With the iminent return of BBC’s Stargazing Live we thought we’d share some of our own dark skies experiences in the Upper Usk Valley, part of Brecon Beacons National Park.
The long nights mean that the planets, stars and moon become visible from early on, within a few hours of darkness, clear skies can produce an amazing show, with many of the more famous constellations at their height during the winter months.
In the Upper Usk Valley, we have the 2 darkest locations within the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Reserve area, so where better to witness these wonderful overnight shows and to discover more about the dark skies around us, with clear views and very little light pollution.
Not only are the stars in clear view, but December offers a great opportunity to see meteor showers (or shooting stars) with this year’s Geminid Meteor Shower peaking on the 13th & 14th December.
Taking advantage of some clear skies, Carole Gledhill of Madog Fechan Barn, a Brecon Beacons National Park ambassador explains more…..
One of the absolute joys of living in the Upper Usk Valley (UUV) is the lack of light pollution and easy access to sheltered spots from which to observe the night skies. Brecon Beacons National Park recently became only the fifth destination in the world to be granted prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status and Crai was awarded Dark Sky Discovery Site, Milky Way Class recognition in 2012. You can find out more about the Dark Skies movement at www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk
The Upper Usk Valley is very fortunate to have several Dark Sky Ambassadors residing within its boundaries and many accommodation providers have equipped their properties with telescopes and binoculars. It is hoped to host stargazing events in the UUV in 2014.
What sort of events would you like to see happen?
At certain times of the year the stargazer can look forward to meteor showers and last weekend it was the turn of the spectacular Geminids, named after the Gemini constellation, the direction from which its parent asteroid, 3200 Phaethon, originates. As this asteroid passes close to the Earth, bits of debris will crumble in the upper edges of the atmosphere, vaporising as lights in the sky.
We set ourselves up late at night outside Madog Fechan Barn in Crai, wrapped up warmly and seated on deckchairs, just the right angle for viewing the stars! No need for telescope or binoculars, the meteors were very bright and easy to spot streaking across the sky. We do provide 4 pairs of astronomy quality binoculars for our guests to use, along with insulated mugs and blankets to make the experience more comfortable. Then it was just a matter of turning our backs to the moon and allowing our eyes to become accustomed to the dark and we didn’t have long to wait to enjoy the spectacle of reportedly, 100 and 120 meteors every hour at its peak, although unfortunately a number were obscured by patchy clouds and we weren’t counting anyway!
Did anyone else catch the Geminids this year?
Why not share your experience here?
Having quality dark skies is as much an attraction to residents and tourists as it is a massive boost for tourism operators in the Upper Usk Valley. Do your bit and keep outside lighting to a minimum to help preserve our wonderful dark skies.
Click Here to find our more about the stargazing events in 2014 maybe an ideal time to plan a visit to the Upper Usk Valley and witness these incredible spectacles!