be visible early evening and Mars will be overhead from 18:30.”
The National Park will be hosting a beginner’s guide to stargazing in an online session with Usk Astronomical Society on February 15 from 6:30pm to 7:15pm to help people understand what they are looking at.
The Park has suggested a few activities that people can get involved with:
• Count the stars. See how many stars you can see when there is light pollution compared with darkness. You’ll be amazed at the results
• Hold a starlit picnic. Wrap up warm and take a flask of soup or sandwiches outside to soak up the starlight. If you need more light, use a red bulb – red light won’t affect your night vision. Pull up a deckchair, get out your binoculars and enjoy the show!
• Cosy night in. If you don’t want to venture outside, consider others by making sure your home isn’t lighting up the night. Close the curtains or consider an hour by candlelight.
To find out more about the campaign, please visit: breconbeacons.org/stargazing.