STARGAZERS celebrated the anniversary of the Brecon Beacons’ status as an International Dark Sky Reserve last week.
A year ago the National Park became the fifth skyline in the world to be awarded the title – which helps protects the area against light pollution – and now a host of other areas are following its lead.
The Brecon Beacons Park Society and the National Park Authority led the campaign for Dark Sky status and since then have embarked on a programme to get support from local businesses.
More than 100 have taken part in training to become Dark Sky Ambassadors, and events and festivals have held throughout the year to celebrate the beauty of the area’s night skies.
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s Ruth Coulthard said: “We have been working very hard with our residents and tourism businesses and this has paid off.
“Almost everyone I have dealt with has seen an increase in visitors seeking dark sky experiences and some businesses have specially developed facilities for their guests to enjoy the night sky.
“Astronomers are working with children across the park, in guides, cubs, scouts, to learn more about the night sky and negative impacts of light pollution."
And now, to mark the anniversary, the two groups are calling for help taking part in a ‘star count’ for Astronomy week.
“Part of our designation is a commitment that we will work to reduce light pollution, so collecting this data will be a big help,” said Ms Coulthard.
To do so, on any clear night between February 26 and March 8, count how many stars are visible in the constellation Orion using your naked eye.
You can then enter your results online and help astronomers develop a better understanding of the effect of light pollution across the country.
Ms Couthard said that, one year on, the best news is that other areas of outstanding natural beauty are following their example.
Northumberland was awarded Dark Sky status last week, and representatives from the Elan Valley Trust, Snowdonia and the Peak District have all visited the Beacons ahead of submitting their own applications.
And with the success of Brecon’s International Dark Sky Reserve, Jim Wilson, the Brecon Beacon Society’s chairman, said that plans were now in place to create an astronomical observatory at the Mountain Centre.
For more information on the star count, and to enter your results, visit www.cpre.org.uk/starcount .