WHY MOFFAT BECAME A DARK SKY TOWN
Since starting my design consultancy services in Coventry the process of identifying problems caused by poor lighting techniques were at the forefront of most of my work. Many of them were corrected through showing energy saving techniques as the marketing tool. Shortly after moving from Coventry to Scotland in 2008 a new refreshing approach to correcting poor lighting emerged when I was invited to help the Forestry Commission in Galloway to achieve dark sky status in the forest park. I soon saw that the reduction of light pollution for stargazing was a new marketing tool to play the tune of excellence in lighting design. It was also seen as a tool to revive the public's interest in the night sky and attract winter tourism, previously the domain of snow sports areas.
After completing four more external lighting master plans for other dark sky places in the UK I realised that Moffat, as a town, was just as isolated as some of the other dark sky places I had worked in and just as popular with tourists by the day. However, the old sodium street lights in 2012 were no showcase example of quality lighting in Moffat. About the same time as this personal realisation the local authority had a request from the Scottish Government to find a case study area where the old adage of better lighting through ‘energy saving’ could meet a budget of £240,000. The County Council lighting engineer already knew about my personal desire to get better lighting in Moffat to meet the demands of the Arizona based International Dark Sky Association (IDA). This started a twin-win initiative with the installation of LED street lights. As well as saving 20 kilowatt hours of electrical energy the before and after sky quality darkness was measurably better.
As well as minimising what is commonly called ‘light pollution’ a dark sky award from the IDA is the start of a partnership of many stakeholders in the promotion of autumn, winter and spring astronomy related activities. The density of tourist accommodation, restaurants and cafés in Moffat is a testimony to the volume of the spring, summer and autumn tourist trade. The attraction of astronomy related visitors would therefore be a welcome addition to the relatively lower winter trade. In addition to the new Moffat Astronomy Club, tourist based commerce and electrical contracting are crucial in this partnership.
The IDA award also requires evidence of a continuing monitoring of the sky quality, a programme of educational outreach through various channels and evidence of continuing improvements in external light control. The annual report to the IDA on the work undertaken to this end needs to show evidence that the dark sky astronomy community is developing the following:-
Promote eco-tourism and astro-tourism.
Promote the protection of human health, nocturnal habitats, public enjoyment of the night sky and promotion of the area for professional or amateur astronomy.
Promote the ideals of the International Dark Sky Association by encouraging other communities to identify a dark sky as a valuable community and tourist asset.
Promote dark sky and neighbourhood friendly lighting throughout Moffat.
Promote an annual account of the night sky darkness quality improvements.
I have used my years of professional knowledge to get us a dark sky community award but now it’s your turn to do the thinking. Take my word for it, there is something in it for all of us, as a community, whether it be commercial, educational outreach, interest or even protecting the natural environment.
Although we now have a dark sky award through better light control from the new street lights, the conquest of improving other commercial and residential external lighting needs to continue and this is where the community of Moffat can work in harmony.
In simplistic terms
1 All floodlights with a light source (bulb) greater than 3,000 lumens must point directly downwards with no upward tilt.
2 Only use the amount of light you need to see and avoid glare. There is very little evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime.
3 Avoid light intruding on your neighbours’ properties, especially bedroom windows.
4 When purchasing new lamps look on the package for words like “warm white” or numbers like 2,700K or 3,000K.
The annual report to the IDA includes an exemplary showcase of dark sky friendly external lighting on properties in Moffat – is your property in the showcase?
Above all - enjoy the wonders of the night sky (when the rain clouds roll away).
Jim Paterson Dark Sky Architect and Engineer
TELESCOPE PIER LOCATIONS IN MOFFAT
This page contains location information on where our 3 visitor telescope piers are located.
MOFFAT NATURE RESERVE
This is accessed on the main road into Moffat from the M74, the A701. Turn right after about 500 yards from the motorway slip road, left at the fork (see picture) and down the rutted road to the car park. The pier is on the left side of the car park
Travel north from the High Street and turn left into Mearsdale Road after the mini roundabout. Take the right fork go down the lane and the car parking area is on the left after about 100 yards. Walk about another 100 yards towards the football pitch.
ST ANDREW'S CHURCH
St Andrews Church is just before the High Street and opposite the Black Bull Hotel. Turn left into Church Place and left again. The pier is located in the top left of the car park in the play area.
These are fitted with a pier adaptor to allow you to fit your own mount without the need for a tripod, and to provide a rock solid viewing platform.
The adaptor fits Skywatcher, iOptron and Celestron mounts. To ensure no disappointment it would be a good insurance policy to stow your tripod in case of fitting problems.