There is a lot of great reason to take a holiday in Sark. It’s a charming little island in the English Channel, nestled between England and France. It can feel like traveling to another world. A world stuck in time yet with the comforts of the modern world. The peaceful island features stunning landscapes, phenomenal seafood, and a quaint way of life.
The island features a small population of around 600 people, no cars or streetlights, and no cities. On any of the clearest nights in Sark, you can observe the milky way from horizon to horizon, observing stars upon stars in the known galaxy. It can be awe-inspiring.
In 2011, the International Dark Sky Association recognized Sark as the world’s first dark sky island thanks to the efforts of the Sark Astronomical Society.
What is a Dark Sky Location?
There are billions of stars in the sky. As the population grows and cities expand, the light from the life in the cities, suburbs, and all over fills the night sky with light pollution. Light pollution is the light sent up into the sky from street lights, buildings, illuminated signs, headlights, and virtually anything giving off the light during the night. The light obscures the stars making it next to impossible to see any, depending on your location when you’re looking up.
Light is essential in the modern world, but the International Dark Sky Association has one purpose: To protect the night from light pollution, allowing the night sky to be protected and celebrated around the world. The Dark Sky Association encourages people to buy lights only when necessary and aim lights toward the ground, reducing the amount of light that leaks up to the sky. The goal is to help promote the benefits of astronomy and bring awareness to the importance of energy efficiency.
The Dark Sky Island Experience on Sark
Sark joined the growing group of locations dedicated to reducing light pollution as the first dark sky island. It’s one of the main islands in the Channel Islands and sits just 80 miles south of England. The island’s population sits around 600 residents, with no major cities, street lights, or cars, which helps keep light pollution low.
With the award on Sark came an increase in the interest in stargazing and astronomy. Locals began to host stargazing events and gatherings regularly for both the locals and the tourists of Sark. Stargazing on Sark is a truly unique experience as one of the few Dark Sky Islands in the world. The island has very little light pollution from the small towns sprinkled throughout the island. The absence of cars and streetlights makes for a dark, clear sky. The perfect conditions for stargazing, even without the help of a telescope.
The locals have done their part over the last few years and have made changes to help ensure there is an even further reduction in light pollution. Residents have altered their light fixtures, pointing them towards the ground or removing them altogether. The locals and astronomy enthusiasts throughout the island want to ensure they keep the island a place where people can enjoy the night sky.
The Sark Astronomy Society (SAstroS) was formed by local stargazers passionate about the night sky and sharing their excitement with the thousands of visitors who make their way to the island every year. The SAstroS hosts events year-round to encourage stargazing and share in the wonder of what the dark sky island experience can bring.
The Sark Observatory
A few years after the dark sky island title was given to Sark, the Sark Observatory was built in 2015 by SAstroS. The observatory was strategically placed at the darkest point on the island and is operated by the locals late night when the sky is clear and prime for optimal stargazing. Within the observatory, there is a 10-inch Meade telescope to see even further into the depths of the night sky.
When you’re on holiday in Sark, and you want to take an opportunity to gaze at the night sky and enjoy the observatory, you can contact Reg Guille to arrange a tour of the conservatory. The tour begins about an hour after the sunset and the time generally depends on the season. You can gain a spot on the tour on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Before you head to the observatory for your stargazing experience at night, be sure to find the observatory during the daylight. Locate the St. Peter’s graveyard and stay to the right as you follow the signs. On the night you want, make sure you wear warm clothing and good shoes.
The tour is guided by locals of the islands on a donation basis only, so you’ll not only want to be prepared with good clothing. You’ll want to come equipped with your own night-time exploration gear, such as flashlights, binoculars, any telescopes you’d like to use, and anything else you might find useful on your outing.
So many people live in areas around the world where light pollution covers the night sky. With the support of the mission of the Dark Sky Association, they are designating more areas around the world as perfect places to look up at the stars and truly see what’s beyond our atmosphere, from shooting stars to easily identifying planets. Sark allows you to see the night sky as you’ve never seen it before. Just one of the many reasons why people love to visit this incredible island every year.