Business focus: Elan Valley Astronomy
As you probably know, the Cambrian Mountains is one of the very best spots in Wales for stargazing. What you might not know is that experts from Elan Valley Astronomy are on hand with specific events throughout the year that’ll teach you exactly what you’re looking at when you gaze heavenward. We spoke to Leslie Fry from Elan Valley Astronomy for more information…
1. How was Elan Valley Astronomy founded?
Some 3 years or so ago, we got in contact with the then Head Ranger, Sorcha Lewis, and in the course of conversation, discovered her desire to have the Elan Valley set up as a “Dark Sky Park”, though she wasn’t sure on the way forward. By luck, I had been the Secretary for the Wessex Astronomical Society, based in Dorset, for some 14 years prior to our “escape to the country”, and knew exactly who to get in contact with and to start the ball rolling. Since that point, we’ve been involved with the Elan on the astronomical side, arranging events/observing sessions etc and even to the stage of taking on and completing the application for International Dark Sky Park status. We started the facebook site as “Elan Valley Astronomy” to simply encourage others to “get out and see for yourself”, and to keep contact with those interested in astronomy in general over the Mid Wales area. We’re delighted so see new people posting photos on the site, discovering for themselves that… “I can do that!!!”
2. Were you lucky enough to get any images of last week’s eclipse?
Oh yes!!! We set up a public observing site on the Elan near Banc y Defaid, and had around 20 people turn up and view during the eclipse. We had a couple of telescopes to safely view the Sun direct covered with full aperture Solar filters, and even a small Solar Telescope that views the Sun in Hydrogen Alpha light. This enables you to see the prominences blasting away from the Solar disc, and we were telling the observers that these were the same kind events that caused the Auroral activity of a couple of days previous, which we were also lucky enough to photograph. All attendees seemed to thoroughly enjoy the event and the views through the telescopes, including being able to take photographs with their own cameras using our special filters provided.
3. Do you have any special events coming up?
Next one is a “Moonwatch” on April 28th followed by a Solar Saturday on May 30th. Details of all the forthcoming events will be in the soon to be released Elan Visitors Guide and are posted and advertised on “Elan Valley Astronomy” and the Elan Valley’s own website. We encourage interested parties to keep an eye on these sites since we do sometimes have to change times or event sites at short notice. Such is the nature of astronomy!
4. What makes the Cambrian Mountains unique as a stargazing destination, and where are the best spots?
One of the attached photos shows the light pollution levels across Wales. As you can see, the Cambrian Mountains occupy some of the darkest skies in Wales, and provided you can get away from the major towns and road junctions, your view of the night sky should be excellent. Here in Wales, we are fortunate enough to be able to access skies darker than 90% of the UK population. To our south, the Brecon Beacons are already a recognised Dark Sky Reserve, the Shropshire Hills AONB a Dark Sky Discovery Site, and with the Elan Valley’s application under consideration as we speak, along with Snowdonia National Park also close to completion in their application, we have here possibly, the greatest percentage of protected dark skies measured against land area.