Interactive map shows New Forest’s dark night skies

light pollution

Published Monday 13 June 2016

New detailed satellite maps of light pollution in England show that the New Forest boasts some of the darkest skies in the south east.

The maps, produced by the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE), use satellite images captured at 1.30am throughout September 2015.

They show that the New Forest National Park is the 7th darkest out of the 10 National Parks within England. It has a high percentage of dark skies with minimal light pollution – 89 per cent of the skies above the National Park fall in the three darkest categories, compared with 63 per cent in the south east as a whole.

Dark night skies are one of the special qualities of the New Forest, which has several tranquil areas with few houses and street lights. This research into light pollution seeks to increase awareness of the effect it can have on the night sky and on the health of people and wildlife.

The New Forest National Park Authority works to keep light pollution at a minimum through the planning process and raising awareness of the issue among local people.

The majority of the New Forest enjoys dark skies, with the open heathland, woodland and coast between Keyhaven and Calshot showing particularly dark skies. The towns, villages and lit roads within the National Park contribute to higher levels of light pollution as well as built up areas outside the boundary. In particular, Southampton and Bournemouth contribute to sky glow that can be seen clearly from within the National Park.

The light pollution maps for England were produced by CPRE from data gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in America. The NOAA satellite captured visible and infrared imagery to determine the levels of light spilling up into British skies.

These maps help to identify areas with severe light pollution as well as identifying existing dark skies that need protecting.  

Sarah Kelly, New Forest National Park Authority landscape officer, said: ‘The CPRE night blight mapping is a fascinating glimpse of the pattern of dark night skies and light pollution in and around the New Forest National Park.

‘As part of our work to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the New Forest we encourage people to do their bit to reduce light pollution. Residents, businesses and industry, and those outside the Park boundary can help reduce light pollution by switching off or dimming outside lights. This also has the advantage of reducing the amount of energy used; reducing your carbon footprint and lowering energy bills.

‘The reward is the thrill of seeing a dark night sky full of stars; something we can all agree is a wonderful sight.’
Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: ‘Our view of the stars is obscured by artificial light. Many children in urban areas may not have seen the Milky Way, our own galaxy, due to the veil of light that spreads across their night skies.

‘Councils can reduce light levels through better planning and with investment in the right street lighting that is used only where and when it is needed.

‘Our Night Blight maps also show where people can expect to find a truly dark, starry sky. The benefits of dark skies, for health, education and tourism, are now being recognised, with areas such as the South Downs National Park receiving International Dark Skies Reserve status. Dark skies are a key characteristic of what makes the countryside so different from urban areas.’

To use the interactive maps and find out more about light pollution visit nightblight.cpre.org.uk

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Notes to Photo Editor:

Stars above beach huts at Calshot Spit, New Forest by Rosie Hall

Notes to Editor:

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Campaign for Rural England

CPRE’s interactive maps can be accessed at http://nightblight.cpre.org.uk/.

Light pollution is a generic term referring to excess artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed. In broad terms, there are three types of light pollution:

  • skyglow – the pink or orange glow we see for miles around towns and cities, spreading deep into the countryside, caused by a scattering of artificial light by airborne dust and water droplets
  • glare – the uncomfortable brightness of a light source
  • light intrusion – light spilling beyond the boundary of the property on which a light is located, sometimes shining through windows and curtains

Media Contacts:

Matt Stroud, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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