Stargazing in the Isle of Man is really taking off as more island sites are being nominated for recognition by the Dark Sky Association.
Last October, seven island sites were granted dark sky status by an international body which recognises the best locations around the world for stargazing.
To qualify as a dark sky site, the Milky Way must be clearly visible.
In June, the Department of Economic Development asked member of the public to nominate further dark sky discovery sites.
Chairman of the Isle of Man Astronomical Society, Howard Parkin, said: ‘We’ve had a huge response to the Dark Skies [project]and I’m delighted.
‘Since our June announcement asking for potential sites to be nominated, we’ve had 30 plus sites suggested.
‘Some had to be eliminated because they were not under public ownership, but we’ve now got a core list of 25 which we’re hoping to submit.
‘Fifteen of the sites’ [owners] have already sent all the necessary documentation so we’ll be submitting applications for those sites to the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh and after that we should hopefully hear back whether the sites have been successful within a few weeks.’
He added: ‘For the other 11 sites, we’re just waiting for the necessary documentation and once that’s received we could submit those too. I can’t reveal the locations which have been submitted yet, but it’s all been very favourable. I’ve been delighted with the public response.
‘To give you an idea of how well things seem to be going, I spoke to the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh recently and they’ve been blown away by the level of interest and the sites here.
‘There was even a press trip to the island, hosted by the Regency Hotel and myself, which went very well, so we’re hoping for some favourable articles about the island and dark skies in the coming weeks.’
The awarding of dark skies status has already prompted Isle of Man Railways to stage extra Pie in the Sky stargazing suppers at the Snaefell Summit Hotel, and the Regency Hotel is offering a Dark Skies Weekend travel package during October.
‘We have quite a few events coming up,’ revealed Mr Parkin.
‘Isle of Man Railways put on two extra Pie in the Sky events. And I’m doing a stargazing supper at the Sound on November 16 with Manx National Heritage. Next April there’ll be another stargazing supper at Niarbyl. There’s been a great response.’
The island’s current seven sites mean it already has the largest concentration of dark sky sites in the British Isles.
The Manx Government wants to build on that number with a view to attracting astronomers from all over the planet.
The areas already recognised by the Dark Sky Association include Smeale nature reserve, Niarbyl, the Sound, Port Soderick Brooghs, Axnfell plantation, Fort Island and Sulby reservoir car park.
The classification is given to promote astronomy and energy efficiency.