Time to get Starstruck by the Yorkshire Dales
Time to get Starstruck by the Yorkshire Dales

Large areas of the Yorkshire Dales National Park are completely free from local light pollution making it a fantastic place to do some stargazing. 2020 was a historic year for the Yorkshire Dales with the area designated an International Dark Sky reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association.  The fact that there are only 20 of these in the whole world makes this even more amazing and this is predominantly down to the fact that the Yorkshire Dales is home to some of the darkest skies in the country.

North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival

You can see up to ten times as many stars as you would in the city in our area and every year, the Dark Skies Festival celebrates the night’s sky.  The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival’s inaugural event was in 2016 and every year (usually February) there are amazing activities as part of the festival including stargazing safaris, mindful experiences, night navigation and even night runs.

Best places to stargaze in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Dark Sky Reserve

The whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been designated a Dark Sky Reserve, the largest in the UK. There are four designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the Dales which are locations defined as accessible and open to the public:

Hawes National Park Visitor Centre
Malham National Park Visitor Centre
Buckden National Park Car Park
Tan Hill Inn

Lime Tree Observatory, Grewelthorpe

A unique experience we thoroughly recommend.  A group of amateur astronomers from the York observatory club rescued an old telescope and transformed a barn on a field at Grewelthorpe near Ripon into an observatory and planetarium.  A fascinating night out. Booking essential.  www.limetreeobservatory.com/planetarium

What can you see?

Planets, the Moon and Stars – obviously!   On a clear night you can see as many as 2000 stars with the Pole Star (Polaris) being the brightest. Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible and always remember the quick rule of thumb to distinguish between stars and planets when looking through a telescope.  Stars Twinkle, Planets don’t.

Best Time to see - when the sky is at its darkest during the new moon period (two weeks after a full moon).

Meteor Showers – Meteor showers are quite predictable and August sees the annual Perseid meteor shower when hundreds of meteors an hour can be seen.

Best Time to see – throughout the year but some of the best are Perseids (August), Orionids (October), Leonids (November) and Geminids (December).

International Space Station (ISS) – The ISS is the largest modular space station currently in low Earth orbit, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes and appearing in the sky as a white dot.

Best Time to see – passes overhead throughout the year - check the Nasa website.

The Milky Way – a river of light streaming through the Cygnus and Cassiopeia constellations caused by the light from millions of dim stars.

Best Time to see – Autumn/Winter

The Northern Lights – also known as the Aurora Borealis, this phenomenon is caused by sun particles interacting with the magnetic field of the earth.

Best Time to see - you can get a few hours of notice of possible displays through various Aurora Apps.

Need a little help?

There are lots of smartphone apps and websites that will help you on your astronomy journey of exploration including:

Stellarium planetarium
Sky Guide
Star Walk
Celestron SkyPortal
Scope Nights
Night Sky
Sky Tonight
Cosmic Watch

Did You Know?

Shooting stars are not stars but small pieces of rock and dust burning in the sky

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