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Stargazing in the North York Moors

The North York Moors is officially one of the best places in the country to stargaze because of the low light pollution levels and clear horizons. Here’s all you need to know about stargazing in the North York Moors.

About 90% of British people have never seen the Milky Way as they live under light-polluted skies.

The North York Moors is a great place to start if you’re looking for somewhere to stargaze. From the darkest spots, you can spy up to 2,000 stars at any one time. Its vast open spaces, minimal light pollution, and clear skies make it an ideal destination for anyone studying the night sky. In December 2020, they were designated an International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association, one of only 21 worldwide. This article covers everything you need to know about stargazing in the North York Moors.

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What is an International Dark Sky Reserve?

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designates Dark Sky Reserves as areas that offer exceptional starry nights and are protected for various reasons, including scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and public enjoyment.

The IDA is the leading organisation in the fight against light pollution worldwide. The North York Moors boasts some of the darkest skies in the UK, and achieving Reserve status means they can raise awareness and celebrate this unique quality. It also provides an opportunity to enhance the dark skies by promoting appropriate lighting, reducing unnecessary electricity consumption, minimising carbon footprint and energy costs for properties, and attracting visitors interested in astrotourism.

Conservation of dark skies is also beneficial for nocturnal wildlife and human health. Too much artificial light at night can disrupt the natural behaviour of animals and plants, making it difficult for us to sleep well.

Stargazing in the North York Moors

Where should I go stargazing in the North York Moors?

The National Park is home to some exceptional sites worth visiting. Three places stand out as Dark Sky Discovery Sites, offering excellent opportunities to view the galaxy with the naked eye.

These sites are the National Park Centres at Sutton Bank and Danby and Dalby Observatories in Dalby Forest. In addition to these, there are other notable places to check out, such as Rosedale Chimney Bank and the Bruce Observatory in Whitby, where stargazing events are hosted by the Whitby & District Astronomical Society. And remember to visit Yorkshire Arboretum, located in the neighbouring Howardian Hills AONB, which offers bat walks and stargazing events throughout the year.

There’s so much to see and do in the National Park! You can find events to take part in further in this article.

What will I see whilst stargazing in the North York Moors?

Here are some things you might see in the night sky depending on the time of year and weather conditions.

1. Milky Way – visible during autumn and early winter evenings; a shimmering river of light caused by the light of millions of dim stars.

2. Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) – visible from the North York Moors; sign up for alerts to get notified when they occur.

3. Stars and planets – check out apps like Pocket Universe and Google Skymap.

4. Meteor showers – occur at predictable times throughout the year; check out the Time and Date website for information on when and where to view them.

5. Moon – darkest skies are during the new moon period; check out the Time and Date website for details on moon phases.

6. Andromeda Galaxy – visible with the naked eye from North York Moors; use binoculars to see it shaped like a rugby ball.

7. International Space Station – passes overhead throughout the year; check out the Nasa website and ISS Detector/Spotter apps for alerts.

The Milky Way Galaxy

North York Moors Stargazing events

Want to take part in a stargazing event? Stargazing is a wonderful way to discover, learn and enjoy the night sky. There are events throughout the year that are suitable for all ages. 

Dark Skies Fringe Festival (October/November each year)

In October, the North York Moors celebrate Fringe Festival. Participants can expect a week of stargazing, night experiences, and other fun activities related to the dark skies. The festival will offer a program of events that will be announced closer to the time, so keep an eye out for it. Their festivals are great for learning about and enjoying the skies above.

Events throughout the year at various locations across the National Park

Experience the Dark Skies Festival – a celestial celebration for 17 days in February featuring stargazing safaris, mindful sessions, art workshops, and more. Join SARAS, Whitby Astronomical Society, Astro Dog, Steve Bell Photography, Adventures for the Soul, Rewilding Adventure, and AFS Mountaineering for stargazing events, workshops, and masterclasses throughout the year.

Attend Starfest for camping, talks, and events at Dalby Forest in August. Book a stargazing package with The Grand in York and astronomer Richard Darn at the Star Hub in Sutton Bank National Park Centre for a city stay. Visit the National Park Centres at Sutton Bank and Danby for a simple night sky viewing experience.

Stargazing accommodation in North York Moors Dark Sky Reserve

Carlton GrangeHelmsley
Carlton, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5HH

Cropton Cabins Holiday ParkWrelton
Cropton, Wrelton, North Yorkshire, YO18 8ES

Easterside FarmHelmsley
Hawnby, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5QT

High FarmBeadlam Rigg
Beadlam Rigg, Pockley, North Yorkshire, YO62 7TG

Middlehead CottagesStape
Stape, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 8HY

North ShireSaltburn
Liverton, Saltburn by the Sea, Cleveland, TS13 4TJ

Rawcliffe House FarmPickering
Stape, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 8JA

The Fox & HoundsAinthorpe
45 Brook Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 2LD

North York Moors Dark Sky Reserve

It is essential to protect our night skies for so many reasons. You can learn more about how to protect our dark skies here. People have used storytelling based on the stars for centuries to share significant cultural and scientific messages. The beauty and wonder of the stars have inspired countless artists, from Van Gogh’s paintings to Don McLean’s songs. Today our dark skies can teach children about the scale of the universe and contribute to local businesses by boosting tourism during the winter. We hope this article has inspired you to look up!

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