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  • 24th Apr 2024
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The best Northumberland stargazing spots and meteor shower dates this spring

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Ready for an out-of-this-world experience? Well, Northumberland is officially one of the best places to stargaze in the UK.

With the weather becoming warmer, there’s no better time to escape to the picture landscape of Northumberland for an astronomical adventure into the celestial wonders above.

And the best part? There’s almost no light pollution. Northumberland National Park boasts 572 square miles that have been awarded Gold Tier status for their pristine dark skies – making it the largest International Dark Sky Park in Britain.

We catch up with Duncan Wise, visitor development and tourism officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, to find out his top tips for the ultimate Northumberland stargazing experience this spring.

HLN TOP TIP: Want to make a weekend of it? We’ve rounded up 5 romantic stargazing stays in Northumberland

Image credit: Dan Monk Photography

WHAT IS THE PERFECT NIGHT TO STARGAZE?

Light pollution from nearby streetlights and security lighting can block out your view of the stars and it’s good to choose a night when the skies are clear. Northumberland’s Dark Skies are far away from these sources of artificial light at night.

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WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD WE BRING WHEN STARGAZING?

For the full majesty of the night sky, you can’t beat looking at the whole sky with the naked eye. Suppose you want to zoom in a little closer – in that case, a pair of 10×50 binoculars will allow you to see more phenomena, including the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, and some star clusters.

If you’re considering buying a telescope, then I would recommend you contact either the Newcastle Astronomical Society or Sunderland Astronomical Society, whose members are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and from my experience, very willing to help you on your journey of discovery with helpful tips and friendly advice.

Image credit: Dan Monk Photography

5 TOP TIPS FOR THE BEST NORTHUMBERLAND STARGAZING EXPERIENCE

  1. Keep warm, take a hot drink, and always be well-fed and comfortable by taking a deck chair to sit on.
  2. Choose a night when the skies are clear and a location far away from artificial light at night.
  3. Be courteous to those living (and sleeping) nearby if you’re out in a remote rural location.
  4. To help you see more stars at night, avoid using white light torches and mobile phones – but if you need to, take a red light torch.
  5. Get the most out of your senses. When you’re out stargazing, listen out for other creatures of the night like owls, foxes and hedgehogs rustling in the undergrowth.
  6. Enjoy the moment. Don’t feel you need to know the names of all the stars and galaxies to appreciate them. Just being under a clear, truly dark sky without light pollution is a joy to behold.

WHAT CELESTIAL EVENTS CAN BE SEEN IN NORTHUMBERLAND THIS SPRING?

The Lyrid Meteor Shower will be visible from 14th -30th April, peaking on 22nd-23rd April. Observing conditions may be affected by a full moon. You may see with the naked eye or with a pair of binoculars.

HOW TO SPOT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PLANET AND A STAR?

The planets we see are all located within our solar system, as they orbit the sun. The word ‘planet’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘wanderers,’ as they were observed by our ancestors as objects that move across the permanently static backdrop of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are known as the ‘terrestrial’ or rocky planets, whereas Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune are known as the ‘giant’ planets.

Learn more about Northumberland Dark Skies and where to observe them here.

SOME OF THE BEST NORTHUMBERLAND STARGAZING SPOTS

Ingram Valley, Alnwick

Experience the cosmos like never before at Ingram Valley Astronomy Evenings. Join Dr. Adrian Jannetta, FRAS, for a captivating planet show and astronomy talk at Ingram Village Hall. Get lost in pristine dark skies and stellar photography. Book your tickets early for an unforgettable journey into space, complemented by delicious refreshments and a night safari.

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Redesdale Arms, Rochester

Redesdale Arms is situated on the edge of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park and is the ultimate spot for stargazing. Mark your calendar for September 28th for an evening with a Kielder Observatory astronomer, indulging in a three-course meal and immersive workshop under the stars. Just £170 for two sharing a room, or £35 per person for dinner and the workshop.

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Kielder Observatory, Hexham

Speaking of Kielder Observatory, it’s a haven for stargazers. Expect top-notch telescopes, indoor observatories and an outdoor deck for prime sky viewing. They cater to all ages, even budding astronomers as young as four. With events happening year-round, it’s the perfect spot to get lost in the wonders of the night sky.

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Image credit: Jim Scott Photography 
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Boulmer Beach Car Park, Alnwick

If you fancy a more coastal celestial experience for Northumberland stargazing spots, look no further than Boulmer Beach. Imagine sitting back against a sand dune, relaxing to the sound of the waves lapping the shore, as you watch shooting stars fly across the dark sky.

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Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory, Wark

This accessible, public observatory is a real jewel in the Northumberland stargazing crown: offering the perfect blend of the majesty of the dark skies overhead and the neighbouring facilities provided by a multi-award-winning hotel and restaurant.

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Image credit: Jim Scott Photography 

Twice Brewed Inn, Bardon Mill

A brewery, restaurant, bed and breakfast and observatory, the team of astronomers here are waiting to share their knowledge at any of the events you can book year-round. There’s also a 360-degree, immersive planetarium onsite to bring the universe to life on even the cloudiest of days.

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Stonehaugh Stargazing Pavillion & Observatory, Hexham

This free-to-access stargazing location in Kielder Forest is often used by Stonehaugh Astronomy for their events, which include introductions to astronomy, astrophotography and tales of the myths and legends immortalised in the stars.

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Rachael Nichol
Creative Solutions Manager

After gaining a first in her BA Media and Journalism degree at Northumbria University, Rachael worked at Newcastle’s leading regional newspaper with her stories being picked up in national and global newspapers She spent two very successful years giving a voice to those communities across the North East who otherwise…

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