Perseid meteor shower: Stargazers encouraged to head for Howardian Hills to catch glimpse of stunning showers

The skies above the Howardian Hills have captivated for years, long before the area was designated as a dark skies reserve three years ago.

And now a series of stargazing events has been announced to celebrate those same dark skies across the autumn and winter.

The Howardian Hills Partnership, which works to conserve and promote the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) north of York, is supporting six special events across the landscape between September and February next year.

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Astronomers will be on hand to guide people as they look through telescopes and learn more about the importance of dark sky environments, not just for stargazers but for wildlife, too. Experts will advise residents and businesses on how they can make changes to dark sky-friendly lighting to help keep the area’s skies dark at night.

Star trails over Rievaulx Abbey.  
 Picture Bruce RollinsonStar trails over Rievaulx Abbey.  
 Picture Bruce Rollinson
Star trails over Rievaulx Abbey. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Richard Darn, a stargazer who helped North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales national parks achieve international dark-sky reserve status, is leading the Howardian Hills project. He said: “This is a really exciting initiative and one that has its root in concerns that light pollution across the UK is increasing. We are now at a point where 80 per cent of Britons can’t see the Milky Way from their home.

“Fortunately in the Howardian Hills we can still marvel at a starry sky and this project aims to share that beauty and ask people to make wise lighting choices.”

The events are being launched as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak in the UK on Sunday August 13, with more than 60 meteors an hour expected to be visible as the Earth passes through the trail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.

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A recent survey showed the night sky over Europe is brightening at a rate of around six per cent each year. This is due to the switch to LED lighting, which although cheaper to run, has increased light intensity in both urban and rural areas. Much of this is adding to light pollution and disrupting wildlife.

“We are not forgetting the fun part of all this,” Darn adds. “Public star parties are massively popular and we’ll hopefully be offering stunning views of Saturn, the Milky Way, sparkling star clusters and distant galaxies. The sky over the Howardian Hills can be a wondrous sight and we want to encourage people to help keep it that way.”

Ellie Hook, manager of the Howardian Hills Partnership, said: “The dark night skies of the Howardian Hills make an important contribution to the character and tranquillity of the area. We’re delighted to be working with Richard and other experts to deliver this community programme of events and to help ensure we continue to preserve our valuable and beautiful night skies.”

As part of a worldwide night sky survey, a number of dark sky meters have been installed across the area to monitor sky quality.

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The events will be held at Welburn, Grilling East, Yorkshire Arboretum, Nunnington, Terrington and Slingsby.

Though many of the events will be free, attendees are advised to book their places in advance at​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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