The annual Dark Skies Festival is a celebration of dark skies around National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and this year it’s taking places online. A star-filled sky is one of nature’s most natural wonders! But they’re becoming harder than ever to experience. In an urban area you’ll be lucky to see 20 stars on a clear night but in an area of low light pollution, such as in the North York Moors, you could see as many as 2,000 twinkling above you. There’s a host of activities taking place during February half term, including plenty that will help children discover, learn and enjoy the dark skies above. Here are our highlights.
Orla The Alien – Space Mission
Orla first appeared on Planet Earth last summer and set missions for families to tackle at home whilst in lockdown, and now she’s back! Make sure you’re following Sutton Bank or The Moors National Park Centre Facebook page to start her missions on Friday 12 February. This time she’s landed with some friends who’re looking for homes. If you’d like to adopt an alien then email firstname.lastname@example.org by noon, Friday 5 February. You’ll have your very own alien invasion on the doorstep!
Downloadable Beginners’ Guide to Stargazing
Can you identify Cassiopeia from Cygnus? There are quizzes to test your knowledge, fun astro facts and a guide to stargaze from home. Gather the family and comet to some space exploration of your own. Download the guide and discover what’s above with this beginners’ guide to stargazing.
Live Wildlife Cameras at Night
Enjoy spectacular sights of animals after dark via live cameras courtesy of wildlife artist Robert E Fuller. Having spent years creating bespoke habitats to attract wildlife to his garden, you can now enjoy unprecedented views into their secret lives. Unique footage includes two courting barn owls. Tawny owls, buzzards and a pair of kestrels currently searching for a new nest site for spring. Cameras are even trained on an ermine stoat. The phenomenon, where a stoat turns white to blend in with winter snows, is exceptionally rare to see in Yorkshire.
Go on a Mission to Mars
Awesome event for children! Colin Stuart is an astronomy presenter and author of a number of fantastic children’s books on astronomy. Participants will be whisked away on a mission to explore the red planet! Learn how astronauts will cope with the 7 month journey, space food is hardly award winning! As well as being incredibly fun and interesting it will also cover numerous topics for KS1 and KS2 children, so educational as well! Also expect mention of the landing of the Perseverance Rover (and helicopter) on Mars later this week.
The Hare in the Moon- Hoglets Theatre
Hoglets Theatre will take you on a magical journey, exploring the true meaning of kindness using interactive storytelling, puppetry and live music. After watching The Hare in the Moon you can make your very own hare puppet. See more information and register via the Helmsley Arts Centre website.
How Animals Deal with Darkness
In this fascinating talk you’ll find out how animals deal with darkness, from the echolocation calls of bats, to the crazy asymmetric ears of owls to our own nighttime vision (and why we have red-eye in flash photos). You’ll take a tour of the animal kingdom and see the ingenious ways that animals have adapted to the darkness.
Space Detectives – In The Night Sky
Explore the Night Sky with Space Detectives! Ideal for families with young astronomers you’ll be shown how to find star constellations, travel back through history and discover how important it is to look after the night sky today by becoming a Dark Sky Ranger! This live workshop is full of fun, interactivity, live activities, and learning! Participants will be sent a link to download a free resource pack ready for the event.