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Nature Diary: It’s the time of year for skywatching

Mayo and Kerry are home to some of the best dark, natural skies in Ireland

If you’re lucky, you may be able to see the Aurora Borealis from Mayo and Connemara. Photograph: Getty Images

Three communities across County Mayo – Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy are celebrating the Mayo Dark Sky Festival from October 27th-29th with stargazing in over 15,000 hectares of “pristine, dark, natural skies”.  

The International Dark-Sky Association (darksky.org) granted International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park the Wild Nephin Wilderness in 2016. Nine areas of southwest Kerry were designated as the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve (kerrydarksky.com) in 2014.

Complete darkness

As artificial lights dominate more and more of our countryside, it’s a challenge to find a piece of night sky to explore in complete darkness. Some websites (including timeanddate.com) give information about which planets are potentially in view at what time each night.

And, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights can sometimes be seen from Mayo and Connemara. But if stargazing seems too big a task, consider taking a walk along a rural stretch of coastline or a mountain track on a full moon night.