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All eyes on the skies for a world first.

Byline: Cathy Owen Reporter cathy.owen@walesonline.co.uk

THESE are the stunning pictures which show why Wales' Elan Valley Estate has achieved International Dark Sky Park status.

It is a world first because no other privately-owned area has achieved the accolade before.

It also means Wales now leads the world by having the largest fraction of its land subject to dark skies protection.

The estate is owned by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, but is publicly accessible.

The status has been granted by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) based in Arizona and means that the 45,000-acre estate is now protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work there, as well as for visitors and for the abundance of wildlife.

The process to become an International Dark Sky Park began in November 2012 and was spearheaded by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water estate rangers Kris and Les Fry and two local amateur astronomers, who are now volunteer astronomy rangers for the Estate.

More than 200 individual light readings were taken at 13 sites over a 22-month period to demonstrate that the estate would fit the criteria for the status.

Analysis of the data revealed that the estate "possessed exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resource". Ed Parsons, Area Lands Manager for Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, said: "I'm very excited that our spectacular night sky has been recognised by the International Dark Sky Association. This global recognition is testament to the hard work of our rangers and voluntary astronomers, without whom this would not have been possible."

International Dark Sky Association Executive Director, J. Scott Feierabend, said: "Today, IDA takes a major step forward in dark skies conservation by welcoming the Elan Valley as the first ever privately-owned International Dark Sky Park.

"Moving into the realm of private land conservation significantly extends the reach of protections for the natural night-time environment."

John Barentine, project manager for the IDA in Tucson, Arizona said: "We're thrilled by the outcome and what this means for Wales.

"Wales will lead the entire world in terms of countries with the largest fraction of their land subject to dark skies protection."

There are currently 25 Dark Sky Parks in the world.

CAPTION(S):

Orion setting under cloud

The Aurora Borealis in May, left, and June this year

The star-filled sky over the Penygarreg resevoir in the Elan Valley, Powys - now a Dark Sky Park

The Summer Triangle

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 18, 2015
Words:424
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