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Catherine Murphy gazes at some of the world’s most intriguing Dark Sky Reserves.

The plains of Languedoc in southeastern France stretch out to the Mediterranean and, above them, dark skies hold great promise for astro fans. This region’s difficult past, including religious persecution, has kept development at bay and light pollution low. This year, the sparsely populated Department of Lozère/Gard was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve. darksky.org

GERMANY WESTHAVELLAND NATURE PARK

To be so close to the bright lights of Berlin (the city is just 70 kilometres away) and still belong to “Dunkel Deutschland” (Dark Germany) is what makes the

Sternenpark Westhavelland dark sky reserve so special. The historic Brandenburg area is famous for its stunning palaces and gardens but now also hosts an annual star party for astro tourists who are as conscious of East Germany’s dark past as they are of the night skies. havelland-tourismus.de

IRELAND KERRY INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY RESERVE

Experience the romance of venturing out from the Royal Hotel on Valentia Island to gaze at star clusters and nebulae on the night of a new moon. Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve is one of only three Gold Tier reserves on the planet, with astronomical sights on a par with those that can be seen from the Grand Canyon

and the African Savannah. The reserve has a core zone stretching from Portmagee to Caherdaniel, Valentia and The Glen – with the Skelligs and the Ring of Kerry as its backdrop. kerrydarksky.com

SPAIN PARC ASTRONÒMIC MONTSEC

On the border between Catalunya and Aragon, nestled between the gorges of Mont-rebei and Terradets, this area of great unspoilt beauty has become a UNESCO Starlight Tourism destination. The clear skies in Catalunya are down to a microclimate and sparsely populated villages scattered through a valley best known for paragliding, hiking and kayaking. The dark skies are watched carefully from

a research observatory while the Centre d’Observació de l’Univers is a must-visit for families. parcastronomic.cat

USA JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Visitors drawn to the iconic Joshua tree and desert landscape of this southern California national park also now come for the Silver Tier designated dark sky park. A 2.5-hour drive from LA, these dark skies are perfect for witnessing Perseid meteor showers, solar eclipses and enjoying the annual Night Sky Festival (November 9-10; nps.gov/ jotr). Park and hike to the east side of the park for the darkest skies; take an astrophotography workshop or just set up camp and gaze. joshuatree.guide

ILLUSTRATION BY TARA O’BRIEN

FRANCE CEVENNES NATIONAL PARK

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Cara October/November 2018  

Cara October/November 2018  

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