Stellar line-up for North York Moors Dark Skies Festival

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An astrophysicist and media commentator on space matters will raise the curtain on next month’s Dark Skies Festival organised by the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities.

Tim O’Brien who is professor of astrophysics at the University of Manchester and associate director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics will shed light on some of the greatest cosmic curiosities at the opening event of the fourth annual Dark Skies Festival, which runs from February 15 to March 3.

Prof O’Brien, who makes regular appearances on BBC Radio Five Live and Breakfast TV, as well as having featured on Stargazing Live and Radio 4’s Life Scientific, will captivate an audience with his Our Place in the Universe talk at Castle Howard.

The festival’s programme of events will then roll out over the fortnight with more than 100 events across the protected landscapes of both National Parks and the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Many of the events will be themed around the moon to celebrate the 50th anniversary year of the first landing on the astronomical body by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and because the first week of the Festival will coincide with a Full Moon phase.

Visitors can expect moon gazing sessions using powerful telescopes, nocturnal nature watch evenings together with guided cycling, running and walking events in woodland, across the moors and in coastal villages under moonlit skies as well as family crafting activities such as rocket-making.

Astronomers will take festival-goers on a guided tour of the galaxies, planets and constellations with stargazing sessions and astro parties at many beauty spots and historical sites Ryedale Folk Museum.

Visitors can also enjoy the celestial celebration by learning astro photography skills or hurtling down Go Ape’s night zip wire at Dalby Forest.

Local restaurants, cafés and food producers are also planning a stellar line-up of themed menus and specials, everything from a new gin through to a dark skies ice cream.