A Dark Sky Park where the Heavens steal the Show
The splendour of a starry sky have been filling us with wonder since the dawn of civilization. Today, many of us look up into the night-time heavens and are lucky to see just a handful of stars. Most Irish urbanites cannot see the Milky Way, the wondrous band of stars that is visible directly overhead in the summer sky. Nor can they see Andromeda, our nearest neighbouring galaxy and the farthest object from us visible to the naked eye.
A recent survey in the UK illustrated how completely the night sky has disappeared for most people. In winter the magnificent constellation of Orion burns through the worst light pollution. In a dark sky one should be able to see 30 stars within its boundaries. Only 2 per cent of people in the UK could see 30 stars.
Every year many people come to this vast area of Mayo in the midst of its scenic landscape to just experience remote wildness and solitude. The stunning scenery of Ballycroy-Wild Nephin doesn’t end when the Sun sets. The Milky Way stretching across the park’s incredibly dark night sky is a sight many visitors will never forget. There are lots of good places in the Dark Sky Park from which to observe the night sky.
During our Dark Sky Weekend and to acknowledge our unpredictable weather we intend to hold an observing session on the first available clear night at two locations simultaneously, firstly for serious astronomers with expensive equipment at the Brogan Carroll Boothy in the Letterkeen Forest, parking places are limited and pre-booking required. Please note this is not a general public stargazing event. This is a gathering of serious amateur astronomers and astronomical societies from Ireland and the UK and is a strictly red light area.
Both places are rich in wildlife and pleasant places to visit, we kindly ask attendees to please keep your waste, while also there will be no alcohol permitted at either venue.
Our public observing event will take place at the Burrishoole Abbey car park (pictured below) where we will have some large telescopes and laser guided night sky tours . Both places are rich in wildlife and a very pleasant places. We would like to keep it that way. Please keep your rubbish in a suitable container and dispose of it in the bins provided. Dark sites and loose trash do not mix well.
Readings from SQM meters at the Letterkeen forest regularly well exceeded 21.9 mpsas and proved that under clear skies, this site excels in Visual Limiting Magnitude, Bortle Scale and Unihedron Sky Quality Meters. Here there is an old stone hut that was rebuilt in recent years and marks the trailhead of the Bangor Trail. The car park is surrounded by one of the largest forest blocks in the country and offers spectacular views of the night sky in all directions.
To get to Letterkeen, take the Newport Road (N59) out of Westport and continue through Newport on that road, signposted for Newport and Achill. Approximately 1km (0.6 miles) out of Newport, turn right (north) at a signpost for the Marine Institute and Lough Furnace. Follow this road through a crossroads at about 2km (1.2 miles) passing a disused two-storey house on your right.
Continue along this road past Lough Feeagh on your left. Pass Shramore Lodge, and then cross a small bridge over the Srahrevagh River. Shortly after the bridge turn left onto a forestry roadway (following the signposts for the Bangor Trail and the Western Way).
Follow the road about 1km, and the observing site and car park with about 15 spaces is located at the stone boothy. See https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-9.5631574,1114a,20y,339.8h,44.7t/data=!3m1!1e3
After dark no white lights are to be used as this will ruin everyone’s night vision red torches only please!
Persistant offenders of the white light rule will be asked to leave.
Sources of white lights are:
- Laptops and Televisions
- Cars (Interior and exterior)
We also suggest these are top on your list of things to bring
- Thick socks
- Winter coats
- Flask with Tea / Coffee