Dark Skies of Berkshire

Dark evenings and clear skies make this the perfect time of year for stargazing. But, with Berkshire being so close to London and having several large towns of its own, it can be hard to find a good spot that isn’t affected by light pollution. The International Dark Sky Association has named Exmoor as a Dark Park Reserve and Galloway Forest in Scotland as a Dark Skies Park. Prestigious awards, but is there anywhere a bit closer to home?

The Need Less Light campaign has an excellent tool for simulating how the sky looks from anywhere in the UK. If you take a look at the map, you can see how much light is generated in Slough, Reading, Basingstoke, Newbury and all the major towns. Even smaller towns have some light pollution. By checking the different parts of the county, you can see the best spots seem to be:

– An area midway between Reading and Basingstoke, just South East of Stratfield Mortimer.
– Just North of the M4 near J13, around Hampstead Norreys and Yattenden.
– Between Hungerford and Newbury.

Towns have been used to give a geographical idea of these dark sky areas, but by definition, the best places will actually be away from towns. If you look at the simulator, you can judge for yourself where these places are.

Of course, there is much more to be taken into account than just dark skies. You need to check for obstructions – you won’t get very far viewing through your telescope in a wooded area for instance! And obviously, you need to check for rights of access.

For beginners, it is a really good idea to join an astronomy group and tag along on one of their viewing events. Astronomy groups in Berkshire are listed below. They all have regular meetings and may even let you use their viewing equipment.

Herschel Astronomical Society
Maidenhead Astronomical Society
Newbury Astronomical Society
Reading Astronomical Society

Good luck and happy viewing – please leave a message below and let us know your favourite stargazing places.

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