Cornwall Council and Caradon Observatory have made a formal bid for Bodmin Moor to become an International Dark Sky Landscape.

A decision on the submission is expected from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in June. If the bid is successful, the designation will formally recognise the exceptional quality of the night sky over Bodmin Moor and help protect it from light pollution.

To celebrate the submission, Caradon and Tolcarn Observatories are holding a special dark sky event at Jamaica Inn on Saturday 29 April. The evening will begin with a 2 course dinner event at £15.95 per person, starting at 7.00pm followed by a free stargazing session from around 8.30pm, which is open to everyone.

As part of the dinner event, Mike Willmott, who is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Association (FRAS) and a teacher at Liskeard School, will give a presentation using the Magic Planet, an interactive globe that depicts the beauty and topography of solar systems. The dinner event will also include a talk by Dr Wayne Thomas, a skilled astrophotographer and an expert in human biology and the negative effects of light pollution, on what it would mean for Bodmin Moor to become an International Dark Sky Landscape.

During the free stargazing session, the public will be able to view the night sky through an array of telescopes and meet Ken Bennett, the founder of Caradon Observatory, and Grant Mackintosh, another educator and FRAS who will be running an exoplanet discovery programme from Tolcarn Observatory next year. People should wrap up warm and keep their fingers crossed for clear skies. Weather permitting, there will be opportunities to view the ruddy hue of Mars, the moon’s beautiful caters and the Alpha Bootids meteor shower. Later in the evening there will be the chance to see Ursa Major, Jupiter and possibly even Saturn.

Dr Wayne Thomas said: “Bodmin Moor has some of the darkest skies in the country. This event is an opportunity for people to enjoy the exceptional views of the night sky that the International Dark Sky Landscape designation would protect. To see another planet or deep space objects such as galaxies through a telescope is a truly awe inspiring experience.”

Ken Bennett of Caradon Observatory said: “It was the clarity of the night skies in and around Bodmin Moor that inspired me to build Caradon Observatory. I hoped it would be a lasting legacy for future generations to also be inspired by the wonders of our Universe and steer more students towards careers in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. The images taken from the observatory are breathtaking, and I plan to increase the scope of the observatory and eventually operate a robotic telescope for live online viewing.”

Mike Willmott, Caradon Observatory Director with Responsibility for Theoretical Astronomy and Education, said: “Because of the evolving interest in space travel and exploration, over the last ten years the number of students taking GCSE Astronomy has increased by a factor of four. The opportunities provided by the potential designation of Bodmin Moor as an International Dark Sky Landscape means that is perfectly placed to satisfy their curiosity and developing interest in astronomy.”

Grant Mackintosh from Tolcarn Observatory, FRAS and Ambassador for The Commission for Dark Skies, said: “Cornwall has a superb potential future in the field of space science. Protecting our dark skies is an important step in the rediscovery of Cornwall’s innovative scientific heritage. The future is bright for Cornwall’s next generation of astrophysicists.”

Tolcarn Observatory’s Kim Mackintosh, another FRAS and Ambassador for The Commission for Dark Skies, said: “Securing the future of Cornwall’s dark skies would enable our grandchildren to see the beauty of the night sky without having to leave Cornwall. It would be a tragedy to have to explain to future generations that the Milky Way was lost due to light pollution.”

To book a place at the dinner event, ring Jamaica Inn on 01566 86250. There’s no need to book in advance for the free stargazing, and people are welcome to drop in any time after 8.30pm.

Story posted 24 April 2017