In January 2011 Sark gained the distinction of being awarded International Dark-Sky Association recognition for its exceptional quality of unpolluted darkness, and became the first functioning island community to gain this title.
What does it mean? Sark, although very tiny, has a thriving population of around 600 people. We have everything this modern world can offer except motor cars and all they entail. This restriction means that our nights are truly dark, the planets of the solar system easily distinguished, the stars a magnificent backdrop. Air quality is unsullied, sunsets and dawns spectacular, the Milky Way a brilliant belt strung across the heavens.
You do not need to be an astronomer to appreciate dark skies; they inspire poets, artists and lovers. However, if you are in any way, shape or form interested in what lies beyond our home planet, Sark is a place you will appreciate – and it’s on your doorstep.
What is “SAstroS”?
People who live with myriads of bright stars tend to take them for granted, a mere adjunct to all the other beauties of island life. However, the less fortunate can hardly believe how amazing and awe-inspiring an unpolluted night sky can be. Their first visit to Sark can be, literally, an eye-opener. Many living on Sark reach for the binoculars (always useful when you are surrounded by sea) and contemplate the wonders of the Universe above. When the island was in the throes of being assessed for International Dark Sky recognition it was suggested a local astronomy group would be useful for the future development of Sark’s new status, so the Sark Astronomy Society was formed by a band of enthusiasts eager to share their magical experience with others. It was named SAstroS, and our members are keen to learn, share, display and inspire. We are here to assist visitors, organise events and generally make your stay worthwhile.
Please visit www.sastros.sark.gg. Tours of our new observatory can be arranged through Sark Tourism by one of the committee members. Call 01481 832345. Please see the guide below:
Using the Observatory
You don’t need a telescope to see the wonderful display of stars above Sark. You can see a host of stars and planets with the naked eye. Taking a walk at night on Sark can be very rewarding. Anywhere away from artificial light is easy to find here. Head out with sensible footwear and a torch for finding your way, and you will be impressed by what you can see without any equipment. During the summer months the evenings do not get properly dark until about 10pm. You may want to consider this if you are interested in visiting our observatory.
Check the forecast to see if it’s going to be clear enough. We use XC weather, which is on the computer screen at the back of our office at the Visitor Centre. We also recommend looking at the Guernsey airport forecast www.bbc.co.uk/weather/6296594/.
If you are interested in seeing our new observatory, we can help arrange this but you will need a volunteer guide to accompany you. We are happy to contact the appropriate person for you. Up to 8 people can be accommodated in the scope room but sometimes others can use the smaller scopes outside the observatory.
Please enquire at Visitor Centre. The observatory is signposted opposite the Church.
Donations can be made in the donation box at the observatory site.
The suggested amount is £5.