Home - Animating Dark Skies Project*

The North East has some of England's darkest skies. It is home to Europe's biggest International Dark Sky Park and has more Dark Sky Discovery Sites than anywhere else in the UK. A real star attraction! astro-tourism is growing and this site will help you gear up to provide an unforgettable dark sky experience for your guests and customers. Use the tabs to explore the content, which is updated on a daily basis. Feel free to contribute on the discussion page or get in touch direct with us. 


Eclipse 20 March 8.30am - 10.30am
See an animation of what it will look like from your location.

March and April podcast posted.
Check out the resources page.

February podcast posted
We track down a trio of planets and search for Leo the Lion.  Check out the resources page.

Close call
On Friday 20 February Venus, the thin crescent Moon, and little Mars form a tight bunch in the west-southwest during and after dusk.  Look in the opposite direction and Jupiter glows above the eastern horizon.

January podcast

January night sky tour podcast uploaded to the resources page.  We talk about Jupiter!  Remember you are free to download and distribute.

Unmissable events for 2015
Comet Lovejoy could reach naked eye visibility in January.  Designated C/2014 Q2, from late December and much of January, it climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter night.  This is Australian amateur stargazer's Terry Lovejoy's fifth comet discovery.  See more at http://tinyurl.com/qgxmb2p

Jupiter dominates the night sky sky riding high and very bright.  It is at it's closest to the Earth on 6 February.  Even binoculars will reveal the planet's brightest four moons and with a small telescope lots of detail can be seen.

Partial solar eclipse on 20 March - 80% of the sun will be obscured from the UK.  A rare event for us and set to be well covered on TV and radio.

New Horizons space probe arrives at Pluto on 14 July after a nine year flight.  No mission has every been to Pluto before so expect some stunning images and lots of surprises.

Perseid meteor shower on 12 August - the moon won't interfere too much with this favourite outbreak of shooting stars.

Beautiful lunar eclipse on 28 September.  You will need to stay up into the wee small hours by a coppery red moon will be your reward when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon.

Geminid meteor shower should put on a great show with dark skies on 13 December.  The 2014 shower was simply lovely.

Meteor Shower
The Geminids meteor show (14 December) was top notch. Guests at an astro weekend at the Redesdale Arms were treated to a great show of shooting stars.  Feedback from the event as been first class.

The Star Tips programme of workshops has now concluded, but updates on this website and night tour podcasts will continue as normal until at least May.  Keep checking back.

Dark sky marque
The new dark sky certification scheme is running for tourism businesses.  You can become a dark sky friendly or a stay and gaze location.  Check out the website www.northumberlandtourism.org.uk/resources/toolkits/are-you-dark-sky-friendly    Many businesses have now gained this marque - so do not delay or you will loose out.

Check out the latest dark sky pages added to the Old Mill website.

December podcast posted
The night sky tour featuring Orion and its wonderful nebula (below) can be downloaded from the resources page!  Resources

Orion Nebula

A load of old bull 
November's night sky podcast is available for download on the resources page - this month we go on search for the brilliant constellation of Taurus and find a Subaru parked nearby.

Final Star Tips workshop
This will be on 2 December at Ingram Village Hall in the Breamish Valley.  We plan to update participants on a new Dark Sky friendly marque soon to be launched - something we know many of you want to see. We'll also share some of the suggestions on feedback forms from the nearly 110 people who have attended Star Tips events since April.  

Bookings at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/star-tips-for-profit-workshop-ingram-tickets-14012065465

Next meteor shower!
They come thick and fast and the next big date is 17/18 November for the peak of the famous Leonids. These "shooting stars" are produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

The International Space Station is also making passes over Northern England during October evenings.  Check out the times at www.heavens-above.com

The Orionid meteor shower peaks on the night of 21/22 October. It is produced by dust grains left behind by Halley's Comet burning up in the atmosphere. This will be an excellent year because there will be no moon to interfere with the show. Meteors can look lovely - slow moving with a greenish hue.  Well worth looking our for.

October Podcast posted!
The October night sky tour is now available to download on the resource page.

Stargazing breaks
We are working directly with a number of North East accommodation providers through the Starmakers initiative to stage multi-night astro breaks. The events at Herding Hill Campsite near Haltwhistle and Redesdale Arms were both a terrific successes. If you would like to stage a similar event please contact us.

The Starmakers project is also staging a host of star parties across the region which your guests can attend - all of them will be run by expert astronomers and are ideal for novices wanting to discover our enchanted skies. The full list and booking information can be found at  www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/robert-ince-starmaker-7214898215

Perseid meteor shower
This very well known shower peaks just before dawn on 12 August.  This year unfortunately we have also have a full moon so that will hinder sightings of the 'shooting stars'.  But the shower is active either sides of this date so look earlier in the month when the moon is not such a problem.  Be patient and wait for fireworks!

Workshops announced
More venues and dates have been organised. Please help us network these to other businesses who have yet been through the training.

15 September, 2014.  7pm – 10pm Slaggyford, Northumberland

16 September, 2014.  6pm – 9pm  Once Brewed, Northumberland

21 October, 2014.  6pm – 9pm Kielder Castle, Northumberland

27 October, 2014.  6pm – 9pm Elsdon, Northumberland

28 October, 2014.  6pm – 9pm Bowlees, Newbiggin, County Durham

10 November, 2014. 6pm – 9pm Harbottle, Northumberland

11 November 2014, 6pm – 9pm Allendale, Northumberland 

All bookings through Eventbrite.

North Pennine events
The AONB has revealed details of astro events in the Autumn, perfect for guests to attend. A leaflet has been uploaded to the resource page.

Langdon Beck Hotel Astro event
We are working with the hotel to stage a first ever Starmakers event on 29 August in the North Pennines. More details when they are finalised.

1st Starmaker's Astro Weekend
Herding Hill Farm on Hadrian's Wall is also to stage an astro camp for the public 29/30 August with BBQ, solar observing, rocket launching, and evening star party.  Owner Steve featured on the Tyne Tees coverage of the astro-tourism workshops.  

Not all stars are the same!
July's podcast tells you how to spot hot ones, from cool ones!  See the resource page to download the file.  Feel free to forward to guests.

Hate clouds?  Try these!
With long days and bright short nights you might wonder what stargazers do in the mid-summer.  The answer is we go in search of clouds!  Well, these are clouds with a difference, ones which glow in the night-time and can look truly spectacular.  Find out more Noctilucent Clouds by downloading this month's podcast from the resources page.  To whet your appetite, here's a view of this stunning phenomena over the North Pennines by Dave Thompson.

Meteor Storm?  Not quite!  
If you were not up to witness the event don't worry - the shower failed to live up to the billing and even favoured locations like the USA reported very few meteors.  

Meteor Storm?   
Now let's not get too excited, but some experts are predicting a major storm of shooting stars on the night of 24 May. The storm could happen as the Earth crosses the orbit of grains of dust from a recently discovered comet called 2009P Linear. Experts now seem to agree the peak will be between 6.30 and 7.30 GMT on 24 May - that's great for observers in the USA, but of course it will be light in the UK.  Even so it is worth keeping an eye out during the night - timings are not certain and you could catch sight of shooting stars.  They could appear from any part of the sky.  More info at www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/mays-surprise-meteor-shower/

May podcast available
Night sky tour for the month can be downloaded from the resources page.  Rob Ince takes in the celestial sites.

Planets Galore
May nights may be getting too light for serious astronomy, but four planets are visible - Saturn (below), Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. The latter never strays too far from the sun so look for it low in the west soon after sunset.   

If you are looking for tips on some excellent dark sky website branding check out Blacksmith's Cottages, Alnham - www.blacksmiths-cottage.co.uk/  Owner Sue featured on the recent Tyne Tees coverage of the astro tourism workshops, which you can still view if you missed it at www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2014-04-11/cashing-in-on-our-dark-skies/

The night sky podcast for April has been uploaded to the resources page and another for May is about to follow.  They are aimed at novices and you can provide the link or download for guests to use.  Let us know what you think - are they useful? Rob Ince is our guide through the Universe.

Inn the news
Forest View Inn at Byrness had great coverage in the Hexham Courant for its regular Meet the Astronomer evening. Check it our here http://tinyurl.com/p3h9j5e

Blood red Mars is the "star" in the south near midnight. It's really bright at the moment because it is near its closest to the Earth for two years.  You will need a moderate to large telescope to resolve it into a small disc - but the red colour is really apparent, even in binoculars.  It's the brightest "star" in this part of the sky - so keep your eyes peeled.

Did you see it?  A cracking display of Northern Lights on 27 February. The picture was taken from Kielder Campsite by our own Rob Ince. Aurora are best seen the further north you are and the darker your sky. Which makes the North East brilliant. Check the resources page for how to find out if an aurora may happen!  It's something well worth mentioning in your marketing. Seeing the Northern Lights is high on many people's wish list and at the moment the sun is very active.

If you are looking to buy equipment we have teamed up with a leading astronomy retailer, GreenWitch, to offer between 5 and 10% off binoculars, telescopes, etc.  Just mention North East dark skies.  Owner Lee Sproat is a good source of impartial advice on what to buy and supplies to the Kielder Observatory. Visit www.green-witch.com

t the initiative.  The Animating Dark Skies project partnership comprises Northumberland Natio
nal Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Kielder Observatory, North Pennin
es AONB and Northumberland County Council. The project is receiving £225,000 of funding, par
tly from the Northern Lands programme made possible by a Rural Development Programme for England (R
E) Rural Economy Grant administered by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Match funding has come from Northumberland County Council, Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, Kielder Observatory, North Pennines AONB Partnership and Newcastle University together with support from Northumberland Tourism.


PDFs of training materials, how to leaflets, guide to meteor showers, podcasts and more!.


List of workshops, astro events etc.

Contacts and Links

Useful names and numbers, including local astro societies, freelance outreachers


Forum for participants, let's have your ideas and question, share your successes and failures