Did you know Lowestoft is the place to see the stars (and planets and meteor showers) ?

WHEN the decision was made to switch off many of Lowestoft's street lights after midnight, there were fears it would lead to an increase in crime and compromise road safety.

But the move has been welcomed by at least one group of enthusiasts – as it helps them to see the stars.

Suffolk County Council's decision to turn off more than 5,300 street lights from July last year has enabled astronomers to view more planets, meteor showers and stars in the skies above the town.

Next week, members of the Lowestoft and Yarmouth Regional Astronomers group (LYRA) will be demonstrating just how they are taking advantage of the lack of light pollution when they aim their telescopes skywards for three nights at Pakefield as part of the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership project.

The project is encouraging people to take up astronomy by identifying a series Dark Sky Discovery areas across the UK – including Lowestoft – which are considered good locations to view the night time sky from because of their low light pollution and obstructions, such as tall buildings and trees.

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Ron Larter, spokesman for LYRA, said: 'Alterations in street lighting hours in Lowestoft and elsewhere mean that a number of new sites are now available which people would not previously consider for astronomy.

'We hope that this three-night event will generate ideas for local Dark Sky Discovery sites.'

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LYRA members will be on the green behind the Trowel and Hammer pub, off Pakefield Street, from 6.30pm until late on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

People who go along to the sessions will be shown how to spot Jupiter, locate interesting star groups and identify 'deep sky objects'.

It is also hoped that people will be enthused to help find new Dark Sky Discovery areas in the district.

John Perring, LYRA treasurer, said: 'Dark Sky Discovery is all about realising that in every community there is somewhere that is the best place to see stars, planets and meteor showers.

'We aim to provide the resources to allow people from a whole range of different backgrounds to discover the universe that is just beyond their doorstep on a clear night.'

LYRA, which was formed in the 1960s in Yarmouth and is now based in Lowestoft, has been given a small grant from the Federation of Astronomical Societies to stage the three nights of stargazing.

Nationally, the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership has been made possible by grants from the Big Lottery Fund, Natural England and Science and Technology Facilities Council. The project aims to work with community groups in England to make the most of dark sky areas and nominate new ones.

?For information on Lyra, call 01502 574010 or 01502 563670, or visit https://sites.google.com/site/lyrasociety/ and for information on the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership, visit www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk

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