Join in the celebration of the dark night skies and stargazing opportunities in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and UNESCO Global Geopark during Autumn Half Term. There are lots of events happening across the North Pennines as part of the area’s first Stargazing Festival between Saturday 21 and Sunday 29 October.
The festival is being organised by the North Pennines AONB partnership and is supported by Visit County Durham and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
- Pop-up Planetarium events at Stanhope, Allendale and Alston
- Stargazing opportunities at Killhope Lead Mining Museum, South Tynedale Railway, Harehope Quarry, Allenheads and Langdon Beck
- Talks on our Solar System, Eclipses and Constellations
- Astrophotography workshops at Killhope Museum and Alston
- Beginners astronomy sessions in Teesdale and on Alston Moor
- Build your own Bottle Rocket Workshops at Bowlees Visitor Centre, Teesdale
Expert astronomers will be running the wide variety of events and stargazing opportunities, aimed at all ages, across the North Pennines. Included in the line-up are: Andy Gray fresh from observing the recent solar eclipse in the USA; Gary Lintern – astrophotographer and Chair of the North Pennines Astronomy Society; Martin Kitching – Director of Northern Experience Wildlife Tours; Bruce Ferguson from Wild North Discovery; Richard Darn – expert Yorkshire-based astronomer; and Joe Gordon from Newcastle-based Astro Laser Shows.
Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the AONB Partnership, said: “The North Pennines is the darkest mainland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – here you can see thousands of stars on a clear night and the Milky Way is clearly visible in the night sky. We’re immensely proud of this aspect of our heritage and this first ever Stargazing Festival provides great opportunities for visitors and local people alike to immerse themselves and find out more”.
Michelle Gorman, Managing Director of Visit County Durham, added: ““We are delighted to be supporting the inaugural Stargazing Festival. The effect of all the extra visitors to the festival will be a welcome boost to local businesses and the tourism economy. We hope the big open skies and the peaceful unspoilt beauty of the landscape encourages visitors to come back and to explore the county even further”.
The Stargazing Festival comes hot on the heels of the official opening of the new North Pennines Observatory in Allenheads, Northumberland on Friday 6 October. The new Observatory was developed by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and is hosted at Alllenheads Contemporary Arts. It is managed on behalf of the community by Allen Valleys Enterprise and is set to be the home to the fledgling North Pennines Astronomy Society. Find out more and how to get involved at www.northpennobservatory.org.uk.
Sixteen locations throughout the North Pennines have been officially designated as Dark Sky Discovery Sites (www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk) – where you can discover some of the darkest skies and best stargazing opportunities in the whole country.
Some events in the festival are being supported through the AONB Partnership’s ‘Discovering Northern Dark Skies’ programme, which is funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council.