Stargazing guests in the Forest of Bowland can get the most from the night skies thanks to astronomy tips from an expert.
Robert Ince, an astronomer and astrophotographer, runs events at the Forest of Bowland’s premium Dark Sky Discovery Sites. He offered advice to guests at three of hospitality group James’ Places hotels – the Shireburn Arms at Hurst Green, the Falcon Manor Hotel at Settle and the Royal Hotel at Kirkby Lonsdale. All are within half an hour’s drive of one of the Forest of Bowland’s several best stargazing sites, Gisburn Forest Hub, Slaidburn car park and Beacon Fell Visitor Centre.
Said Robert: “These Dark Sky Discovery Sites are in areas with very low night pollution, away from street lights and urban glare. The night sky is fantastic to see and with the right conditions there is so much to observe.”
Robert had the following tips for getting the most out of a stargazing trip:
1 Head for a Dark Sky Discovery Site or anywhere reasonably near to one. Here you will have the best chance of seeing the most. The Gisburn Forest Hub site is excellent as it is an open space in the middle of a wooded area and very dark. The Slaidburn car park site is also close to Gisburn Forest and being a village is a little more accessible for those who don’t want to go right into the wilds – and it has a pub!
2 Plan with the calendar before you go. The time of year is important as summer has fewer hours of darkness. Most astronomers at our latitudes don’t venture out during July and August. The best months for stargazing are between November and April.
3 Check the moon phases. Avoid a full moon as its glare restricts the amount you will see because of its brightness, size and position in the sky.
4 The weather is crucial. The best conditions are often when the weather is cold and crisp and the air becomes very clear. When there is moisture in the air it causes mist and cloud obscuring the view.
5 Let your eyes adjust. Start by simply soaking in the atmosphere, spending at least 20 minutes to half an hour in the darkness allowing your eyes to dark sky adapt. After this time you will be able to see the Milky Way and galaxy arching above you and pick out the constellations and patterns in the sky.
6 Don’t bring a white light torch. A red light, similar to those now found on headtorches often used by cyclists is fine. White light will make your eyes lose the adjustment they had gained but a red light won’t affect your night vision at all.
7 Go when an expert will be on hand to point things out or download an app. Stargazing is so much more rewarding when you know what you’re looking at. James’ Places hotels all have information on when stargazing events are taking place at the various locations. If you can’t make these events, there are some really good smartphone apps for around 99p or even free which when pointed at the sky can identify stars and constellations. Recommended ones include Google Sky, Night Sky Pro, StarMap and Stellarium Mobile.
8 There’s often no need for a telescope. If you are thinking of getting into astronomy, first buy a decent pair of binoculars, then perhaps consider a small, portable telescope. Telescopes take some setting up and using them properly can be a steep learning curve but once achieved is very rewarding.
9 What can be seen? The sky changes with the seasons. At northern latitudes, the Plough, which is part of the Great Bear, is always there. An imaginary line drawn between the two right hand stars of the Plough leads up to Polaris, which is always due North. Orion, the hunter, is best visible in the spring months and various meteor showers occur throughout the year.
10 Special astronomical events to note this year are the autumn meteor showers – check out the Bowland Meteors event at Gisburn Forest Hub on Friday November 18 – and the rare May 6th transit of Mercury across the Sun, which will only be visible through special telescopes.
Said James’ Places hospitality group marketing manager Heidi Kettle: “With the 2016 calendar packed with astronomical treats, plus the chance to wave at astronaut Major Tim Peake as the International Space Station passes over, we are incredibly lucky here on the edge of the Forest of Bowland to have such easy access to excellent quality sites for observing the breathtakingly beautiful night sky.”
More information on opportunities for astronomy in the Forest of Bowland is available at http://forestofbowland.com/Star-Gazing.
James’ Places is a portfolio of hotels, inns, interior design and hospitality businesses across the Ribble Valley and Yorkshire Dales sharing the same service values and ethos for beautiful surroundings with exceptional food and drink.