Meteor Shower Show Owes Splendor to Victories against Light Pollution


 In Galloway Forest Park, resting among the regions of East Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, one can enjoy the Perseid meteor shower crossing the sky in an annual ceremony that extends from the end of July to the middle of August and peaks between the 10th and 12th of August.  Up to 100 flaming elements can be viewed in the sky in the course of an hour.

But the phenomenon is visible from much of Scotland, particularly in those areas enduring less light pollution.  There are new lights being installed across the Dumfries and Galloway Regions that will actually deepen the darkness for a more intense experience.  A new moon in its first quarter phase will also oblige. Telescopes can also be set up at several locations.

The Forest Park has about 75,000 hectares of land with a limited number of buildings, and land development controlled by the Forestry Commission, countering the light pollution elsewhere.

There are only four sites in the world where this wondrous event is staged.  Two others are in the US in Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah and Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania.  The fourth is in the Dark Sky Park in Budapest, Hungary.

Hungary has made similar efforts to preserve dark skies with the institution of a Landscape Protection Area.

On a moonless night in 2011, 800 people in Galloway Dark Sky Park witnessed a similarly inspiring light show.

Scientists say that a comet may have swept through the inner solar system many hundreds or even thousands of years ago, trailing dust and debris. When the Earth passes through the debris field, the remnants of a comet’s tail, chunks of debris hurtle through our atmosphere and disintegrate, creating “shooting stars.”

On the evening of June 11, 1930 three members of the American Meteor Society reported a meteor over Maryland.  But that night the moon was nearly full and shining brightly, which has the effect of blinding us to meteoric observation.   No one else reported meteor sightings that night, or in the years that followed, which made observers question the validity of the claims.

The emanation point of these shooting stars is an area near a miniscule (from the earthbound perspective) collection of faint stars in the constellation Delphinus (“the Dolphin”).  These stars huddle together so closely they can be discerned on clear dark nights.

The quality of darkness in dark skies can be measured by a Sky Quality Meter, a handheld device widely used for monitoring light pollution.  The Sky Quality Meter Scale ranges from 0 to 25.  One would get a reading of 8 on the scale in the midst of a major city, and 24 in a photographer’s dark room.  Forest Park falls within 21 to 23.6, as near as one could get to total darkness in a well-populated territory.

We could not take pleasure in such heavenly sights at earthly sites without the efforts of devoted groups and agencies around the world.

Dark Sky Park is a portion of Galloway Forest Park that was so designated by the Forestry Commission on November 16, 2009, during the International Year of Astronomy.   Its establishment was a great achievement for the UK and the south West of Scotland

The preservation of dark skies in communities, parks, and reserves is one of the goals of the International Dark Sky Places Program (IDA).  The IDA is comprised of citizens, staff, and volunteers dedicated to preserving the most pristine dark skies across the globe.  Their aim is to conserve energy and tend to nature. Their more specific ambitions are to halt the adverse effects of light pollution, raise awareness about the issue and to seek solutions.

Their labors are sometimes rewarded by such occasions as a spectacular sky show in Scotland.


By:  Tom Ukinski


Sources:   DNG    BBC News South Scotland

Forestry Commission    Dark Skies Awareness    Mother Nature Network

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