Go starry eyed on the North York Moors Coast
With vast expanses of unpolluted skies and the drier climate on the eastern side of the country, the stretch of coastline that includes the North York Moors National Park is a great place to glimpse the upcoming meteor showers and gaze at the stars.
About 90% of British people have never seen the Milky Way as they live under light-polluted skies, but here on the coast it shimmers overhead on autumn evenings looking like a river of light. From a town or city you'll be lucky to spot more than a handful of stars, but from our darkest spots you can spy up to 2,000 at any one time.
With the right conditions, you may even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights; the spectacular Aurora Borealis is often captured along the Yorkshire coast! Find out what else you can see in the North York Moors.
According to astronomer and dark sky hunter Richard Darn, the clearer skies that result from the north east’s drier climate and the uninterrupted horizons at numerous cliff top locations, make the stretch of coastline between Saltburn and Scarborough a potential haven for sky watchers.
With a number of celestial shows looming in 2020, including three penumbral lunar eclipses (10 January, 5 June and 5 July) and three super moons (9 March, 8 April, 7 May), followed by the Perseid meteor shower (peaks 12-13 August), one of the brightest of the year, Orionids meteor shower (peaking 20-21 October) and the Geminid meteor showers on 14-15 December, it's worth checking out these stargazing locations along the North York Moors' coastline:
All that remains of this former smuggler’s haunt is the Ship Inn, which nestles into the cliff at the end of a long expanse of beach. The Cleveland Way National Trail runs along the back of the pub and leads walkers onto a wild headland. Stargazing done, it’s just a short hop back to the pub for a heavenly pint of ale.
At 666ft above sea level, Boulby Cliff can lay claim to being the highest cliff top on the east coast of England. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere and yet it’s less than half a mile from the main road between Saltburn and Staithes.
The only nod to artificial light is from a few houses in the hamlet, but beyond that Kettleness, between Runswick Bay and Whitby, offers a cliff top with a superb dark sky vantage point where, on a clear night, you can spy up to 2,000 stars at any one time.
Deep Sky Exploring
As the nights lengthen later in the year, join expert astronomer Andy Exton from Hidden Horizons for a night of stargazing at one of the darkest spots in the National Park. Explore not only our own solar system but objects from deep space, including nebulae, star clusters and galaxies in constellations. The two-hour events run from September and throughout winter. Booking is essential (Adults: £15; Under 16s: £8 inc. hot chocolate/snacks); All under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.
More stargazing ideas
October also sees a welcome return to Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society's monthly public stargazing events in Dalby Forest, held on the first Friday most months between October and March (8pm-9.30pm). With its official Dark Sky Discovery Status, it has truly dark skies and is one of the best places in the country for stargazing, as too are Sutton Bank and Danby, where you're most welcome to visit our Centres and look skywards.
Look out for our annual Dark Skies Festival (12-28 February 2021) too.
Just don't forget to wrap up warm, and take a hot drink and a pair of binoculars before you head off to be treated to a star studded show!
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