Its superb dark skies are one of the things that make the Yorkshire Dales National Park so special. With large areas completely free from local light pollution, it’s a fantastic place to start your stargazing adventure. Obtaining Dark Sky Reserve status in the National Park is one of the objectives agreed by the Authority and a wide range of local partner organisations in the National Park Management Plan 2019-24.
In fact, we are so proud of our night time skies that we are due to hold our sixth Dark Skies Festival in February 2021, running from 12 February to 28 February. For those who can’t wait ’til next year, we’ve teamed up with GoStargazing and the North York Moors National Park to produce our first joint Virtual Dark Skies Week from 23rd October 2020 to 1st November 2020 as a taster for the main Dark Skies Festival.
Read our Stargazing leaflet for top tips on viewing the sky at night, what to look for and when.
Where should I go?
Just about anywhere in the National Park is great for stargazing! But the more remote you are from light sources such as street lights, the better.
There are four designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – at Hawes and Malham National Park Centres, Buckden National Park Car Park and Tan Hill Inn. These are locations that are defined as being open to the public, accessible to all abilities and provide parking and other facilities, and are a great place to begin.
What can I see?
On a clear night you could see as many as 2,000 stars. In most places it is possible to see the Milky Way as well as the planets, meteors – and not forgetting the Moon. You might even catch the Northern Lights when activity and conditions are right, as well as the International Space Station travelling at 17,000mph overhead.
AuroraWatchUK can predict when it might be possible to see the Northern Lights – or aurora borealis. You can follow them on Twitter or download an app for your phone. The Northern Lights can only be predicted a few hours before they occur and when activity peaks you need to be ready to go!
August sees the annual Perseid meteor shower when, at its peak, hundreds of meteors an hour can be seen. Meteor showers happen at predictable times throughout the year and information can be found on a variety of websites such as Time and Date.
Stars and planets
Sky Week has a comprehensive guide to what you can see in the night sky this week. Pocket Universe is an app with plenty of features and star maps. Stellarium is an excellent free planetarium program which gives you a real time view of the night sky and can be loaded onto a PC, phone or tablet
The very darkest skies occur at the time of the New Moon – two weeks after Full Moon. However, the Moon itself is a great object to take a closer look at, especially when its full. Time and Date website has details of when the phases of the Moon will occur.
International Space Station
The ISS will pass you overhead often throughout the year. In fact, it orbits the Earth every 90 minutes. To find out when you might see it in your location, visit Nasa or download the ISS spotting app.
What can I do
As well as our annual Dark Skies Festival, we – along with other event providers in the National Park – hold exciting events throughout the year to help you get stargazing. Visit our What’s On pages to find out more.
If you’re looking for a hobby that’ll give you a feeling of awe, appreciation and insignificance all at the same time, astronomy is for you! Check out this excellent beginners’ guide, for some great tips on how to get started hobbyhelp.com/astronomy