Island off Cork coast bids for Dark Skies recognition

An island off Cork has launched a bid to become one of the world’s few officially-recognised dark sky sites - areas dedicated to stargazing.

File photo of Cape Clear.

The Cape Clear gaeltacht, eight miles off the coast, is set to host its first Dark Skies event from May 24 to 26, supported by CIT and Blackrock Castle Observatory, which will coincide with a flyover of the International Space Station.

The weekend-long event will feature talks and workshops with experienced guides and astronomers sharing their knowledge and appreciation of the night sky.

The bid has been inspired by Shane O’Neill, a teacher in the island’s national school, who spotted the potential overhead.

“Already famous for ornithology and whales, dolphins and basking sharks, the pristine night sky is another fantastic natural resource the Island has to offer,” he said.

The island hopes to be recognised by the International Dark Sky Association.

Ireland has two ‘gold tier’ international dark sky parks - one in Mayo and the other in Kerry - which includes areas such as Kells, Caherciveen, Valentia Island, Portmagee, The Glen, Ballinskelligs, Waterville, Dromid and Caherdaniel.

Other gold tier dark sky parks include the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park in the US.

Cape Clear’s event is being supported by Cork County Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, University College Cork and Fáilte Ireland.

News of its dark sky bid comes ahead of a major public meeting in Cork on Monday on light pollution, organised by Dark Sky Ireland.

There is no national policy or legislation here to deal with light pollution.

Following recent announcements of a nationwide high-efficiency-lighting retrofit of street lights, experts say it’s crucial that Ireland adopts an evidence-based lighting policy that reflects best practice in terms of protecting our health, economy, environment, and our ‘dark sky heritage’.

The public meeting in County Hall will be addressed by light pollution expert Professor Brian Espey from Trinity College Dublin and Georgia McMillan, a leading advocate with the Friends of Mayo Dark Skies.

Other speakers will include broadcaster, Duncan Stewart, of EcoEye, Ken Bond from Cork Nature Network, and Dr Niall Smith, Head of CIT’s Blackrock Castle Observatory.

The talk is free but attendees must register first.

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