Sidmouth observatory joins Dulverton stargazers

Norman Lockyer Observatory members on hand during TV Stargazing show

MEMBERS of Norman Lockyer Observatory were among those at the Exmoor village of Dulverton when it was plunged into darkness in the name of science last week.

Pictured are (l-r): astronomers Alan Shuttleworth and Mac Currie, members of the NLO meteor detection team.

The big lights switch-off last Wednesday was part of BBC Two’s three-day Stargazing Live show with Professor Brian Cox.

The village’s 177 street lights were replaced by luminous sticks outside houses and businesses, ready for the switch-off at 8.20pm.

BBC Astronomer, Mark Thompson, had spent several days in Dulverton rallying support for the event, while on the night, NLO members gave astronomy and telescope advice and showcased the observatory’s mobile meteor detection unit.

Iain Grant, from NLO, said: “It was unfortunate that low mist prevented any actual stargazing after the lights went out, but in the total darkness, what it clearly did show to the people of Dulverton, was a glow in the sky caused by the reflected light from other nearby Exmoor villages.”

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This showed how such a small community could still cause light pollution.

“We were also able to show live on our computer screens radar meteor detections taking place that evening over southern England and France,” he added.

Iain said the NLO website had seen a large increase in hits leading up to the TV programme and telescope sales were up 500 percent.

The European Campaign for Dark Skies carried out an analysis of the best places in the UK for stargazing, and showed Exmoor National Park was best. Last November the NLO took its roadshow to Wimbleball Lake there when it was granted International Dark-Sky Reserve status.

Sidmouth’s observatory regularly opens its doors for viewing and hosts learner astronomy courses throughout the year. Details at