Festival to showcase star-gazing in Northumberland
A new virtual festival is being organised this February to celebrate Northumberland as one of the best places to stargaze and take in the majesty of the Milky Way on a clear night.
The festival is being hosted on the Northumberland National Park website and is led by four regional observatories: Battlesteads, Kielder, Stonehaugh and Twice Brewed.
There will be a wide variety of things to see and do – from fireside chats with astronomers, to night sky guides and livestreams to help people stargaze from the comfort of their homes and neighbourhood.
Online events include a star count and Kielder Observatory’s astrophotography art project encouraging children to image the dark skies with mobile phones.
Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, the focus will be on online events, but the organisers hope to see visitors come to the many venues when they are able to reopen.
Festival organiser Roy Alexander, director of learning at Battlesteads Observatory, said: “The festival will showcase the absolute best that Northumberland and the International Dark Sky Park has to offer.
“With speakers from Northumberland and around the world, we will be covering topics which will interest everyone from the stargazing newbies to the seasoned astronomers.”
Duncan Wise, National Park visitor development and tourism officer, said: “Our dark skies are very special, contributing to the sense of tranquillity and our health and wellbeing, which is particularly important during this difficult time.
“We hope people will be inspired to gaze upon the wonder of the universe and not to take it for granted, as sadly, light pollution from over-lit urban areas and poorly installed flood lighting in the countryside is eroding this special quality.”
Since the opening of world-class Kielder Observatory in 2008, and the designation of International Dark Sky Park in 2013, Northumberland is now regarded as one of the most successful dark sky destinations in the world.
In 2017, the value of astro-tourism to the region was calculated to be worth £25 million.
The Dark Skies Festival will take place from February 12-21 and all online events will be free of charge.
For more details on the event programme and to book events, visit: https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/northumberland-dark-skies-festival/.