New ways to see the cosmic wonders

by Handy Mag
Published: Last Updated on

during this year’s Dark Skies Festival

New art experiences, simulated space walks and a recently-opened constellation trail will all be part of this year’s Dark Skies Festival (9-25 February), the popular annual event which showcases the International Dark Sky Reserves above the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

A number of artists have come up with creative ways that people can enjoy the National Parks’ pristine dark skies and be inspired by the experience to create their own pieces of art.

Electronic dance poets Claire Hind and Robert Wilsmore will walk with a group after dark along Blakey Ridge before reaching a place to listen to the duo’s creative score, The Long Dead Stars, inspired by the North York Moors landscape. During the return walk people will be encouraged to write their own material using performance writing techniques.

There are also several new starry night watercolour workshops being run by artist Ione Harrison at locations including Helmsley and Nunnington, while talented photographers will share how to create mesmerising nightscape and astro images at locations such as Castle Howard and Whitby.

Those who are in awe of space travel can experience how NASA uses underground cave systems to help train astronauts by heading to Stump Cross Caverns in Nidderdale and follow in the footsteps of a rocket scientist who once spent 105 days in the subterranean environment collating data that helped advance space science.

Parents with younger children can try the new permanent dark skies themed trail at either Sutton Bank or Danby Lodge National Park Centres where paper and crayons can be used to rub across a series of brass plaques to create images of ten star constellations such as Orion or Ursa Major. Alternatively there’s the Planet Trail at Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales where youngsters can learn fun facts about the Universe while spotting planets in the woods.

No dark skies festival would be complete without the astronomy evenings and this year there are several new locations for events, including Birkdale Farm at Terrington in the Howardian Hills, Ashes Farm near Ribblehead Viaduct and a weekend combining stargazing with yoga, hiking and live music at Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg.

Mountain Goat is laying on a special minibus journey touring some of the iconic spots in the Yorkshire Dales during an afternoon before ending up at the atmospheric surroundings of Bolton Castle in Wensleydale as darkness falls for a stargazing safari.

Astrophysicist Professor Carole Haswell, who hails from Saltburn, will also be holding an online interactive presentation talking about the latest research and discoveries of worlds beyond Earth.

Phoebe Smith, Marketing Assistant for the North York Moors National Park comments: “This will be the ninth Dark Skies Festival since we organised the first event back in February 2016 and it is safe to say it has now become a popular annual fixture for so many people because of the broad range of events that appeal to all ages.”

The Festival runs from 9-25 February at venues right across both National Parks and National Landscapes. The events are individually priced and some are free. For more programme information, including individual event booking details and pricing go to

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