See the light! Come to the dark side!
Did you know that the rural areas of Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park have the darkest skies in England?
It is estimated that 85% of the UK population has never seen a truly dark sky or experienced the sense of wonder that a clear night crackling with billions of stars can give. There is a genuine and growing interest in amateur astronomy and star gazing. Popular TV programmes like BBC's Stargazing Live have whipped up lots of public interest.
Sadly, the dark skies above rural Northumberland are under threat. Increased light pollution from nearby urban areas, as well as from our own street and outdoor lighting is beginning to reduce our ability to see the stars clearly.
To boldly go!
To help tackle the issue of light pollution and to provide new opportunities for you to enjoy the night sky, the National Park Authority is embarking on an exciting journey.
The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) is the leading international organisation combating light pollution worldwide. The IDA awards the designations of 'Dark Sky Reserve' or Dark Sky Park' to those wild and remote places that demonstrate an ability to conserve the dark skies above them and are committed to providing opportunities for the public to enjoy them.
Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society were awarded the title of Northumberland Dark Sky Park in December 2013. This means nearly 1500 square kilometres of Northumberland has been designated an area to conserve and enjoy, making Northumberland, Europe's largest Dark Sky Park.
Your guide to the Autumn night sky!
The really dark skies are with us after the long days. The International Space Station can be seen and the next meteor shower is imminent.
Meteors come thick and fast and the next big dates are November 17 and 18, for the peak of the famous Leonids. These "shooting stars" are produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6 to November 30.
It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Every month, we publish these excellent guides to the sky at night from astronomers Rob Ince and Richard Darn - @NEStarmakers. Be amazed at what's out there! This audio is perfect to replay under clear skies using smartphones.
This project is supported by The Rural Development Programme for England, for which DEFRA is the Managing Authority, part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Investing in rural areas. For more information, click here.