Now that we have reached the Autumn Equinox (23 September), the hours of light and darkness are equal, and the nights begin to get even darker towards the Winter Solstice. This heralds the start of the stargazing season, and the 2019 North Pennines Stargazing Festival is just one month away.
Running from 23 October to 3 November, the North Pennines Stargazing Festival spans the Autumn half term and offers a packed programme of fun and informative events. There are events at venues across the counties of Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria, with half-term activities from solar system walks to moon art workshops and family stargazing events. For adults and keen astronomers wishing to take their knowledge to a new level, there are talks and workshops from astrophotography to getting to grips with your telescope.
A number of events in the 2019 programme celebrate and mark the milestone of the 50th anniversary of the moment that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on the surface of the Moon. As well as moon talks and family moon trails, there are moon-themed planetarium shows in Alston, Barnard Castle and Hexham showing ‘CAPCOM GO! The Apollo Story’.
In Weardale you can take photographs of the night sky at the other side of the world, with Gary Lintern’s remote astrophotography workshop at the Durham Dales Centre in Stanhope. The popular Skywatch @ Killhope returns for the third year with an amazing opportunity for families to view the night sky with the support of Sunderland Astronomical Society. Tickets are selling very quickly for this great value event. Just up the road from Weardale there is a Skywatch event at Nenthead Mines while the newly opened Nenthead Arts and Visitor Centre hosts Nightscapes, a photographic exhibition of the dark skies of the North Pennines. At the Langdon Beck Hotel in Upper Teesdale, a superb location for stargazing, expert astronomer and science educator, Andy Gray will reveal the science of the Sun and Moon and how they impact life here on Earth. There are also daytime events for children and their families throughout the week at Bowlees Visitor Centre, with a family moon trail, ‘In the Dark’ Wild Wednesday and a space -themed Discovery Club. On 30 October there is a chance to see Apollo 13 on the big screen at the Witham, as Ron Howard’s suspenseful drama follows three astronauts as their mission to land on the Moon turns into a battle to survive.
Shane Harris, Responsible Tourism Lead for the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “The festival was fully booked last year and our events for 2019 are also proving as popular. We have a wide range of events spread across the whole of the North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark, designed to appeal to local people and visitors. The North Pennines is the darkest mainland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is one of the best places in the UK to enjoy stargazing – the festival is designed to make it easy for people to celebrate the area’s fabulous starry skies.”
The festival has been organised by the North Pennines AONB Partnership and is supported by Visit County Durham, Northumberland County Council and Carlisle City Council.
Discover the entire programme at www.NorthPenninesStarFest.org.uk. Booking is essential for most events.