The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks are holding a Virtual Dark Skies Week from 23rd October 2020 to 1st November 2020 as a taster for their main Dark Skies Festival scheduled for 12th February 2021 to 28th February 2021. Go Stargazing is very pleased to be supporting this event by hosting a range of online talks and presentations all of which are ideal for novices and perfect for anyone with an interest in the night sky.
All events are FREE OF CHARGE and will take the form of a Zoom webinar with pre-registered participants having opportunity to ask the presenters questions, a live video feed of each event will also be broadcast to the Go Stargazing Facebook page which can be accessed publicly (no Facebook account required).
For more details and to register your space in the Zoom presentation please see each event below.
The dark skies above the North York Moors offer a lot to celebrate and a variety of stargazing events taking place as part of this half-term festival offers lots of opportunities to experience this stunning part of Yorkshire, by day and of course by night! For more details on the range of events on offer, including night time nature walks to climbing rope bridges in darkness, see the official website.
Also look out for the North York Moors main dark skies festival which takes place each year during February.
The annual Exmoor Dark Skies Festival takes place this year between 16th October to 31st October with a wide variety of events happening in and around Exmoor National Park. All events are run in conjunction with the current rules, regulations and safety requirements regarding coronavirus. The region was designated a Dark Sky Reserve in Autumn 2011 in recognition of the low levels of light pollution and the fantastic dark skies that can be enjoyed above.
Here we feature stargazing specific events taking place during the festival which include some element of practical astronomy. For a complete schedule of events and for more details see the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2020 official webpage. We wish everyone involved in running or participating in the festival good luck with the weather and clear skies!
As keen supporters of the astronomy community Go Stargazing is offering to list online events taking place in lieu of normal events due to the coronavirus pandemic and promote them to our website visitors and social media followers.
If you or your organisation is planning an online event such as a webinar, Zoom presentation, YouTube or Facebook Live please complete the below form and we will happily add your event to our online astronomy events calendar.
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Go Stargazing is pleased to recommend the fabulous Space Detectives and their forthcoming online workshops “Space Club Live”. Aimed at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 children (ages 5 through to 11) the workshops cover various astronomy topics including planets, the Moon and even galaxies! Each session includes a live experiment and space related arts and craft designed to enthuse, inspire and inform each participating child.
Sessions run for 6 weeks on Tuesday evenings from 5pm to 6pm commencing 15th September 2020 and cost just £60 per family for all 6 sessions. We think it’s an awesome way to encourage children’s interest in space and astronomy and Space Detectives are a fabulous organisation that we would like to support! Go Stargazing receives no commission for this recommendation.
To indicate your interest in these workshops please complete the following form the details of which will be sent directly to Jo at Space Detectives.
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The annual Perseids meteor shower is possibly the most eagerly anticipated by astronomers. For several years they have resulted in a great show with dozens of bright meteors being spotted every hour around the peak of their activity.
Each year as the Earth travels on its orbit around the Sun it encounters a vast swathe of cosmic dust left over by the comet Swift-Tuttle. As these tiny dust particles enter Earth’s atmosphere at great speed they burn up leaving a brief but bright trail — a shooting star!
Perseids meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Perseus, hence their name. The shower takes place each year from July 14th through to August 24th however they reach their peak on the evening of August 12th / morning of August 13th, this when Earth passes through the densest part of leftover dust. The very best time to see them (if you can stay up late!) is in the early hours of August 13th when up to 80 meteors per hour may be seen from a dark sky location.
In 2020 the peak of the shower takes place during new Moon, which is great! No bright Moon means more of the fainter shooting stars can be seen. It should be an amazing spectacle especially if you are able to escape the worst effects of light pollution.
For the best place to see the Perseids meteor shower the most important requirement is a wide open space where you can see as much of the sky as possible. Scan the skies using your peripheral vision (rather than staring towards any particular spot) and you should catch them out of the “corner of your eye”. This in turn will draw your sight towards them. You do not need any visual aid such as binoculars or a telescope, just your eyes and a bit of patience!
Our map includes recognised dark sky discovery sites, recommended locations from organisations such as national parks and AONB’s and a few of our own favourite places for good measure!
Why not enjoy a short stargazing break to escape the bright lights of our towns and cities and see the Perseids from a dark location!? We are constantly adding to our map of venues and accommodation providers who cater for stargazers! Hope this gives you some ideas! Clear skies!
Image used with kind permission from Darren Musgrove
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, to give its full designation, will be visible in the evening skies by observers in the Northern hemisphere throughout July 2020. The comet’s closest approach to Earth is on 24th July when it will be 103.7 million kilometres distant and is likely to be the very best time to see it.
The chart shows the position of the comet in the sky between the 14th to the 23rd July at 23:00 in the evening, this the time when the comet should just about be visible to the naked eye towards the North West. You may need to wait another half an hour, perhaps even until midnight, before seeing it more clearly once the skies have darkened. During the course of the night will appear to move (due to Earth’s rotation) towards the North and by dawn will appear towards the North East. When it is due North it will be at its lowest point in the sky however will remain visible above the Northern horizon all night.
The comet is easily visible to the naked eye from a reasonably dark sky location that is free from the worst light pollution. If you cannot escape bright lights or are unable travel to a dark sky site don’t worry as the comet can still be seen however will likely require visual aid such as a pair of binoculars. As the comet appears fairly low in the sky you will need an unobstructed view towards the Northern horizon to see it. See our map of stargazing locations for places near you.
The best way to observe the comet is by using a pair of binoculars. You should be able to see the bright core of the comet and far more of its tail than you can see just with your naked eye.
Whilst any pair of binoculars will improve your view we highly recommend those which are 10×50 in size as these are great for not only observing the comet but for general astronomy use too. If you are looking to purchase some we always advise buying from an independent astronomy equipment retailer and recommend First Light Optics who sell a range of suitable binoculars and offer fantastic customer service.
For up to date information see our Facebook page. Clear skies!
Scopes4SEN donates telescopes to organisations and families that support children with special educational needs and / or vulnerable persons. The charity is run by Joanne and Patrick Poitevin who are two of the most lovely, kind and generous people you might ever be fortunate to meet.
Since the charity started in November 2015 they have donated over 900 telescopes to schools, hospitals, retreat centres, trusts, community groups and private homes and are always open to recommendations and suggestions as to who might benefit from receiving one of their telescopes.
For more information please see their official website which features an ever growing list of telescope recipients. If you would like to support them by making a donation you can do so via PayPal with monies received helping to cover the costs of sending telescopes on to their new homes.
Updated 16/07/20 Scopes4SEN have received a large number of nominations and have asked Go Stargazing to suspend new requests. If you have already submitted a request Scopes4SEN will be in touch with you soon. Unfortunately it is not possible for them to commit to a specific date as to when your telescope may be delivered, however if your application is successful you will be given two days notice and a UPS tracking number to make necessary arrangements for delivery or give directions where to leave the parcel.
If you have not yet nominated an organisation to receive a telescope and would like to do so we kindly ask that you back here in early September. Thank you!
Go Stargazing is very pleased to be of help to Scopes4SEN and their charitable endeavours by hosting the below telescope request form making it easy for you to nominate an organisation to receive a telescope. Details entered in the form will be forwarded to Scopes4SEN and stored in the Go Stargazing database solely for the purpose of effecting your request. Your data will be kept secure and will never be shared with any other third parties. Please be aware that telescopes can only be delivered to destinations in the United Kingdom. If you are nominating a school and are not a teacher or employee of that school please can you check with them first to ensure they would be happy to take delivery of a telescope? Thank you!
It’s the beginning of June 2020 and the noctilucent cloud season has started!
If you were asked in a family Zoom pub quiz to think of some famous arch-enemies who would spring to mind? Probably Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty? How about Harry Potter and Voldemort? Definitely Tom and Jerry, right?
If astronomers have an arch enemy it is clouds. Time and time again they ruin our views of rare astronomical events such as the northern lights, meteor showers and eclipses. But you might be surprised to learn that there’s one type of cloud star-gazers actually look forward to seeing, and the good news is that now is the best – in fact the only – time to see them. They are called Noctilucent Clouds, or NLC for short.
We can only see NLC in the northern hemisphere’s night sky in summer, between the end of May and the end of July (a period we call the NLC Season) because that’s the only time they can form. NLC are icy clouds that form way, way up in the atmosphere, at a height of 80km or so which puts them on the edge of space. The meteorological conditions that lead to their formation up there only come together in the summer, and even then not every night, so they are a celestial treat we hope to see but can’t be sure of seeing. Dedicated NLC-watchers monitor various websites to get some advance warning that a display might occur, and they use social media to let each other know when a display is in progress, but it often just comes down to going out on a clear summer’s night and seeing if anything is going on.
So what do NLC look like?
The clue is in the name! “Nocti” means night, and “lucent” means shining, so NLC are night shining clouds. They look like streamers, streaks, billows and wisps of blue-white cloud, clearly visible to the naked eye, hanging above the northern horizon after midnight on summer nights. They move, but unlike the northern lights which sway and jiggle about quite quickly, NLC move so slowly you can only detect their movement over a matter of minutes. Most displays are quite modest, but occasionally a display really brews up into something very special, with NLC painted across the sky from the north-west to the north-east. A really good display can last for hours, and still be shining high in the east as the sky begins to brighten with the approach of dawn. Some displays are little more than a few teased-out streamers and tendrils of light cloud, others develop very complicated structures and shapes, almost looking like a force field or wormhole special effect from a science fiction film.
When should you look for them?
The best time to see them is from around one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise, so around 11:30pm to 2:30am. At the time of the Summer Solstice (the longest day 20th June) NLC’s may not appear until after midnight, however occasionally a particularly good display can begin to show itself as soon as the sky begins to darken.
Some astronomers don’t think NLC are an astronomical phenomena – they say they are just clouds! But many stargazers and skywatchers absolutely love observing NLC, because, after all, the nights of summer are so bright that we can’t see the faint galaxies, star clusters and nebulae we drool over at other times of the year, so it’s good to have something interesting to look at. And they are genuinely beautiful to look at, too. A telescope will be no use for observing them with, they are just too big, but a pair of binoculars will help you appreciate the subtle structures and colours of an NLC display.
I’ve been observing NLC for around 40 years now, and they are one of my favourite things to look at in the sky. They can be very frustrating – just because the sky is clear it doesn’t mean you’ll see them, and it’s infuriating to be stood under a fantastically-clear and still night sky without any trace of NLC – but a big display is an unforgettable sight, and there genuinely is nothing else like it in astronomy. Over the years I’ve watched NLC from many different places, from lonely lay-bys out in the countryside, from quiet campsites in the Scottish Highlands, even from beaches on the east coast! Now I live in Kendal, in the beautiful Lake District, I observe them from the ruins of the 800 year old castle that overlooks the town, and love photographing them from up there, shining above the distant Cumbrian fells and casting a pale blue light on the castle’s crumbling walls and towers. I can be up there until four in the morning sometimes – which is always fun when my shift at work begins at seven… It’s worth losing sleep tho, because a big display of NLC is a truly unforgettable sight.
The good news is that there have already been some displays of NLC, so that might…might…be a good omen for a busy and beautiful NLC season ahead.
Follow Go Stargazing on Facebook and Twitter for reports on NLC activity — we’ll try our best to put out “get out and look North now!” alerts if a display kicks off. You could also follow these social media accounts:
Noctilucent Cloud Alerts (Twitter)
Liebniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics (Live webcams)
Noctilucent clouds around the World (Facebook group)
Aurora UK group (Facebook group)
Stuart Atkinson for Go Stargazing
Go Stargazing is keen to support and encourage astro-tourism. If you have a place where people can stay over in or near a dark sky area we would love to feature your business on the Stay and Gaze section of our website and promote it as a stargazing destination!
Last Winter (2019/2020) our website was receiving ~40,000 interested stargazers per month with many wanting to escape the bright lights and experience dark skies away from towns and cities. It’s a great target market and one that has been proven to increase occupancy during the shoulder and winter seasons!
To add your business as a stay and gaze stargazing destination please send us an email letting us know the name of your venue and a link to your website where we can find out all of the details.