Skip to main content
Misty Ribblehead Milky Way by Pete Collins

Stars in their eyes! Our Virtual Dark Skies Week line up

Thursday 22 October, 2020, by Katy Foxford

From 23 October to 1 November 2020 the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks are excited to be hosting a Virtual Dark Skies Week, supported by Go Stargazing and the Lime Tree Observatory.

Take part in a range of FREE online talks and presentations, all of which are ideal for novices and perfect for anyone with an interest in the night sky.

Here’s a bit of background to the speakers who you will be hearing from:

Dr Luke: The Search for Dark Energy (23 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Dr Luke holding a telescope and pulling a funny face

Dr Luke has a Masters in observational cosmology and a PhD in astronomical instrumentation. He has worked as a postdoctoral research astronomer for the past decade, constructing exoplanet hunting equipment and the dark energy spectroscopic instrument.

He was the Public Outreach Astronomer for South Africa, Observatory Manager at a popular Northumberland stargazing venue, and spent 3.5 years operating the largest telescope in the world! At the moment he is calibrating the Sentinel-4 satellite for the European Space Agency.

He travels extensively to Arizona where he is a Lead Astronomer via the University of California, Berkeley. This was for the US-led Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument on the 4 m Mayall telescope – the largest cosmological survey ever conducted. Dr Luke is hoping to assist commissioning the new £600M 8m Vera Rubin telescope in Chile next year. In his spare time, Dr Luke has been an Ironman triathlete and national champion rower, and enjoys dabbling in photography and cookery.

Neil Sanders: A Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky (24 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Neil Sanders in front of a giant telescope

Neill is an enthusiastic astronomer with a keen interest in outreach. To help encourage public interest in astronomy, Neill founded Go Stargazing. This is an organisation that promotes awareness of stargazing events and stargazing destinations across the UK through its website and social media channels.

Neill loves nothing more than to share with people amazing views of distant deep space objects through large aperture telescopes from dark sky locations. He enjoys night time landscape photography, the odd swing of a golf club and is a bit of an IT geek! 

Dr Fred: Latest Developments in Solar System Exploration (25 Oct, 18:30-19:30) and Black Holes and the Event Horizon Telescope (1 Nov, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Dr Fred using a telescope

Dr Fred obtained a degree in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Leicester in 1980, followed by a PhD in Cosmology from Durham University in 1986.

He has spent the past twenty years teaching adult education classes in astronomy, physics and mathematics at a variety of venues throughout Northumberland, County Durham and North Yorkshire, including Astronomy GCSE as an evening class. Fred has organised and taught a number of weekend courses in astronomy based in the Kielder forest park and other venues in the North Pennines. When he is not teaching Fred can be found wandering the moors and fells of the North of England. 

Wallace Arthur: The Biological Universe – how abundant is life? (26 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

A portrait image of Wallace Arthur

Wallace Arthur is an astrobiologist and evolutionist. He is Emeritus Professor of Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the author of the 2020 book The Biological Universe: Life in the Milky Way and Beyond, published by Cambridge University Press.

His favourite object in the night sky is the Andromeda Galaxy. This is even larger than the Milky Way; it has an estimated trillion or so stars, and probably an even greater number of planets. When you gaze up at the fuzzy blob of Andromeda, then given its sheer scale, you are almost certainly gazing at one of the many places where extra-terrestrial life exists in the universe.

Martin Whipp: Reverse through the Universe (27 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

A portrait image of Martin Whipp

Martin Whipp (FRAS) has been an active member of the York Astronomical Society since 1990 and has always had a passion for entertaining and educating the public in astronomy.

In 2012 he became involved with the foundation of the Lime Tree Observatory near Ripon and now regularly speaks to the public on a multitude of different astronomical topics. He enjoys making time-lapse films of the heavens to showcase their beauty.

Matt Robinson: All About the Aurora (live from the Arctic Circle!) (28 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Matt Robinson in front of a display of astrophotography

Matt is an astronomer and astrophotographer from Sunderland who now lives deep within the Arctic Circle in northern Norway.

Matt has been working in astronomy for nearly 7 years and he has delivered inspiring talks and worked in the UK, Finland, Chile, and Maldives. Matt’s presentations are fun, informative and a safe environment to ask any burning questions you might have related to astronomy.

Richard Darn: Real Astronomy – What can you see using a telescope? (29 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Richard Darn looking through a telescope at the night sky

Astronomer Richard Darn helped Northumberland become Europe’s biggest International Dark Sky Park and worked on the launch of Kielder Observatory.

He co-founded the Kielder Forest Star Camp and works with Northumberland, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks and North Pennines AONB on dark sky conservation and promotion. He has appeared on BBC Sky at Night, BBC News 24 and Stargazing Live and is a regular on BBC Radio York. His passion is for a clear sky speckled with stars where light pollution is a bad memory.

Sam Cornwell: The Story of Solarcan (30 Oct, 18:30-19:30)

An image of Sam Cornwell holding up a picture of his face, in front of his face

Sam Cornwell (ARPS, MSc) is a photographic artist based in the Scottish Borders. A pioneer of the ‘second a day’ movement and vlogging, Cornwell is a Masters graduate of Edinburgh University in which he was awarded the ESALA student award for his studies in Material Practice.

In 2013 he won an Astrophotographer of The Year Award and went on to found the Art in Space programme at one of the UK’s largest observatories before inventing the Solarcan, the world’s first commercial solargraphy camera. When not building cameras in his unusual Hawick-based “red room” workshop, Sam can be found teaching photography at Heriot-Watt University. He works as a science explainer for the UK’s foremost astronomy team ‘Go Stargazing’ or raising his two young dizzying children. Wherever possible, Cornwell will inform the public about the importance of dark skies and how Earth’s loss of them changes the way society and nature interact.

Lumen Studios – Art and Astronomy: In Search of Darkness (30 Oct, 19:30-21:30)

An image of Melanie King out in the countryside

Melanie King’s work focuses on the relationship between astronomy, photography and materiality. She mainly uses analogue photography and printmaking processes.

Melanie is passionate about astronomy, as looking at the night sky reminds us that we are part of a galactic system much larger than ourselves. This perspective also enables her to value life on Earth, as life is so rare within the entirety of time and space!

A portrait image of Louise Beer

Through sound, moving image, photography, installation and sculpture Louise Beer explores humanity’s changing understanding of the universe, from the ocean floor to the night sky. 

Louise’s passion for astronomy comes from growing up underneath the dark and clear skies of Aotearoa New Zealand, with the timeless landscapes reminding her of both the age of our planet and all of the life that exists within its ecosystems.

An image of Julie Hill working on an installation

Julie Hill’s work responds to the vastness of nature as represented by modern science. Using imaging software and code, her sculptural installations reshape astronomical data into uncanny geological or meteorological phenomena, creating immensities that we can walk amongst, and enter into.

Through juxtaposing the technological and the natural, Julie’s works attempt to widen consciousness of what constitutes nature. She is drawn to the subject of astronomy and cosmology as they offer an opportunity to confront our conceptual and perceptual limits, as well as reflect on the human endeavour to try to know the universe in its entirety. Julie believes that feeling of sublimity is something we can all share in, by simply looking up at the sky.

A portrait image of Lisa Pettibone

Through sculptural glass and imagery, Lisa Pettibone explores natural forces such as gravity and tension and their influence on the evolution of form. She is interested in our perception of space, matter and light and their connection to lived experience.

Astronomy gives Lisa a direct connection to the cosmos and a feeling of being part of something deeper, richer and more expansive. “When I gaze at the night sky, day to day troubles melt away and my imagination roams through another landscape. Learning about the universe is fascinating and makes me appreciate our beautiful and complex existence.”

Star date for your diary! Our annual Dark Skies Festival is scheduled for 12 to 28 February 2021.

Picture of Katy Foxford

Katy Foxford

Katy is the Tourism Support Officer with the YDNPA


One Reply to “Stars in their eyes! Our Virtual Dark Skies Week line up”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *