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Surprise! Prime spot to view the stars in the Peak District National Park

This is an archived press release

Wednesday 18 January 2012

An accessible site in the Peak District National Park has been named one of the best stargazing spots in the country by leading astronomers.

Surprise View, near Hathersage, has been announced as a Dark Sky Discovery Site on the ‘Stargazing LIVE’ astronomy show, hosted by Professor Brian Cox and comedian Dara Ó Briain.

The site, just four miles from Sheffield, is one of six new Dark Sky Discovery Sites identified nationally for the darkness of the night sky overhead, including one at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland National Park.

John Tanner, a research officer for the Peak District National Park Authority and keen astronomer, said: "Most people know Surprise View for its panoramic views of the Hope Valley and the surrounding landscape, but the site has more to offer.

“It is 15 times darker than the centre of Sheffield and because it’s away from street lights and the glow of nearby towns and cities, it means that people are able to experience the panorama in the dark sky.

“On a clear night you can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy – 2.5 million light years away – the furthest away feature in the universe that can be seen with the naked eye.”

A seasonal interpretation panel has been installed at Surprise View which explains what can be seen in the night sky throughout the year.

The site is accessible for all and includes a pay and display car park and a path suitable for wheelchairs users and families with pushchairs.

John said: “There is an area at the rear of the car park which is ideal for people to set up telescopes, but you don’t have to have expensive equipment to enjoy the view. You can look up and see planets, constellations, meteor showers and satellites with the naked eye. 

“An accessible path leads to the Surprise View and it is perfect for exploring the night sky with binoculars or the naked eye. People will be able to see some of the wonders of the universe for themselves.”

Surprise View is an extremely dark location in the countryside. Warm clothing, sensible shoes, and a torch are essential for people visiting the area at night.

The Peak District National Park Authority’s Dark Skies project organises stargazing events to raise awareness of the effects of light pollution and the special qualities of the night sky in and around the Peak District National Park. For more information visit www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/darkskies   

The Dark Skies project is working in partnership with Nottingham Trent University’s Centre for Effective Learning in Science, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and the Peak District Dark Skies group.

This is an archived press release

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