Dark Sky Sites
The Isle of Man has long been recognised as having dark night skies, a valued attribute of the rural character and tranquillity of the Island.
The UK Campaign for Dark Skies carried out an analysis of the best places in the British Isles for stargazing, factoring in both light pollution and cloud cover. Whilst cloud cover is an issue throughout the British Isles, the clarity of the sky and the almost total lack of light pollution make the Island unique.
On a clear night the night sky of the Isle of Man is simply stunning when many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye and even more can be discovered through a telescope or binoculars.
The Island is also ideally placed on occasions to see the magnificent sight of the Northern Lights on many occasions. The Northern lights are normally only seen from Northerly locations such as Alaska, Norway and Iceland, however the crystal clear Northern horizon from the Islands North eastern coast means this fascinating phenomenon can often be seen from the Island. The Manx Night sky is an amazing experience that will astound even the most experienced stargazer. Home to currently seven of the British Isles Dark sky discovery sites, it has some of the darkest skies in Europe.
With the naked eye you can easily see the Orion Nebula –over 1500 light years away, our Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy whose light has been on its way to us for about 2.5 million years. With the aid of binoculars or a telescope the heavens will open up even more spectacular sights.
Amazing timelapse video of the Isle of Man's starry night sky
Get inspired by watching our timelapse video which showcases all of what the Isle of Man’s stunning night sky has to offer.
Many locations on the Island have some of the darkest skies in the British Isles so it's a great place to gaze at the stars. The formally recognised dark sky sites on the Island are:
- Axnfell Plantation, near Laxey
- Ballaugh Beach
- Ballanette Country Park
- Ballure Reservoir
- Clypse Kerrowdhoo
- Conrhenny Car Park
- Fort Island, near Castletown
- Glen Mooar Beach
- Glen Wyllin
- Mooragh Promenade
- Mount Murray
- Niarbyl, on the West coast
- Peel Castle
- Port Lewaigue Car Park
- Port Soderick Brooghs
- Port Soderick Car Park
- Poulsom Park
- Rushen Abbey
- Smeale, at the far North of the Island
- Sulby Reservoir Car Park
- The Sloc
- The Sound, at the far South
- Tholt y Will reservoir, in the centre of the Island
- Tynwald Mills Car Park
- West Baldwin Reservoir
All of the above sites have, when initially analysed have a SQM (Star Quality Meter) reading in excess of 21.00 which is indicative of extremely clear skies.
Hints and tips
As with any outdoor activity it is always sensible to make some plans in advance. Below are a few suggestions to make sure that your viewing of our spectacular Manx skies is not only successful but memorable:-
- Appropriate clothes - It is a fact that the cold crisp nights of the Manx nights are the best for stargazing, so don’t let the cold spoil your enjoyment of our spectacular skies. A good pair of boots or shoes with thick soles are essential. Also remember to wear a hat, remember most heat lost from the body is from the head! Fashion when star gazing is not an issue, so wrap up warm, with lots of layers and thick socks.
- Comfort - As well at the appropriate clothes, bring something comfortable to sit upon, a rug on the ground is not a good idea in winter time! Folding chairs are useful, and the types that fold up into bag are easy to transport. One other item often overlooked is a decent rug, to put over your knees when sitting down.
- Equipment - Don’t worry too much about not having a telescope with you, although do bring one if you have one that is portable. The best equipment for stargazing is the naked eye, just look up and marvel at the sights. A pair of binoculars are always useful, especially when looking at “Raad Moaar re Gorree”, (The Manx name for the Milky Way). If you have your car with you, lean on its roof on a rug and this will help you to hold them steady. Another useful item to bring with you is a torch, but cover the lens of the torch with some red cellophane. This will stop you getting dazzled by the bright white light that it would normally give out. Also remember it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to become what we call “dark adapted” so don’t look at any bright lights. A simple trick is to close your eyes or look in another direction if someone approaches with headlights or a torch. Also be courteous to your fellow astronomers and keep lights to a minimum, turn off your lights as soon as you arrive. A star atlas or a “planisphere” are very useful for even the experienced astronomer and is a very useful tool to have with you, so you can quickly and easily acclimatise yourself to our Manx skies. But remember that red light!
What is there to see?
The Isle of Man Dark sky locations mean you can expect some spectacular sights during a stargazing session. From our Island shores you can easily see, and become one of the few people in the British Isles to clearly see the Milky Way – our own galaxy, which shows up as a fuzzy/hazy patch made up of around 500 to 700 billion stars!
As you look at the stars in the night sky you will notice that some of them make distinctive patterns and shapes or “constellations” Many different civilisations and cultures have seen these shapes around the world have” joined the dots” in the night sky creating many myths and legends about them.
You can use Star charts to show some of the constellations that are easily viewable from the Isle of Man’s Dark sky locations throughout the year. Some constellations are only visible at certain times of the year so make sure you check such star charts for seasonal variations.