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The Night Sky

Reconnect with the stars

A Dark Sky

The west coast of Ireland is one of the few places left in Western Europe where we can still see pristine clear dark skies on non-cloudy nights. This resource is becoming more and more valuable as the world faces more and more light pollution affecting the environment, the biodiversity and humans living on this planet. Being able to look up at a clear, dark sky is becoming more and more rare in the developed world. Authors, artists, and even scientists have started to express concern about what our lack of daily exposure to a dark night-time sky might mean for our psyche and our sense of place in the universe.

In May 2016, a Gold Tier standard of International Dark Sky Park was awarded to Wild Nephin National Park, known as Mayo Dark Sky Park. The dark sky certification process is modeled on conservation programmes, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Such areas are committed to keeping the skies naturally dark for present and future generations to enjoy these wonders of the night sky. A Gold Tier award is the highest possible accolade, meaning that Mayo is now internationally recognised as one of the best places in the world to view the wonders of the night. More info here.

Similarly, Connemara Dark Skies is a recently formed group of individuals living in different parts of Connemara, who all have an interest in preserving the magic and beauty of the night skies and developing Astrotourism for the region. More info here.

The Geopark office in Tourmakeady hosts since February 2024 a light meter recording the light pollution for the geopark as part of the efforts to make the whole county of Mayo a Dark Sky reserve. You can see or download the data from here.

Exploring space

On a clear night in the darkest areas of our region, you can see thousands of twinkling stars, along with other planets in our solar system, The Milky Way and even meteor showers all with the naked eye. People living in our region would have experienced a night sky brimming with stars. They used the stars for navigation, time and seasonal indicators and sometimes built structures with astronomical alignments for a variety of reasons. Dark Sky Preservation, especially in landscapes that have a prehistoric archaeological component raises the importance of such landscapes to being a cultural asset at a national and international level. UNESCO has acknowledged the value of Astronomical Heritage through its site “Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy” which exists to raise awareness of the importance of astronomical heritage and to facilitate efforts to identify, protect and preserve such heritage.

Find more information on dark skies friendly lightings and beginners’ stargazing tips in the infographic below (or download here). Visit the Mayo Dark Sky Park website for further information on the Moon and Constellations visible from Ireland, Astrotourism, Astrophotography, Nocturnal Wildlife and regular events organised throughout the year.