Star-gazing extravaganzas to chase January blues away

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Anyone looking for a stunning way to get over the January blues is invited to join one of a series of night time trips to Galloway Dark Sky Park and be star-struck!

Forestry Commission Scotland’s Galloway team says that although we’re half way through the 2011/12 observing season (October to April), it’s not yet too late to look skyward and experience something amazing - and profound.

Lucy Hadley, Recreation Ranger with the Commission’s Galloway team, said:

“Winter – on a clear night – is the best time to go star-gazing because it gets properly dark early on in the evening.

“In a town or city – or even if you stay in a rural area that’s not far from a big town or city, light pollution can really ‘spoil’ darkness. But come into the forest where there’s no light pollution and the night sky is really opened up to reveal things that you can’t normally see.

“It’s an amazing sight to look up at the night sky and see light that has taken millions of years to cross space to reach your eye. It can be quite a profound and humbling experience – but without a doubt it’s the best lightshow you’ll ever see!”

A number of events across January and February will help newcomers and experienced star-gazers to get the most out of a trip to the Park. All events (except the Dark Sky Park Trip) are weather dependent. Check the Commission’s Dark Sky Park webpage for updates before coming along to an event…just in case.

• Stargazing for beginners - Monday 23rd January 7pm
Come along to Kirroughtree visitor centre and join Forestry Commission Scotland staff on a visual tour of the Galloway Forest Park's Dark Sky. 

• Dark Sky Park Trip - Friday 27th January
Join Forestry Commission Scotland staff at Glentrool on a night focussing on the dark skies of Galloway. Transport will be laid on from Castle Douglas (5.30pm pick up) then picking up at Gatehouse, Creetown and Newton Stewart. (Due to the limited number of places available at the venue booking is essential for this event. Reserve your place by calling 01671 402 420.  Cost - £10 if making your own way there and paying at the door, £17 if making use of return transport.)

• Starlight Serenade, Kirroughtree visitor centre - Tuesday 14th February 7pm-8pm
Stuck for Valentines day gift ideas? Dazzle your darling and join Forestry Commission Staff for an introduction to the UK's only Dark Sky Park and an evening under our bewitching night sky.

• Stargazing for beginners, Kirroughtree visitor centre - Thursday 16th February 7pm
Join Forestry Commission Scotland staff on a visual tour of the Galloway Forest Park's Dark Sky. 

Anyone coming along to the 23 January or either of the February events should wrap up very warm and bring a torch with a red filter if you have one. As a mark of appreciation for these events a £3 donation to Galloway Forest Park Astronomy Society would also be very welcome.

1) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate, managing, protecting and enhancing the 660,000 hectare national forest estate in ways that deliver benefits to Scotland’s people, communities, biodiversity and economy.

2) Thanks to the Commission’s efforts, part of Galloway Forest Park was officially accorded Dark Sky Park status on 16th November 2009, the first location in the UK to be so designated. Announced in the International Year of Astronomy, it is a massive achievement for the UK and the south West of Scotland.