Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks to host Dark Skies Festival

The night sky above Ribblehead viaduct

The night sky above Ribblehead viaduct - Credit: Archant

A week-long festival is being held in Yorkshire’s national parks to celebrate our starry skies

Amateur astronomer Richard Darn scans the skies with a powerful telescope

Amateur astronomer Richard Darn scans the skies with a powerful telescope - Credit: Tony Bartholomew

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park Authorities are teaming up to hold their first joint Dark Skies Festival during next February’s half-term school holiday. The festival, which takes place from Monday February 15th until Sunday February 21st, invites visitors to scan the skies and discover the wonder of stargazing far away from the light pollution of towns and cities. The low light pollution in both the national parks makes them ideal locations for spotting constellations, shooting stars and other cosmic happenings, including spotting the International Space Station as it travels around the earth.

Richard Darn, an amateur stargazer and dark skies hunter, said: ‘Yorkshire is fortunate to have some very special spots in both national parks which are a stargazer’s paradise.

‘In an urban area you will be lucky to see 20 stars on a clear night whereas in an area of low light pollution such as the national parks you could see as many as 2,000.

‘We will glimpse the great winter constellations of Orion and Gemini as they give way to the sparkling spring stars of Leo. We’ll also have a stunning view of Jupiter and a waxing moon. It’s a fabulous time to celebrate our amazing universe and our wonderful dark parks.’

Pleiades cluster of stars

Pleiades cluster of stars - Credit: Archant

Visitors will, as well as enjoying sky-at-night events, discover more of the nocturnal world within the national parks with guided torchlight walks highlighting the wildlife activity at night. The programme of activities includes a dark sky trail run, evening caving, storytelling, glow-in-the-dark writing, poetry readings, solar system scavenger hunt, telescope-making and craft activities throughout the week.

The main events will be held in and around the national park centres in Reeth, Aysgarth Falls and Danby, and Sutton Bank and Hawes, both of which are also designated Dark Sky Discovery sites, with skies that have been found to be sufficiently dark that the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye.

Dalby Forest, another Milky Way class Dark Sky Discovery site in the North York Moors, will also be involved, as well as events held in conjunction with Hidden Horizons on the coast. Both national parks are working with groups such as the Reeth Informal Astronomy Group and Whitby & District Astronomical Society to stage the festival.

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Businesses and attractions throughout the national parks are also being encouraged to participate by organising their own dark skies event, making it a celestial celebration right across the Dales and North York Moors from the Pennines to the coast. w

Further details and programme of events are available at northyorkmoors.org.uk/darkskies or yorkshiredales.org.uk/stargazing.

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