| Stargazing on Bristol’s Durdham Down
|An evening of star gazing is on offer at Bristol’s newly-designated ‘Dark Sky Discovery Site’ on Durdham Down.
Dark Sky Discovery Sites are great places for observing the sky on a clear night, and now a ‘star party’ event is being held on the Downs for the first time. On Wednesday, February 5, budding astronomers can head to the site for a spot of star gazing.
A host of new Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the country were revealed in November, one of which was Bristol’s Durdham Down. It is the second local site to be given this special title, the first of which was Victoria Park in Totterdown.
71 such sites now exist in the UK and there are plenty of night sky spectacles to look out for this season. The sites are ideal places for seeing the winter constellation Orion as it rises ever earlier in the Western sky.
The ‘star party’ is being organised by the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project, Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge, the Bristol Astronomical Society and Explorere Dome, to celebrate the Downs becoming a Dark Sky Discovery Site.
Shaaron Leverment (Correct spelling) from Explorer Dome and the Bristol Astronomical Society explains: “Members of the Bristol Astronomical Society will be on-hand with their telescopes to amaze you with a view of the surface of the moon, the planet Jupiter and the Andromeda Galaxy.
“We’ll also teach you how to spot the main winter constellations and you can enjoy hearing about the stories written in the stars. A warm drink and star-shaped cookie will also be on offer courtesy of the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge.”
Mandy Leivers, Avon Gorge and Downs Biodiversity Education Officer, added: “Back in July, the star party organisers got together to submit an application for Dark Sky Discovery Site status for Durdham Down. DSDS are found all over the UK and are places with good public access and low light pollution. We were so excited about getting the designation - only the second in Bristol - that we decided to celebrate by organising a party where members of the public, young or old, could learn more about our night sky.”
Jack Penrose, chairman of the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge (FODAG), added: “FODAG are delighted to be a part of this initiative as it will extend the already wide portfolio of activities, both formal and informal, available to Downs users. It also fits perfectly with our policy of encouraging the widest possible range of people who visit the Downs, as it will provide an extra pursuit of pleasurable and educational value”.
Dark Sky Discovery is network of astronomy and open space organisations that aims to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get out and stargaze. It offers the public the opportunity to meet astronomers and find out about the latest research in the field.
In England the network has been supported through a Big Lottery Fund grant awarded through Natural England’s Access to Nature programme.
Each Dark Sky Discovery Site has been nominated by a local group or organisation and approved by the Dark Sky Discovery programme as safe and accessible with reduced light pollution - great local places for seeing the stars.
The Star party on the Downs runs from 6.30pm – 8.30pm and costs £5 per person (this includes a hot drink and a cookie). Booking is essential as places are limited - call 0117 9030609 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place.
For more details about Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the area visit: Dark Sky Discover
For the main constellations in Autumn and Winter see: The Night Sky