Date of Issue: 10 June 2021
Designer: Mark Totty
Photographer: Ben Fiore and Sue Daly
Denomination: 50p, 70p, 73p, £1, £1.15, £1.20
Stamp size: 30mm deep x 45mm wide
Sheet size: 10 stamps each design
Paper: PVA Gummed 110 g/m²
Perforation: 13.25 x 13.25
Printing Process: Offset lithography
Printing House: Cartor Security Printing
It is 10 years since Sark was designated as the World’s First Dark Sky Island by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and we are delighted to celebrate this accolade with our stamps, which depict some of the island’s night skies.
In the absence of public street lighting, paved roads and cars, the beautiful island of Sark does not suffer from the effects of light pollution and its night sky is very dark, with meteors and countless stars on display. Since 2015, star gazers from all around the world have visited the observatory of the Sark Astronomy Society (SAstroS), which is in the heart of the island. Here visitors can learn more about the stars, constellations, galaxies, and Milky Way and look through the Observatory’s permanently mounted telescope to discover just how many billions of stars and suns there are out there.
50p: A view of Saturn, Jupiter and the Milky Way taken near Monk Rock on Sark, looking south with Brecqhou on the horizon.
70p: A view of the night sky from the east coast of Sark at Point Robert Lighthouse.
73p: The Milky Way with Jersey on the horizon and Sark’s La Coupée on the right.
£1.00: A view of Saturn, Jupiter and the Milky Way seen from the west coast of Sark looking to the southwest over Mer Tower.
£1.15: Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3), taken from Little Sark overlooking Brecqhou, Jethou, Herm, with Guernsey on the horizon.
£1.20: La Seigneurie (the ancestral home of the Seigneur of Sark) silhouetted against the Milky Way looking west.50p stamp: Furthest Point
Guernsey Post’s philatelic bureau announces the release of stamps to mark the 10th anniversary of Sark being designated the world’s first Dark Sky Island by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) (stamp issue date: 10 June 2021).
The IDA works to protect the night skies from light pollution for present and future generations and to date has designated 170 International Dark Sky Places, protecting over 110,000 sq km of dark skies around the globe.
Bridget Yabsley, head of philatelic at Guernsey Post said: – “With no public street lighting, paved roads and cars, the beautiful island of Sark does not suffer from the effects of light pollution and its night sky is very dark, with meteors and countless stars on display. Since 2015, star gazers from all around the world have visited the observatory of the Sark Astronomy Society (SAstroS), which is in the heart of the island.
“We are thrilled to be able to mark the 10th anniversary of Sark becoming the world’s first Dark Sky Island with stamps depicting some of the island’s stunning night skies.”
The dark-sky movement is a campaign to reduce light pollution. The advantages of reducing light pollution include an increased number of stars visible at night, reducing the effects of electric lighting on the environment, improving the well-being, health and safety of both people and wildlife, and cutting down on energy usage. Earth Hour and National Dark-Sky Week are two examples of such efforts.
The movement started with professional and amateur astronomers alarmed that nocturnal skyglow from urban areas was blotting out the sight of stars. For example, the world-famous Palomar Observatory in California is threatened by sky-glow from the nearby city of Escondido and local businesses. For similar reasons, astronomers in Arizona helped push the governor there to veto a bill in 2012 which would have lifted a ban on illuminated billboards.
Nocturnal animals can be harmed by light pollution because they are biologically evolved to be dependent on an environment with a certain number of hours of uninterrupted daytime and nighttime. The over-illumination of the night sky is affecting these organisms (especially birds). This biological study of darkness is called scotobiology. Light pollution has also been found to affect human circadian rhythms.
The dark-sky movement encourages the use of full-cutoff fixtures that cast little or no light upward in public areas and generally to encourage communities to adopt lighting regulations. A 2011 project is to establish “dark sky oasis” in suburban areas.
Dark-sky lighting is a concept very important to the dark-sky movement, as it greatly minimizes light pollution. The concept was started in the 1950s by the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is a city of over 70,000, but because of their lighting, their skies are dark enough to see the Milky Way. Lights should be shielded on the top and sides so light doesn’t go up to the sky and only used when needed (use motion detectors and only the wattage necessary). The International Dark-Sky Association certifies fixtures as dark sky friendly, and these will have the IDA Fixture Seal of Approval. Opinions vary on what color the light should be, but most agree on the description of “warm”, which is considered more yellow or orange/amber than white.
Skyglow is the illumination of the night sky or parts of it, resembling an orange “smog”. It occurs from both natural and human-made sources. Artificial skyglow is caused by the over-illumination of the sky from large city centres, shopping centres, or stadiums. It consists of light that is either emitted directly upward or reflected from the ground that is then scattered by dust and gas molecules in the atmosphere, producing a luminous background or light dome. These artificial skyglows cause the sky to be 5–10 times brighter in urban areas than a naturally dark sky that is unaffected by artificial light. Natural skyglow can come from natural light sources, such as the Sun, the Moon, the stars, or auroras.
Some communities are becoming aware of this problem and are putting forth efforts to minimize the hazy, orange skyglow. A community in particular is the city of Merritt, British Columbia. An article published July 8, 2010 states that they are making minor changes to lighting in and around Merritt, such as the installment of down-cast lighting to commercial buildings, as part of their light pollution abatement program. The benefits of this technological change include “saving energy through better focused lights, preserving the environment by reducing excess light that may affect flora and fauna, reducing crime and increasing safety by more adequately illuminating areas, and reducing health risks.”
Scotobiology is the study of the role darkness plays in living organisms and shows that interrupting darkness by light pollution creates drastic effects for most organisms; changing their food gathering and feeding habits, their mating and reproduction behavior, migration behaviour (birds and insects) and social behavior. Approximately 30% of vertebrates and 60% of invertebrates are nocturnal, meaning that they depend on darkness. Their everyday behaviors are biologically evolved to adapt in uninterrupted darkness.
Human health is also adversely affected by the effects of light pollution. Light during night time hours has been linked to human cancers and psychological disorders.
A dark-sky preserve (DSP), also known as a dark sky reserve, is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution. The purpose of a dark sky preserve is generally to promote astronomy.
Because different national organizations have worked independently to create their programs, different terms have been used to describe the areas. This has led to confusion between the terms reserve, preserve, and park. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) chooses reserve to avoid confusion with park, when using the initialisms “IDSR” (International Dark Sky Reserve) and “IDSP” (International Dark Sky Park). A third designation, International Dark Sky Sanctuary, was introduced in 2015.
In 1993, Michigan became the first state in the United States to designate a tract of land as a “Dark Sky Preserve” at the Lake Hudson State Recreation Area. In 1999, the first permanent preserve was established at Torrance Barrens in the Muskoka region of southern Ontario.
The IDA recognizes and accredits dark sky areas worldwide, in three categories. The Mont Mégantic Observatory in Quebec is the first such site to be recognized (in 2007) as an International Dark Sky Reserve. IDA recognized Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah as the world’s first International Dark Sky Park. In 2015, the IDA introduced the term “Dark Sky Sanctuary” and designated the Elqui Valley of northern Chile as the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary is named after a Chilean poet.
It is generally understood that a dark sky preserve, or dark sky reserve, should be sufficiently dark to promote astronomy. However this is not always the case. The lighting protocol for a dark sky preserve is based on the sensitivity of wildlife to artificial light at night (ALAN).
Canada has established an extensive and more stringent standard for dark sky preserves, that addresses lighting within the DSP and influences from skyglow from urban areas in the region. This was based on the work of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
Dark Sky Places
The IDA’s Dark Sky Places program offers five types of designations:
- International Dark Sky Communities – Communities are legally organised cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.
- International Dark Sky Parks – Parks are publicly or privately owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
- International Dark Sky Reserves – Reserves consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.
- International Dark Sky Sanctuaries – Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.
- Dark Sky Developments of Distinction – Developments of Distinction recognize subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify them for the International Dark Sky Community designation.
Further designations include “Dark Sky Nation”, given to the Kaibab Indian Reservation, and “Parashant International Night Sky Province-Window to the Cosmos”, given to Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is a United States-based non-profit organization incorporated in 1988 by founders David Crawford, a professional astronomer, and Tim Hunter, a physician/amateur astronomer. The mission of the IDA is “to preserve and protect the night time environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.”
Light pollution is the result of outdoor lighting that is not properly shielded, allowing light shine into the eyes and night sky. Direct light that shines into the eyes is called glare, and light directed into the night sky above the horizon causes skyglow. Lighting can also cause light trespass when it enters areas where unwanted (e.g. a neighbor’s yard and windows). IDA was the first organization in the dark-sky movement, and is currently the largest.
IDA’s principal approach is to raise awareness about the value of dark, star-filled night skies and encourage their protection and restoration through education about the problems and solutions, including outdoor lighting practices that create less light pollution. In 2011, the organization had about 5,000 members in 70 countries.
Sark is a part of the Channel Islands in the southwestern English Channel, off the coast of Normandy, France. It is a royal fief, which forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. It has a population of about 500. Sark (including the nearby island of Brecqhou) has an area of 2.10 square miles (5.44 km²). Little Sark is a peninsula joined by a natural but high and very narrow isthmus to the rest of Sark.
Sark is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from roads and only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are allowed. In 2011, Sark was designated as a Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world.
Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark, located at about 49°25′N 2°22′W, and Little Sark to the south. They are connected by a narrow isthmus called La Coupée which is 300 feet (91 m) long and has a drop of 330 feet (100 m) on each side. Protective railings were erected in 1900; before then, children would crawl across on their hands and knees to avoid being blown over the edge. There is a narrow concrete road covering the entirety of the isthmus that was built in 1945 by German prisoners of war under the direction of the Royal Engineers. Due to its isolation, the inhabitants of Little Sark had their own distinct form of Sercquiais, the native Norman dialect of the island.
The highest point on Sark is 374 feet (114 m) above sea level. A windmill, dated 1571, is found there, the sails of which were removed during World War II. This high point is named Le Moulin, after the windmill. The location is also the highest point in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Little Sark had a number of mines accessing a source of galena. At Port Gorey, the ruins of silver mines may be seen. Off the south end of Little Sark are the Venus Pool and the Adonis Pool, both natural swimming pools whose waters are refreshed at high tide.
The whole island is extensively penetrated at sea level by natural cave formations that provide unique habitats for many marine creatures, notably sea anemones, some of which are only safely accessible at low tide.
Sark is made up mainly of amphibolite and granite gneiss rocks, intruded by igneous magma sheets called quartz diorite. Recent (1990–2000) geological studies and rock age dating by geologists from Oxford Brookes University shows that the gneisses probably formed around 620–600 million years ago during the Late Pre-Cambrian Age Cadomian Orogeny. The quartz diorite sheets were intruded during this Cadomian deformation and metamorphic event.
All the Sark rocks (and those of the nearby Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney) formed during geological activity in the continental crust above an ancient subduction zone. This geological setting would have been analogous to the modern-day subduction zone of the Pacific Ocean plate colliding and subducting beneath the North and South American continental plate.
Sark also exercises jurisdiction over the island of Brecqhou, only a few hundred feet west of Greater Sark. It is a private island, but it has recently been opened to some visitors. Since 1993, Brecqhou has been owned by David Barclay, one of the Barclay brothers who are co-owners of The Daily Telegraph. They contest Sark’s control over the island. The candidates endorsed by their various business interests on the island failed to win any seats in the elections held in 2008 and 2010.
In January 2011, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Sark as Europe’s first Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world. This designation recognizes that Sark is sufficiently clear of light pollution to allow naked-eye astronomy. Although Sark was aided in its achievement by its location, its historic ban on cars and the fact that there is no public lighting, it was also necessary for local residents to make adjustments, such as re-siting lights, to cut the light pollution.
The designation was made in January 2011, following an audit by the IDA in 2010. The award is significant in that Sark is the first island community to have achieved this; other Dark-Sky Places have, up to now, been mainly uninhabited areas, and IDA chairman Martin Morgan-Taylor commended Sark residents for their effort. After the designation was granted, Sark Astronomy Society worked to secure funds for an astronomical observatory on the island. In October 2015 Sark’s observatory was officially opened by Marek Kukula, public astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Sark was considered the last feudal state in Europe. Together with the other Channel Islands, it is the last remnant of the former Duchy of Normandy still belonging to the Crown. Sark belongs to the Crown in its own right and has an independent relationship with the Crown through the Lieutenant Governor in Guernsey. Formally, the Seigneur holds it as a fief from the Crown, reenfeoffing the landowners on the island with their respective parcels. The political consequences of this construction were abolished in recent years, particularly in the reform of the legislative body, Chief Pleas, which took place in 2008.