By Emma Kirkup

So for the start of this week the weather would have been perfect for a spot a star gazing, with clear skies and crisp evenings I had my fingers crossed that my night of star gazing in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) would be like this too! Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans… I headed to the Larmer Tree gardens in the pouring rain, dressed up in my waterproofs hoping that the weather would make a turn for the better.

We were told to still turn up in the event of cloud or rain as there would be a talk inside the Pavilion and the opportunity to talk about dark skies and what you can (usually) see in the dark skies.

Bob Mizon, Coordinator for the Commission for Dark Skies from the British Astronomical Association gave us an interesting talk about what you can typically see in the skies at the moment including planets Venus and Jupiter seen in the morning sky and the little known Comet Catalina.

Bob gave an overview of the constellations, some myths and legends behind the stars and some sciencey bits which although fascinating did go a bit over my head!

Bob then showed us some free software that keen star gazers can download called Stellarium. This can recreate the skies and show you exactly what you can see at certain times of the year and day. There were some children sat behind me during the talk and I could hear quite a few ‘wows’ coming from them!

Once the talk finished, this would usually be the opportunity for us to go outside and see the stars for ourselves the only problem was that the rain was still relentless – grrr! However, Bob and his team were on hand to talk to people about astronomy, to demonstrate some of their telescopes and to show images they had captured of previous starry nights. We even had the opportunity to handle some meteorites.

The reason for this event is that the Cranborne Chase AONB are trying to get International Dark Sky Reserve Status. Due to the AONB’s rural location and low levels of light pollution lends itself well to going for this status and they hope to achieve this by the end of 2016.

The AONB will be running future star gazing events including one in the Upper Deverills in February. Fingers crossed for better weather on this date but in the meantime I will certainly be looking at the sky in a different way and trying to spot some of the stars and planets that were mentioned for myself.

To find out more about Cranborne Chase’s plans for Dark Skies Status click here.

Please note: the photo we've used at the top of this blog was not taken in the AONB - unfortunately the skies didn't lend themselves to photography on the night of my visit! This photo is by Paul Hope and was captured at the High Post, near Amesbury.


Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
Fonthill estate archway

Explore a nationally protected landscape, the 6th largest in the Country and one of the most rural. Escape the hustle and bustle of urban life to wild open spaces, beautiful chalk down land, and ancient woods rich in history and wildlife.

The Larmer Tree Gardens
Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury

These beautifully laid out gardens were created by General Pitt Rivers in 1880. Originally designed as pleasure grounds for 'public enlightment and entertainment', The Larmer Tree is an extraordinary example of Victorian extravagance.

Free Star Gazing Event
Stars (C) Paul Hope

This AONB is holding star gazing evenings in conjunction with Bob Mizon, the well-known Dorset astronomer, and a member of the British Astronomical Association.



Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?

Leave a Reply