Daytime air quality could help achieve Dark Sky status
Saturday 7th September 2013, 10:00AM BST.
ALDERNEY’S daytime skies could provide a boost to its campaign to win official Dark Sky status.
The solar eclipse in 1999 brought thousands of astronomy enthusiasts to Alderney, where the clean, still air made conditions perfect for viewing the event.
Michael Maunder, a friend and colleague of late astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, said these air qualities, along with the lack of light pollution, should help his bid to win the island the recognised status.
‘I would be delighted if we got Dark Sky status, but the other aspect is that Alderney is very special for daytime astronomy as well,’ he explained.
‘A lot of people do not realise that the sun is an astronomical object and there are some very dedicated solar observers.
‘The main factor about Alderney is the fact that you have extremely clean air coming across the Atlantic for 4,000 miles,’ he said.
‘Most of the island is at sea level so the air hasn’t got into turbulent motion, or lamina flow, which in England, for example, has the effect of something being viewed through frosted windows, making the stars ‘twinkle’.
He added: ‘It means we can see objects that are very, very difficult to see in England.
‘Without any atmospheric pollution, you see them way down into faintness that amateurs would be very delighted with in England.’
Mr Maunder helped to set up the Dark Sky movement in the 1980s with the British Astronomical Association, of which he is a member, when light pollution was causing problems for astronomers.
He began applying to get Alderney Dark Sky status with the British authorities six years ago, but had to abandon the project for a period because of personal reasons.
In 2011, Sark attained the status from the International Dark-Sky Association.
If Alderney States get on board, Mr Maunder thinks Alderney is naturally better equipped than even Sark was to achieve Dark Sky status.
Resident Ken Hampton claimed his bid to attain the status for the island stalled because of a tepid reaction from the States towards his efforts when he asked them to provide a lighting plan for the island.
‘I think they’ve got the message on lighting now,’ said Mr Maunder.
‘On lighting, another great advantage Alderney has that the other islands don’t is that street lights go off at midnight and people go to bed, so this is ideal. I don’t have a problem with lighting after midnight.’
He has named a gun emplacement at the Giffoine, the Frying Pan at Essex Farm and the Saye Campsite as the best places for stargazing, because of their protected positions from ambient light pollution.