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 Winter night sky!
The really dark skies are with us after the long days and on 9th December 2014 we celebrate the first birthday of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park with a host of events and activities.
Meteors come thick and fast and the next big dates are December 13-14, for the peak of the famous Geminids. The shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini from where the meteors seem to emerge in the sky.
Unlike most other meteor showers, the Geminids are associated not with a comet but with an asteroid - the 3200 Phaethon, which takes about 1.4 years to orbit around the Sun.
The Geminids are considered to be one of the more spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak. However, a third quarter moon may make them less visible this year.
In December’s podcast, Richard Darn describes the constellation of Orion - how to identify it and which stars you can see, and also talks about the Geminid meteor shower.
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.