North Pennines Dark Skies bid

A night ski image showing a pinwheel galaxy Credit: Andy Grey

Amateur astronomers are hoping to establish part of the North Pennines as a recognised Dark Sky Reserve for stargazing.

The area already has more official Dark Sky Discovery sites that any other protected landscape in England.

The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) Partnership hope it could soon be recognised as one of the best places in the world for observing the cosmos.

Staff from the North Pennines AONB have been working with enthusiasts to gather scientific meter readings. Armed with sky quality meters, they have been measuring night sky brightness.

Claire Hutchinson, Conservation Trainee at the AONB Partnership, who has been organising the project, said: “To become a Dark Sky Reserve, one of the requirements is that the area meets a certain quality of darkness. By using these amazing meters, we can survey the skies to get scientific readings of how bright it is.

“In urban areas, which are full of artificial lights, the readings would only read about 16 or 17 because light spillage means the skies are very bright. In remote places, with few or no artificial lights, the readings would be between 20 and 23.”

There are different classifications of Dark Sky Reserve, according to how much light pollution there is; bronze, silver and gold. To qualify for gold level the skies must measure 21.75 or above.

Claire said: “As well as using the results to work towards Dark Sky Reserve status, it’s also useful to help us monitor the brightness of the skies over time and to try to prevent them from getting any brighter. Having measurements to help us keep the skies dark will of course benefit stargazers, but wildlife as well since animals’ behaviour can be badly affected by artificial lights.”