Ex-garda station looks to the stars as centre for stargazers

A former Garda station has been given a new role as a centre for stargazers.

Ex-garda station looks to the stars as centre for stargazers

The closed station in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, is now the official office of a Dark Sky Reserve for which the area has been designated.

Earlier this year, south-west Kerry was recognised as one of the best places in the world from which to observe the stars as the skies there are not affected by light pollution.

The other areas to have received gold-tier status from the international Dark Sky Association are New Zealand and Namibia, in Africa.

Martina McAuley, of New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, attended the opening of the Ballinskelligs centre.

She welcomed obvious enthusiasm in Kerry for the project and looked forward to building on their relationship in the future.

South-west Kerry — the first location in the northern hemisphere to achieve such accreditation — is expected to benefit from the astro-tourism market in the coming years.

Around 700sq km has been designated, offering people opportunities to see clear skies at night.

The Ballinskelligs office will provide information to visiting stargazers who will also be provided with a free map of the current night sky and instructions on how to use the map.

A basic astronomy class will be held there every Sunday and Wednesday.

Also as a result of the designation, planning permission has been granted by Kerry County Council to local couple Muiris and Bernie O’Donoghue to build an observatory on nearby Valentia Island.

The observatory will have a 2.7m rotating dome, with sliding shutter panels, and will be erected near Geokaun mountain.

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