THESE spectacular images give an incredible view of the night sky over Dorset.

All pictures, taken by members of the Echo Camera Club, showcase beautifully clear night skies with visible stars, a galaxy and more.

Dorset Echo: Milky Way at Durlston by David Williams Milky Way at Durlston by David Williams

But why is the night sky so clear?

Light pollution levels were much lower at the start of 2021 when the country was in its third national lockdown, compared with a year before, a nationwide star count has found.

For the annual citizen science project, countryside charity CPRE asked people to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation on a clear night in February – and said this year’s results were "stellar".

Dorset Echo: The moon by Deefa De'VilleThe moon by Deefa De'Ville

The latest count showed a 10 per cent point drop in people experiencing severe light pollution compared with February 2020, a change the charity suggests is likely due to this year’s lockdown which reduced activity.

The results also reveal that five per cent of people enjoyed truly dark skies – with 30 or more stars visible within the Orion constellation, which is the highest recorded figure since 2013.

Dorset Echo: Comet Neowise over Knowlton by Mark ParrisComet Neowise over Knowlton by Mark Parris

Chief executive of CPRE, Crispin Truman said: "It’s been an absolutely stellar year for star count.

"We had three times as many people taking part compared to previous years and I’m delighted to see severe light pollution in the UK appears to have fallen.

Dorset Echo: Portland Bill by Richard MurgatroydPortland Bill by Richard Murgatroyd

"It’s likely this is an unintended positive consequence of lockdown, as our night-time habits have changed. Let’s hope we can hold on to some of this achievement as we come out of lockdown."

The findings of the survey have been launched to mark International Dark Skies Week, run by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA), which raises awareness on the impacts of light pollution.