Reach for the stars this season along the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where a series of Dark Skies events will reveal the wonders of the galaxy…
Lindisfarne Castle battlements provide the ideal platform to view Northumberland’s Dark Skies. Photo: Ian Glendinning
Known for its seemingly endless stretch of coastline, and numerous landmarks including a fine castle assemblage, Hadrian’s Wall and various religious ruins, Northumberland is surprisingly one of Britain’s less explored regions. Here, in England’s northernmost county, are two significantly ‘wild’ areas, the Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park, both relatively unpopulated.
It is this significant lack of people that makes both parks among the few places in the UK to hold Dark Sky status, an accolade granted by the International Dark Sky Association in recognition of their unpolluted night skies, perfect for stargazing. Kielder Observatory, within Northumberland Dark Sky Park is well geared up for ‘astro-tourism’, with its giant telescopes trained on the heavens, and various talks and events to demystify the science, such is the growing interest in astronomy.
Beyond the parks, the Northumberland Coast AONB holds a similar feeling of unpolluted clarity, with a study of stars decorating the inky deep.
In 2015, astronomers are anticipating the appearance of Pluto, a dwarf planet on the perimeter of our galaxy, which is to come into viewing range in the next few months. Another visitor, already present, is Jupiter, a beam of white light shining (as of January) in close proximity to the moon.
Northumberland’s coast is welcoming visitors to discover the universe on a series of events organised by the Northumberland Astronomical Society, or NASTRO. Hosted at a range of sites up and down the coast over the 2014/15 winter until early spring, these atmospheric evenings shed light not only on the night sky, but the beauty of the more immediate surroundings, seen after dark.