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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dark Skies festival and exhibition offer star-studded opportunity

The iconic Ribblehead Viaduct – part of the backdrop for the new ITV drama series Jericho – features in an exhibition exploring the dark skies of the Yorkshire Dales.

The exhibition, which runs until 22 March in the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, is part of a Dark Skies Festival organised by the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Dales national park authorities.

Organisers say low light pollution in both national parks makes them ideal locations for spotting cosmic happenings, and the festival – from 15 to 21 February – aims to encourage people to visit and see for themselves.

The museum exhibition entitled A Celebration of Dark Skies features the work of several local photographers who have captured the night skies in all their glory.

Manchester-based Pete Collins is among them. He said: "As a photographer and amateur astronomer, I love to set the wonderful landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales against a backdrop of beautiful, dark, starry skies.

“With its history and presence, the Ribblehead Viaduct is an iconic landmark in the Dales and I return there time and time again to use it as the foreground for my starry sky images.“

Museum manager Fiona Rosher said: “The Dark Skies Festival is a fantastic chance for people to learn more about what they can see at night – from constellations to the International Space Station, which is orbiting the Earth right now with British astronaut Tim Peake on board.

“The exhibition here at the museum contains some stunning photos of the viaduct – which ties in nicely with the Jericho series. Although it is fiction, it is based on a shanty town of the same name created to house the workers building the viaduct.

“We have also invited children from  Hawes, Askrigg, Bainbridge, West Burton, Arkengarthdale and Reeth and Gunnerside primary schools to draw and paint pictures on the dark skies theme that will be included in the exhibition.”

The main festival events take place in and around the national park centres in Reeth, Aysgarth Falls and Danby, and Sutton Bank and Hawes, both of which are also designated Dark Sky Discovery sites with skies that have been found to be sufficiently dark that the Milky Way can be seen to the naked eye.

Together with sky-at-night events during the festival week, visitors will also be able to discover more of the nocturnal world within the national parks with guided torchlight walks highlighting the wildlife activity at night.

The programme of activities includes a host of other events such as a dark sky trail run, evening caving, storytelling, glow-in-the-dark writing, poetry readings, solar system scavenger hunt, telescope-making and craft activities throughout the week.

More information about festival events is available at www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/darkskies or www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/stargazing.

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