Devon Dark Skies Week 2020 Activities and Resources

It’s the half term and we’ve got loads of things you can get involved in this week, have a look through the page to find something that suits you.

Why not try improving your knowledge of the constellations you can see in the sky or getting out in nature for our Dark Skies Week Activity Challenge. Head around the world and go on virtual visits of some of the globes best dark sky reserves or even explore outer space, getting involved in citizen science projects that map the universe.

If you take any photos during the week upload them to social media using the hashtag #DevonDarkSkies

Lighting Assessments

Download our Dark Skies Light Survey and then go through our checklist for each light fixture around your home, business or community. This guide will help you to spot any changes that can be made to lighting locally to minimise the impacts of lighting on wildlife. If you want to learn more about this topic you can also head to our webinars page and book onto the FREE webinars, ‘What is lighting?‘ and ‘The impacts of artificial lighting on wildlife’.

Stargazing Activities

Dark Skies Challenge using our activity sheet and try to complete all the challenges during dark skies week. Share pictures of you completing the challenges or your finished sheets with us on social media (#DevonDark Skies) for a chance to be in with winning a prize including the book Dark Skies, FSC field guides,  a family ticket to the Norman Lockyer Observatory and other great prizes.

Make a telescope to see the stars up close or use it in the day to see wildlife high up in the trees.

Create a sky chart to help you find objects in the night sky and identify the constellations you can see with this hand step by step provided by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA).

Make a Planisphere also known as a star wheel, this is like a sky chart but you can adjust it to show what the sky is like at different times of the year or when visiting different hemispheres. Step by step provided by the IDA.

Learn the basics of stargazing, how to prepare for a stargazing trip and what to start looking for with this guide from Sky and Telescope.

How to Spot Venus – Look for one of the brightest planets in the sky, also known as the morning star.

How to spot the North Star – The North Star is also known as Polaris. It’s special because unlike most stars the Earth’s axis points directly towards it so it remains in the same place in the sky throughout the night.

Picture of stars in the night skyVisit a Dark Sky Discovery Site, Devon has two Dark Sky Discovery Sites outside of Exmoor National Park which are easily accessible and offer the potential to see the milky way. These are Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve and Knapp Copse Local Nature Reserve.

Nominate a Dark Sky Discovery site, Devon only has two nominated Dark Sky discovery sites but if you’ve got a green space near you where you’re away from the worst light pollution, there are good sightlines and there is good public access you can nominate your site. Nominations are also widely accepted from community and school groups so you can do this activity with others.

Nature Activities

Build a hedgehog house – Follow this guide by the Wildlife Trust to make a space for hedgehogs near you. This is also a great way to encourage hedgehogs into a garden.

Identify a Moth – See if you can identify any moths this week, this nature spotter guide by the Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Watch might be a good place to start.

Go on a night time nature walk – Going for a walk at night can let you see and hear things you’d never see in the day and is a great way to see somewhere you know well differently. This guide by the National Trust will help you know what to look out for throughout the year.

Twilight activity sheet at home – Have fun completing the activities and learn about night-time forest animals by Forestry England

Twilight activity sheet in the forest – Take a visit just before dark to see many animals at their most active. Use this sheet when you go on your twilight adventure and see what you can spot by Forestry England

Visit a Virtual Dark Sky Reserve

While it may be difficult to look at dark skies from different places around the world right now, we’ve brought a collection of videos together so you can still experience some incredible dark skies in the mean time.

Dartmoor National Park – A time-lapse film by Arthur Cauty, taken from the depths of Dartmoor National Park.

Exmoor Dark Skies Reserve LogoExmoor National Park – Exmoor NP was the very first designated International Dark Sky Reserve. Discover what this means and learn how you too can explore the dark night skies of Exmoor.

Northumberland National Park – Head north to Northumberland and watch the stars travel through the sky in another time-lapse video created by the National Park.

Galloway International Dark Sky Park – A short time lapse film by Alasdair MacLeod set in the Galloway Forest National Park in south west Scotland. The park is a designated dark skies location, and is a fabulous place for viewing the night sky.

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – A time-lapse compilation showcasing the  night inside and around Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand’s South Island. Aoraki Mackenzie is the largest gold rated dark sky reserve in the world, covering 4367 square kilometres.

Citizen Science Projects

Galaxy Zoo – Help astronomers learn how galaxies form by classifying telescope images of distant galaxies according to their shapes, you may even be the first person to ever see these images.

Solar Stormwatch – Track eruptions of material from the solar atmosphere as they expand through the inner solar system so we can improve space weather forecasts.

Moon Mappers – Map craters on the moon so that any robots can find safe spaces to land.

Stardust@Home – Find tiny interstellar dust particles that originated in distant stars light years away, collected on an aerogel from space.

Resources for Schools

Below are the links to two lesson plans provided the CPRE which might provide some inspiration for schools and education groups wanting to learn more about dark skies and light pollution.

KS1 lesson plan
KS2 lesson plan