Dark Skies Festival


Local astronomer helps promote the fascination of the night sky

Chris sets up his equipment at the Grewelthorpe
event. In the background is the local planetarium.

The crowd who joined the Dark Skies guided walk at
Grimwith where Chris was the lead astronomer. 

Bishop Monkton astronomer Chris Higgins has been having a series of late nights recently but not the sort that leave him with a hangover!

He has been closely involved in the National Parks Dark Skies Festival which has been taking place from
February 15 to March 3 and during this time has been active as leader or volunteer at five different locations in the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors.

During the past week they have been blessed with spectacularly clear skies.

The idea of the Festival is to make astronomy more accessible to the general public. 
This not only involves giving the public a chance to peer at the night sky through telescopes but also join in events such as camping, walking,  caving,  cycling and canoeing by night.

Chris has been involved in events at the Brymor Ice Cream Farm in Wensleydale, Grimwith, Stump Cross Cavern, Grewelthorpe and last night at the Yorkshire Arboretum at Castle Howard.

All of these events attracted large numbers of enthusiasts of all ages with all available places being snapped up weeks before the day.

At Grimwith last Thursday Chris was the lead astronomer and was filmed in preparation for a Channel 4 programme setting up his equipment and letting visitors see the night sky through his telescope and on his laptop. The film will be shown shortly in a Channel 4 series about the Dales and Lakes. 

This event involved people walking round the reservoir looking and talking about the night sky as they went along. The guided walk was purposely accessible to all and included about half a dozen  participants using specially adapted wheel chairs.

Chris says astronomy is now all the rage, partly inspired by Brian Cox’s TV programmes. Both he and Chris were students at Manchester University at different times.

Chris says the Yorkshire Dales is a particularly good location for star gazing because of its dark skies with lower levels of light pollution. In fact the area is  currently campaigning to gain elite Dark Skies Status, thereby joining the only three other areas to hold this title, the others being Exmoor, Northumberland and Dumfries and Galloway. Light pollution is of growing concern and has various environmental impacts. Fortunately with careful consideration and planning it is also one of the easiest to fix.