Monday, June 19, 2023

International Dark Skies Reserve

All photos courtesy of Unsplash

‘Did you hear about the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales becoming the 5thInternational Dark Skies Reserve? The organisation that has designated the Beacons in this way is the International Dark-Sky Association, which claims to be the only organization fighting ‘to preserve the night’ as they put it. The four other Dark Sky reserves they have previously selected are in Exmoor in England, Mont-Mégantic in Canada, NamibRand Nature Reserve in Africa, and Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand. 


The Park has been designated at the ‘Silver Tier’ level meaning that while the skies above the park do have some light pollution, but they are still remarkably dark, making it an excellent place to see the Milky Way and other night-sky objects. Specially adapted street lights in the Park ensure that light is not directed upwards into the sky. 


In the 500 or so sq. miles of the National park, sheep outnumber people by 30 to 1, but the National Park authority want more people to visit, especially staying overnight and enjoying the night sky. Visit their website to enjoy an amazing new video of a time-lapsed night sky, showing the stars in an apparent circular orbit. As a youngster, I often walked around in and cycled through the Brecon Beacons, but I didn’t appreciate the dark nights then!


Being able to gaze at the sky is very important for Jews and Christians. The Old Testament records some great poems in the book of Psalms, Israel’s hymnbook. Nearly half of them are written by David, and what we call the nineteen psalm is one of his greatest, recording David’s poetic description of the night sky. Don’t take my word for this psalm’s great poetry, listen to C S Lewis who said that it contains some of the greatest lyrics ever written. 


The first six verses say:

1  The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. 

2  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 

3  There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 

4  Their [voice] is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 

5  Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 

6  His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.


David is saying that the night sky tells a story without words or language, but its message is universal and multilingual. David the shepherd boy would have known crystal-clear nights and looking up into the big sky, he would have enjoyed God through his star-gazing.  


Writing much later, the apostle Paul says that God’s creation speaks for Him and how sad it is to suppress nature’s message. In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul says that there are things that can be known about God which can be seen from His universe, they always could and they always will. The divine but invisible attributes of God’s are perceived, being apprehended by the mind through the things that are made. So God’s eternal power and divine nature can be grasped without a Bible being opened. So says Paul, there’s no excuse. Nature viewed microscopically or macroscopically, biologically or geologically, tells the same tale. 


Reflecting on what he saw of God in the sky, David, in the eighth Psalm said, ‘When I see thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars, which thou hast established; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?’. 


Creation’s message can take us so far in our knowledge of the personality and power of God, thereafter we must rely on revelation to understand what more can be known of Him. So, lookup, then open a Bible and look within! You’ll see a God who created us, cared for us in sending His Son and now commands us to believe in Him.


So, taking care that your safety, enjoy some star-gazing one of these clear nights. You’ll see more than meets the eye!

Used by permission of Howard Barnes


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