An evening with BBC Sky at Night presenter Professor Chris Lintott will be one of the hot tickets during the 2020 Dark Skies Festival (14 February – 1 March) held jointly by the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.
The popular presenter will be talking about his new book ‘The Crowd and the Cosmos – Adventures in the Zooniverse’ and showing how, through the power of Citizen Science, anybody can get involved with helping scientists make the next space discoveries.
An evening with Chris Lintott takes place on 21 February at Helmsley Arts Centre, midway through the 17-day annual Festival which showcases the pristine night skies of both National Parks and the neighbouring Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Nidderdale and the Howardian Hills.
Alongside the perennial favourites – everything from stargazing, astrophotography, canoeing, running, cycling, walking, caving, night zip wire and nocturnal wildlife spotting evenings – there are a number of new events for the 2020 Dark Skies Festival.
For instance, expert astronomer Richard Darn will be leading visitors on a tour of the universe during a star party in the peaceful village of Keld, in Upper Swaledale while guests staying at the Fox and Hounds at Ainthorpe can enjoy an evening meal followed by a stargazing safari with the Whitby & District Astronomical Society.
The North York Moors National Park has also teamed up with View It 360 to tap into some of the latest virtual reality technology. Adults and children alike will be able to don virtual reality goggles that will transport them into space for a 45-minute adventure where they can either fly through galaxies and constellations, passing planets along the way; help repair an international space station or watch the film Apollo 11.
Building on the popularity of the night time canoeing at Scar House Reservoir in Nidderdale, the 2020 Festival will now offer visitors the opportunity to also paddle across the beautifully remote Semerwater in the Yorkshire Dales. Similarly the popularity of hurtling into the darkness attached to Go Ape’s zip wire in the North York Moors has led to Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg setting up its own version of the experience for the Yorkshire Dales.
Particularly as the opening night of the Festival coincides with Valentine’s Day, several dark skies-friendly businesses such as B&Bs, self-catering cottages and pubs will have blankets, binoculars, hot chocolate and astronomy guides available so that guests can step outside to simply make the most of eyeing the night skies before retreating back to the warmth of their chosen romantic bolthole.
Creating an air of wonderment to help inspire the next generation will be a recurring theme threading through much of the Festival’s programme. Lime Tree Observatory at Grewelthorpe will stage a tour of the solar system aimed at kids, while a host of other locations will be holding galactic treasure hunts, moonrock geocaching events, crafting sessions where rockets and lanterns are created, storytelling evenings, candlelit village walks.
Youngsters can also learn more about the animals that live under the Yorkshire Dales starry skies during A Go Wild! event or simply stargaze while tucking into specially-created starry ice cream flavours at the Wensleydale ice cream parlour which opened this year.