Exmoor has some of the brightest stars in the country owing to its status as an International Dark Sky Reserve. The amount of light pollution in the National Park is tightly controlled, creating the ideal conditions for stargazing, as well as a host of nocturnal creatures that need natural light-levels to thrive, such as moths, insects and migrating birds.
You don’t need any special equipment to stargaze – just look up and wherever you are there will be something to see. But here are a few things you can do to help make your experience really special.
When to go:
Stargazing on Exmoor is an all year-round activity, and any clear night will provide plenty to see. Aim to start observing at least 1.5 hrs after sunset to allow time for the sky to become properly dark. Check moonrise. As beautiful as it is, the best time for stargazing is when the moon isn’t in the sky.
· Spring - The often crisp clear nights of March and April can be particularly good months for observing.
· Late summer\Autumn – Prime time for spotting shooting stars, due to the earth’s orbit passing through the trail of several large comets.
· Winter - Make the most of longer nights for younger astronomers to enjoy some pre-bedtime observing.
What to bring:
· Your eyes: Familiarise yourself with the night sky just using your naked eyes. If you are ready to invest in binoculars or telescopes then get in touch with your local astronomical club for expert advice, or rent one from our National Park Centres or online at www.darkskytelescopehire.co.uk
· A red light: Your eyes can take up to ten minutes to fully adjust to the dark and your “night vision” to kick in, giving you the best view of the stars. During this time avoid looking at bright lights. Red lights, such as a rear bike lamp, are much better at preserving your night vision than white lights.
· Starcharts: The position of the stars and planets is constantly changing with time and location, but there are many resources available to help you pinpoint the night sky, including simple star maps, planispheres that allow you to set the date, and smartphone apps. Pick up a free Dark Skies Pocket Guide at our National Park Centres for some basic star charts.
· Warm clothes: Clear nights are often chilly - so wrap up warm and bring a hot drink. A reclining chair and blanket may be useful if you plan to stay out longer.
Where to go:
Generally the further you are from illuminated built-up areas the darker the sky will be and the more stars you will be able to see. Recommended locations include:
· Brendon Common (South of Lynmouth)
· Wimbleball Lake
· County Gate Car Park (off A39 between Lynmouth and Porlock)
· Bossington Hill near Minehead
· Dunkery Beacon and Webber’s Post
· Winsford Hill
For up-to-date information on the next Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 14 October - 3 November 2019 visit httpp://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival or see the programme of events here: https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1676556/Dark-Skies-Festival-Programme-2019-for-web.pdf
For telescope hire, visit Dark Sky Telescope Hire