When the noise, stress and constant demands of city life get too much, one of the simplest ways to relax and find inner peace is to gaze up at the infinite stretch of twinkling stars. Yet the ever increasing light pollution caused by these cities that never sleep makes the stars more and more difficult to see. And so, escaping the city lights and truly getting back to nature, switching off (both literally and figuratively) and absorbing and appreciating the natural world remains one of the most effective stress relievers.
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia is one such destination, where time stands still and not only does the untouched desert vista beg to be explored, so too does the inky black night sky permeated with its infinite glittering stars. This intimate lodge, with its ten stone and glass desert villas, is an invitation for guests to indulge in the luxury of exploring the captivatingly brilliant sea of shimmering stars in what was officially declared Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) in 2013.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve also became the world’s first IDSR to be awarded Gold Tier status, declaring it an environment with exceptionally little to no impact from artificial light. With the nearest town situated 90 miles away, the reserve is not only free of light pollution, but also boasts one of the darkest skies ever measured.
Situated within this IDSR, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge boasts a high-tech observatory that is equipped with a Meade LX200R 12-inch telescope (one of the largest in the southern hemisphere) using Autostar II technology. Under the guidance of a resident astronomer, guests can get a closer look at the planets and constellations of the enchanting Namibian sky.
Jerry Armstrong, an astronomer that has spent a lot of time at the lodge, is passionate about photographing the mysterious and magnificent night sky. From the luminous full moon and the spiralling rings of Saturn, to the exquisitely beautiful planetary nebulae, Jerry’s images bring the dark sky to life.
PLANETARY NEBULAE: these are shells of gas expelled from a dying star. The gas expands away from the star, which itself is a very hot white dwarf, more than 20 times hotter than the sun. The intense radiation causes the gaseous shell to glow in a variety of different colours (red is hydrogen, blue is oxygen, green is nitrogen and yellow is sulphur).
NGC 6520: this is a cluster of stars found in a dense region of the Milky Way within the constellation Sagittarius. A dark, cold molecular cloud of dust and gas, known as Barnard 86, sits several light years across from it, blocking the light from the more distant stars. It was once thought to be a hole in the Milky Way.
NGC 4755: this is a famous cluster of stars more commonly known as the Jewel Box, which lies within the Southern Cross.
NGC 5139: also known as Omega Centauri, this cluster is composed of millions of stars that lie in the constellation Centaurus. Almost impossible to comprehend, Centaurus is approximately 16 000 light years away, meaning that this image displays the stars as they were 16 000 years ago.
ETA CARINA NEBULA: located in the Carina constellation and only visible from the southern hemisphere, this is the brightest emission nebula and it can be seen easily with the naked eye. The bright orange star near the centre, which is dying, is Eta Carina itself. This star will eventually become a supernova and will become as bright as the full moon.
MESSIER 20: this is a cloud of gas and dust situated within the Sagittarius constellation. The reddish-coloured gas is hydrogen and the bluish cloud is mainly dust and ice. The dark lines are cold molecular dust clouds that have no neighbouring stars to illuminate them.
Consistently celebrated as one of the best places in the world for stargazing, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge reveals the captivating mystery of the night sky and is an enchanting escape for celestial enthusiasts and dreamers alike.
Astro photography © Jerry Armstrong.