Greetings from the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat as we ring in the new year!
As we marvelled at the dazzling display of fireworks that lit up the night skies across the world to celebrate new year’s eve, we couldn’t help but think of one of our most treasured secrets that we have yet to share with you…
The Halcyon Retreat is a Star Gazer’s paradise!
Did you know that the increasing light pollution from cities has caused a third of the world to lose sight of the stunning Milky Way? Fortunately, France is taking a leading role in the protection of night-time darkness with a law that was introduced in 2019 to regulate the emission of light in outdoor spaces.
Here at the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat, we are blessed to be situated in a rural location far from the bright lights of the city, allowing us to enjoy the splendour of the night sky. On clear nights, the entire Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye from our front lawn, with the grand Chateau providing a stunning backdrop.
Stargazing is an activity that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, and we are excited to share our top tips for making the most of the heavenly night skies at the retreat. Gaze up at the stars and be awed by the natural beauty above.
When planning your stargazing adventure, it’s important to take the weather into consideration. Aim for a clear night free of clouds or impending storms. For a more scientific approach, choose a night with high pressure and low humidity for optimal viewing conditions. The website Clear Outside is a great resource for detailed weather reports to help you choose the best night for stargazing.
Time of Night:
We usually expect the Milky Way to be seen most clearly from about one and a half hours after sunset.
Time of the Month:
Try to plan your stargazing to coincide with a new moon or within three days before or after it. This is when the moon is not visible from Earth, resulting in the darkest skies ideal for seeing our galaxy.
Summer is the best time of year for seeing the Milky Way when the Earth faces its bright centre consisting of 300 billion stars-wow! Although the sky will be at its most luminous, visibility might be a little hazier. In summer, you might also be lucky enough to witness breathtaking meteor showers that become active from July through to September.
The weather is at a happy medium where it is neither too chilly nor too warm for spending your time outside under the stars. You’ll glimpse the last view of the Milky way at the beginning of Autumn and catch its return at the beginning of Spring.
With the dryness of the air, winter skies are often their clearest and most beautiful. Fewer stars are visible, but those that are will exude immense clarity. Another perk of winter is that we get longer nights, so we don’t have to stay up late to take in the view! Just be sure to wrap up extra warm.
Adjust to the dark:
You’ll need to spend some time under the dark sky to let your eyes become fully adapted to the darkness. It usually takes about twenty minutes for our eyes to adjust to seeing the stars with the most clarity. It’s best to avoid looking at any lit devices during this time, and you could try turning the brightness down and to the red screen option to prevent hurting your eyes afterwards.
More Astro Tourism:
Mille Vaches Nature Park
Located just a short drive from the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat lies the breathtaking Mille Vaches Nature Park, which has been designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve. This prestigious title is only held by four reserves in France and signifies the park’s commitment to preserving the natural nocturnal landscape and preventing light pollution that can dilute the starry sky and disturb the rich nocturnal wildlife that calls the park home. Nine sky-observation sites have been carefully placed within the Agriers Massif, providing visitors with the perfect opportunity to marvel at the celestial display above. You can find more information here.
“The Starry Nights” Event
Each year, during August (specifically chosen for being the season the Earth crosses paths with a group of meteors), the French Association of Astronomy hosts various events across the country to inspire and educate people about the beauty of the night sky. You’ll find planetariums, science museums and observatories holding many specialised free exhibitions and workshops providing a unique opportunity to learn more about the mesmerizing constellations and planets that light up the darkness.