Pictures: Europe's Biggest Dark Sky Park
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Straddling a star-filled sky, a sycamore tree stands alone in Sycamore Gap, guarding the newly designated "dark sky" park near Scotland's border with England.
The area will be Europe's largest dark sky park, offering a refuge for star-gazing visitors trying to get away from the obscuring nature of light pollution.
Announced by the International Dark Skies Association, the 580-square-mile (1,500-square-kilometer) park combines areas of Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park in the United Kingdom, a mix of hilly forests and moors in northern England.
The nighttime sky seen from the Kielder Observatory offers a view of the dark skies that the park's newly announced distinction will help preserve from development.
In their announcement, the International Dark Skies Association (IDA) gave "gold tier" status to the combined Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park areas.
Exceptionally clear skies above the Kielder Observatory, seen here flaunting a view of the Milky Way, earned the area its dark sky park distinction.
The park nestles in a popular hiking region between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish border.
Observatory on a Hill
The Kielder Observatory rests on a hill some 1,200 feet (366 meters) above the forest floor in the Kielder Water and Forest Park.
A major attraction of the newly designated dark sky park, the public observatory draws some 50,000 visitors a year.
© 1996-Tue Jun 30 09:14:28 EDT 2015 National Geographic Society.