International Dark Sky Week
International Dark Sky Week, which takes place from 5 - 12 April is, as its name suggests, a global affair, organised annually by the International Dark Sky Association. On this global stage, Ireland is playing a leading role, particularly in County Mayo, home of Mayo Dark Sky Park.
Mayo Dark Sky Park consists of 15000 hectares of natural wilderness in the Wild Nephin mountains, and it is a very special and unique place, much loved by the close-knit rural communities surrounding it. Those communities have planned a virtual roadshow of the county, taking in the dark sky communities of Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy, and welcoming Clare Island, Achill Island and Inishturk as a dark sky event hosts for the first time.
‘We are so lucky here in Mayo, as we have some of the darkest skies in Europe, a resource that the world is starting to appreciate more and more, as excessive levels of artificial light continue to obliterate our view of the night sky’, according to Georgia MacMillan of the Friends of Mayo Dark Skies. ‘We are only now beginning to appreciate just how important natural skies are for our planet. Many of us think of science and stargazing when we think of the night sky, but it is also vitally important for biodiversity, human health and culture’.
Georgia explains how the roadshow will unfold. ‘Each evening at 7pm, a different community will host an event celebrating one of the facets of our dark sky story. We start on Monday 5th April in Newport, the gateway to Wild Nephin and the home of Newport Astronomy Club. The club’s founder Derek Dempsey will give a talk on Mars, our nearest neighbouring planet, very much in the news at the moment with the successful landing of the Perseverance rover last month.’
‘On Tuesday we move to Clare Island who will virtually host UK art collective Lumen Studios, with exclusive preview of "Our Night Skies", a video composite of time-lapses of the night sky, showcasing artists from all over the globe.’ The roadshow then moves to Achill Island on Wednesday, where world renowned archaeo-astronomer Dr. Frank Prendergast will examine its ‘Mountains, Mysteries and Megaliths’, before we head north on Thursday to Ballycroy village to learn about the impact of light pollution on the countryside.
The roadshow will be a feast for all the senses, as on Friday 9th April we join artist Louise Beer for a live broadcast of her special audio piece entitled ‘Memories of Darkness’. Everyone who registers for the event will receive a secret link to the broadcast.
And it’s not just humans who are impacted by the loss of darkness. On Saturday 10th April, film maker and naturalist Colin Stafford Johnson will be welcomed by the village of Mulranny to share his experiences capturing footage of wildlife after dark.
The week’s events begin with a planet (Mars) and so it is only fitting that they end with a star – our very own Sun. On Sunday, appropriately enough, the island of Inishturk will play virtual host to astrophyscist Brendan Owens, who will talk about ‘the star on our doorstep’, which he describes as a slow-burning tale of scientific discovery!
As well as these evening events, Mayo Dark Sky Park will be hosting an event to explore the potential for astrotourism in Mayo and the role sustainable tourism will play in driving economic recovery as we emerge from the current pandemic. To this end, on Friday 9th April at 12 noon, they invite business owners large and small, from Mayo and further afield, to join them, along with Failte Ireland, for a free 2 hour Dark Sky Tourism webinar.
Whether you are an avid amateur stargazer, a budding naturalist or own a small hospitality business, struggling to thrive in these challenging times - there is something for everyone at Mayo’s virtual roadshow, celebrating International Dark Sky Week!
To register, visit http://mayodarkskies.eventbrite.com