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Nature's evening pleasures

Dalby Playground Iridium Flare Credit Steve BellDalby Playground Iridium Flare Credit Steve Bell

There’s never been a more opportune moment to embrace a slower pace of life and appreciate what’s around us. Mother Nature plays a starring role providing solace and connecting people across the planet. Flora and fauna is flourishing as spring takes hold. When evening approaches, remind yourself to look up; we’re gifted with thousands of guiding lights.

From 19 to 26 April, it’s International Dark Sky Week. For the first time, you’re invited to celebrate the night - virtually! They’ve developed a whole programme of speakers and resources so you can explore and appreciate the universe.

In the North York Moors, we’re incredibly lucky to have vast areas of clear, dark skies. In prime conditions you can see up to 2,000 stars. No matter where you are, encourage your family to get out in the garden, stand at the front door or sit in a dark room and gaze out the window. It’s the perfect time to reconnect with the night sky.

Milky way above Helmlsey Credit Chris Lazenby

Here’s what to look out for from the safety of your homes

  • Planet Venus is by far the brightest object in the sky at the moment - excluding the moon of course! Look west. Even if your skies are lightly polluted you should still be able to see it. Use binoculars and you’ll see it looks like a fat crescent
  • The Lyrids Meteor Shower peaks overnight on 21/22 April. A new moon phase means skies will be especially dark. Prime conditions to view from the east.
  • Comet ATLAS was on its approach to Earth until recent reports confirm it’s starting to fragment. It’s been said comets are like cats - they have tails and are unpredictable! It’s worth keeping a watch, don’t give up hope completely, its closed approach was predicted to be 23 May
  • Noctilucent clouds are particularly special as the UK is one of the few and best places in the world to see them. The ghostly clouds glow in the dark from late May to early August. They’re the highest cloud in the sky at 50 miles. Sunlight bounces off ice particles to perform a shimmering dance. Look north one hour after sunset, or before sunrise.

On the stargazing calendar, we’re reaching the end of true darkness and nights are becoming shorter. From late May to August what we lose in stars, we make up for in planets.

Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system. It’s closest to Earth (and most spectacular) on 14 July but you can see it many months before and after. Visible all night long, find it low in the south.

Hot on the heels of Jupiter, the ringed world of Saturn is closest to us on 20 July, again low in the south. With professional equipment you’re able to see its rings.

Dream now, visit later

Dark Skies Friendly Credit Polly A Baldwin

Take a look at our Dark Skies Friendly network. There’s a whole host of accommodation and activity providers who have dedicated their services and facilities to give you the best stargazing experience when it’s safe to return to the North York Moors. They’ll most certainly give a warm welcome when able to do so again.

So for now, stay at home and make the most of life’s simple pleasures.

Top tips to stargaze at home

  • The best view of the heavens is when there’s no moon in the sky so keep an eye on new moon phases
  • Allow your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust and gain night vision. Avoid looking at lights; this includes your stargazing partner’s torch! Try making a DIY red filter
  • Get comfy! Reclining chairs are great to relax and gaze skywards in comfort.
  • You don’t need expensive equipment. A pair of binoculars will increase what you’re able to see dramatically. Look for 10x50 or 7x50.
  • Don’t get lost in space. There are dozens of useful apps to help identify what’s above you.
  • Learn a new skill. Local astro-photographer Steve Bell regularly shares his advice to produce out-of-this-world images with little experience. Check out his recent blog.