Dark Skies: Star Gazing, chilly nights and maybe the Aurora
Blog by Jo Farrow
16th February 2018 13:46

Dark Skies: Star Gazing, chilly nights and maybe the Aurora

This fortnight is the Dark Skies Festival run by the National Parks 9th until 25th February 2018.  It maybe cold but it is dark for many hours at this time of year, it's school holidays and this is a chance to get outdoors and have a look up at the skies. Not at the clouds this time (hopefully) but beyond into space, at the stars, the night sky and possibly even the Northern Lights. With a new moon tonight, it will be dark out there. 

North York Moors, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales : all have special events on with many other locations around the UK being designated as International Dark Sky reserves; Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley. In Northern Ireland, the Carrick-a-Rede and Larrybane site was granted ‘Dark Sky Discovery’ status in 2014 and is currently one of only two sites in Northern Ireland, the other being Oxford Island on the shores of Lough Neagh. Sark in the Channel islands was designated the world’s first Dark Sky Island in 2011.  "Without cars and street lighting the only light pollution here is a distant glow from Guernsey, Jersey and France" 


The celebration of the skies and getting away from light pollution come together in events and workshops, the chance to meet astronomers and catch sight of nocturnal wildlife. Some events do need to be booked and there are chances to learn about astro-photography and telescopes and just what to look for. 

Plenty going on in the Yorkshire Dales with Bike orienteering, beginners star gazing and nocturnal wildlife trails.

Dalby Dark run, near Pickering 

Northumberland events Message from Mercury, star gazing Sat 17th near Hexham

Talk tonight at Waterlooville and Star Gazing on Saturday night South Downs 

Wales events various locations 16th and 17th Feb GoStarGazing 

The original Galloway Dark Sky Park, also has a set of events coming up with star gazing this weekend and next.

Weather conditions

For organisers and participants, the weather can be annoying. It's February so prepare for the cold. This weekend won't be as bitterly cold as we have had, but even so any length of time spent outside in the dark and the chill takes hold. Plenty of layers, a hat, gloves, windproof layer on top, just take those waterproof trousers and decent shoes and socks. Some of these events include a meal, hot drink, even mulled cider was mentioned.

The cloud conditions could be better but they could be worse. Northern Ireland looks cloudy with rain and that edges into wstern Scotland through the evening. Clear spells are likely across much of Britain. 


Saturday evening, again cloud rain are about for Northern Ireland, could have clear spells early evening for Down and Antrim. Clear spells over BRitain with just a few showery bits. For your specific location, check out the 7 day Netweather forecast. 

And also keep an eye on the Radar (there is an app too) . You can add current temperatures, wind direction, satellite cloud cover, model data and change the display to show snowfall rather than just rain. 


There was excitement from various media sources about the Aurora being visible over the UK last night but there are so many variables that need to come together, and even when they do, it's like fishing, just waiting to see if something super will happen. There is a chance again tonight (Friday night) . View it as a potential bonus to whatever Dark Skies activity you have planned, don't linger long. 

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