North Ronaldsay and Dark Skies

Big news awaits for North Ronaldsay on Friday 3rd September. During the Orkney International Science Festival 2021 the outcome of North Ronaldsay’s application for International Dark Sky Place status is due to be announced at 1 pm.

North Rondaldsay Image Credit: B Bell

The island community’s application has been considered by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Arizona, USA.

The status of an International Dark Sky community is highly prized and the award is based on the outcome of very substantial work over time by the community, including dark-sky measurements, a comprehensive lighting survey, and community and local authority commitments to preventing light pollution and preserving dark skies.

The North Ronaldsay Community Association started more than ten years ago to lay the foundations, with surveys by astronomer Steve Owens and lighting engineer Jim Paterson, and a programme of astronomy activity that generated wide-ranging support within the island and elsewhere. This laid the foundations on which the application could be taken forward with the support of the North Ronaldsay Trust.

If successful, North Ronaldsay would join a small group of communities around the world, ranging from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Fulda in Germany. There are two Dark Sky Communities in the UK, both in Scotland – the island of Coll and the town of Moffat – along with Sark in the Channel Islands. There are also six UK Dark Sky Parks: in Tomintoul and Glenlivet-Cairngorms, Galloway Forest Park, Northumberland, Elan Valley Estate, Davagh Forest, and Bodmin Moor.

The announcement will be made during the Science Festival event Join Us For Lunch, which will be online and freely available through YouTube and the Festival’s website at The lunchtime event will feature the new Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Prof. Catherine Heymans, along with Ashley Wilson, the IDA’s Dark Sky Places Program Manager.

blue universe
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on

Related stories: The Sky Above You – September 2021 and Sea & Stars at Orkney International Science Festival 2021

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