A look ahead to the 2020 Dark Skies Festival

Dalby Forest is the perfect star-gazing spot (c) Steve Bell

Dalby Forest is the perfect star-gazing spot (c) Steve Bell - Credit: Archant

BBC Sky At Night presenter Professor Chris Lintott is appearing in this month’s Dark Skies Festival to talk about his new book and show how all of us can become scientists making the next discoveries in space

All eyes on the Yorkshire Dales starry skies

All eyes on the Yorkshire Dales starry skies - Credit: Archant

'Paying attention to the night sky is genuinely good for the soul. A proper dark sky has to be one of the grandest sights nature has to offer and yet many people don't realise that they don't need to travel very far to find one such as those in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.' Wise words from Professor Chris Lintott, Presenter of The Sky At Night who will be spilling all about starry skies this month.

'Even from a city, there's something wonderful about noticing how the Moon changes from night to night, or spotting Mars in the morning sky, or catching a shooting star. Looking up is good for you.' he adds.

The University of Oxford Astrophysicist remembers what first triggered his own interest in astronomy.

'I was a small kid who looked up at the stars! I remember standing in my back garden wondering what might be up there, and being astonished that we could try and find out about the universe from our position here on a pretty insignificant speck of rock.

He credits the wisdom of teachers for helping fuel that interest further by giving him access to a telescope and of course, the BBC Sky at Night programme which at that time was presented by Patrick Moore.

Listening to Chris speak, it's hard not to want to don a space suit and head to NASA, such is his infectious enthusiasm which makes him the perfect person to talk about the growth, and importance of, Citizen Science, in astronomy.

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In his new book, The Crowd And The Cosmos: Adventures In The Zooniverse, he writes about how the world of science has been transformed to such an extent that discoveries aren't now solely being made by scientists sitting in front of huge telescopes in remote locations but also by people using a laptop in their own living room.

Chris explains: 'Through Zooniverse, we've helped nearly two million people contribute to real science. People with no prior experience have found unusual galaxies, discovered planets or helped us explore Mars. Just the other day NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in orbit around the red planet, was targeted to take pictures guided by citizen scientists. That's amazing - and it's just one example.'

When asked what message he would give to people as they look up at the pristine night skies across the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks during some of the 100-plus events in this year's Dark Skies Festival, he says:

'We're living in a golden age of astronomy. We now know - as we didn't just a few years ago - that almost every star you can see has planets going around it. There are worlds out there waiting to be discovered.' u

An Evening With Chris Lintott takes place on February 21 at Helmsley Arts Centre. The Dark Skies Festival runs from February 14 - March 1.


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