Take a look at the skies around Mendip on a new interactive map
Take a look at the skies around Mendip on a new interactive map
NEWS PLACES

Mendip area’s dark skies: new interactive maps from CPRE

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) this week launched the most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s dark skies.

Users in Mendip, Chew Valley and Wrington Vale can view their light pollution levels and search by postcode and by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and compare to other regions.  The maps provide a detailed and up-to-date analysis of Mendip’s skies.

Looking at the map of Mendip’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the area is relatively dark with intense areas of bright light around Bristol Airport, Weston-super-Mare, Bristol and Wells.

Local councils were estimated to spend £613 million on street lighting in 2014-15, and the lights can account for between 15-30% of a council’s carbon emissions. The research shows that motorways, trunk roads and business districts are significant contributors to light pollution.

Nationwide, the maps show that just 22% of England is untouched by light pollution, and that 53% of our darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Northumberland National Park enjoys 96% pristine night skies, while the South Downs, granted Dark Sky Reserve status in May 2016, is London’s closest expanse of dark skies.

The interactive maps  were produced with satellite images captured at 1.30 am throughout September 2015. They show that the Isles of Scilly, West Devon and Eden in Cumbria are England’s darkest districts, and that the very darkest spot in England, out of more than 2.25million pixels, is a secluded hillside on the East Kielder Moors in Northumberland.

CPRE’s interactive maps also give users an unprecedented level of understanding into where light pollution is most invasive. Nineteen of the brightest 20 skies are above London boroughs, while Manchester is the only non-London district in the top 20.

CPRE recommends that:

*   Local authorities develop policies in local plans to control light pollution, which ensure that existing dark skies are protected and that new developments do not increase local light pollution.

*   Highways England use the maps to identify sections of motorways and trunk roads that need urgent attention to reduce light pollution. Any new lighting should be well designed and the minimum required to meet its purpose

*   Businesses review their current lighting and future development plans to save money by dimming or switching off light to reduce pollution

*   Primary schools use the lesson plans that CPRE has disseminated to promote the enjoyment of dark skies

Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “Our view of the stars is obscured by artificial light. Many children in urban areas may not have seen the Milky Way, our own galaxy, due to the veil of light that spreads across their night skies.

“Councils can reduce light levels through better planning and with investment in the right street lighting that is used only where and when it is needed.

“Our Night Blight maps also show where people can expect to find a truly dark, starry sky. The benefits of dark skies, for health, education and tourism, are now being recognised, with areas such as the South Downs National Park receiving International Dark Skies Reserve status. Dark skies are a key characteristic of what makes the countryside so different from urban areas.”

Local councils were estimated to spend £613 million on street lighting in 2014-15, and the lights can account for between 15-30% of a council’s carbon emissions. The research shows that motorways, trunk roads and business districts are significant contributors to light pollution.

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, commented: “It has taken a great deal of dedicated effort to generate these maps. They are fascinating. They tell us where dark skies can be found – and perhaps, by highlighting the regions where light pollution is greatest, will encourage remedial efforts that will not only save energy, but also enable more of us to enjoy a dark sky in the way earlier generations could.”

Join in!

Join in the conversation on Twitter or Facebook

Other articles