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Skelligs and Orion from Valentia, Co. Kerry. Peter Cox
Look At The Stars

Astro-tourism: Kerry designated as stargazing reserve

An area of the county will now be classified as a ‘Dark Sky’ region.

RECOGNITION OF STUNNING night skies visible in Kerry could allow the region to become an area of ‘astro-tourism’, according to a local astronomy group.

The region will soon receive recognition from the International Dark-Sky Association, which aims to highlight the negative effect of light pollution and also designate areas where it is absent, which means more stars than normal are visible in the night sky.

An area of the county will now be designated a reserve.

The project has the support of Failte Ireland, as well as Kerry County Council who are planning to replace existing street lights with ones that will not only cut down on costs, but will also result in less light pollution.

Julie Ormonde of Kerry Dark Sky and South Kerry Astronomy Group says this is an opportunity being handed to the region on a ‘golden platter’.

“It now gives Kerry the opportunity to become Ireland’s first region of astro-tourism”, she told TheJournal.ie.

Tourists are now looking for more than just scenery, they want something more. Not only is this recognition good for Kerry, it is good for Ireland as a whole.

She also hopes that the Republic of Ireland’s first planetarium will be built in the region, something which many countries can have multiples of, but has “slipped under the radar” here.

A number of smaller observatories could also be located in the region, allowing hands-on experience with telescopes.

Ormonde first saw Kerry’s potential to be designated a reserve when she moved to the county from Dublin over two decades ago.

“I was taken aback when I first saw the quality of the night sky here,” she said.

image

A map of the reserve. (Image Credit: Kerry Dark Sky)

Ormode says that local support for the project has been strong, but needs to be sustained for the full benefits to be felt.

Read: Sun-grazing comet likely to have broken up >

Column: Stargazing for beginners – get the most out of these dark winter nights >

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