The Dark Sky Island of Sark will open its first observatory on 10th October 2015. The tiny Channel Island was designated as the world's first Dark Sky Island in 2011 by the International Dark-Sky Association and is now only one of two in the world. The award was in recognition of the exceptional blackness of the night sky which makes for spectacular stargazing on the island. The opening of the observatory aims to facilitate astro-tourism on Sark and make it tangible for first timers as well as experienced stargazers.
Sark's dark skies can be attributed to its isolated location in the English Channel, its complete lack of public street lighting (and very few outdoor lights on buildings) and low pollution levels. Motorised vehicles, with the exception of a few tractors, are banned on the island so the air pollution is extremely low leaving clear skies. The observatory will be located in the middle of the island which is the darkest area and will be a two room structure with a sliding roof. One room will house the telescope and the other will be a 'warm room' with a screen linking to the telescope for watching the skies in comfort.
The opening of the observatory will tie in with a new 'Sark Trek' weekend from 9th-11th October. The weekend is designed to make the most of the island's incredible night skies. Hosted by two astronomers, it will involve 14 hours of learning and stargazing activities. Guests will be able to enjoy a pop up planetarium, a session learning how to use an array of astronomical equipment and a photography lesson on how best to capture the night sky. During the day, the astronomers will offer solar observing sessions with close-up views of the sun and its flares, filaments and sun-spots, using specialist Hydrogen Alpha and white light solar telescopes. The observatory will be opened by Dr Marek Kukula, The Public Astronomer at Greenwich Royal Observatory, on 10th October at 5pm after giving a talk at the Island Hall, 'Small Worlds: the exploration of comets, asteroids and dwarf planets'.