Home > Dark Places, Light Pollution > Sark: The World’s First Dark Sky Island

Sark: The World’s First Dark Sky Island

The Channel Island of Sark has been recognised for the quality of its night sky by the International Dark-sky Association (IDA), who have designated it the world’s first dark sky island, the latest in a select group of dark sky places around the world.

Sark has no public street lighting, there are no paved roads and cars, so it does not suffer from the effects light pollution in the same way as towns and cities do. This means that the night sky is very dark, with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, meteors streaking overhead, and thousand of stars on display.

Caption: “Stargazers on Sark enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way”. Image Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor

The announcement was hailed as a great success by astronomers. Prof Roger Davies, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “This is a great achievement for Sark. People around the world are become increasingly fascinated by astronomy as we discover more about our universe, and the creation of the world’s first dark sky island in the British Isles can only help to increase that appetite. I hope this leads to many more people experiencing the wonders of a truly dark sky”.

The award follows a long process of community consultation, which included the assessment of the sky darkness and an audit of all the external lights on Sark. A comprehensive lighting management plan was created by lighting Jim Patterson of the Institute of Lighting Engineers, and many local residents and businesses have altered their lighting to make them more dark sky friendly, ensuring that as little light as possible spills upwards where it can drown out the starlight.

Caption: “The Milky Way above the Seigneur's Mill on Sark”. Image Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor

The government of Sark, the Chief Pleas, were supportive from the start. Conseilleur Paul Williams, chair of the Agriculture Committee, which oversees environmental matters, said: “Sark becoming the world’s first dark sky island is a tremendous feather in our environmental cap, which can only enhance our appeal. Sark is a wonderful island and this recognition will bring our uniqueness and beauty to a wider audience.”

This designation means that Sark joins the select group of international sites chosen for their dark skies, including Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, which became Europe’s first International Dark Sky Park in November 2009.

Steve Owens, the dark sky development officer who led Sark’s application to the IDA, recognises the benefits that this might have for the community on Sark: “This is an ideal opportunity to bring stargazers to the island throughout the year, and I think that Sark is about to see a boom in astro-tourism, especially in the winter months. We’ve seen a surge of public interest in astronomy in recent years, with the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and more recently with the success of BBC Stargazing Live, and it’s great that places like Sark and Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park are allowing people from towns and cities to come and experience a dark sky”.


Sark Tourism: http://sark.info/

International Dark-sky association: http://www.darksky.org/

Campaign for Dark Skies: http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/

  1. January 31, 2011 at 12:46

    Well done Steve and everyone concerned with this wonderful achievement, it is a great recognition of a very special place and makes me proud to say I’m a Sarkee!

    • January 31, 2011 at 19:56

      Thanks Rosie. I’m so happy for Sark, and I really hope it makes everyone there justifiably proud of the amazing place they live.

  2. Dudley Bradley
    January 31, 2011 at 13:43

    Congratulations to Sark and everyone involved. For more years than I care to remember I have told everybody that was prepared to listen that you can see more stars in the sky above Sark than anywhere in the “civilised” world. I have often laid on my back on the wall at La Collinette and gazed upwards. Can’t wait to do it again. Like Rosanne I am also proud to say that I’m a Sarkee, even though I am exiled.

  3. Paul Williams
    January 31, 2011 at 19:16

    Thanks Steve for all that you have done to get us Dark Skies Status.
    I am very proud to have had a very small part in helping with the process.
    And like Roseanne and Dudley I am also proud to say I am a Sarkee.

    • January 31, 2011 at 19:58

      Quite right! We got some good publicity today, online and on the radio. Might get a bit more tomorrow, fingers crossed! Please thank everyone on Sark for their help, until can come back and thank them myself!

  4. February 1, 2011 at 05:38

    Congratulations to everyone involved in achieving this recognition. Well deserved and doing what Sark does best… keeping it simple and special.

    • Darren Betts
      March 3, 2011 at 14:09

      Paul…why not join up with SAstroS? You would be an asset for sure!

  5. Darren Betts
    March 3, 2011 at 14:08

    Isn’t it amazing. There are some very exciting times ahead upon this wonderful island of Sark. We had a SAstroS meeting a couple of weeks ago and progress is already being made within certain areas. Early days yet mind.
    Anybody is welcome to join SAstroS & keep up to date with all that is going on in Sark and the Dark Skies community around the world!
    Thankyou to Steve Owens & all involved to make this happen =)

  1. January 31, 2011 at 11:31

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