Top space expert to open Yorkshire’s Dark Skies Festival in 2019

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The new year marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by human kind and decades later, the public’s fascination with the night sky and the secrets of the universe remains undimmed.

For astronomy buffs, there are few better places than Yorkshire’s protected landscapes, away from urban light pollution, to gaze at night skies with celestial intrigue and next February they will have a leading authority as their guide.

The fourth annual Dark Skies Festival will run from February 15 to March 3, 2019.

The fourth annual Dark Skies Festival will run from February 15 to March 3, 2019.

Prominent astrophysicist and media commentator, Professor Tim O’Brien, will open the 2019 Dark Skies Festival when it gets underway across the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, and the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Prof O’Brien, a scholar in astrophysics at Manchester University and associate director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, will talk about some of the greatest cosmic curiosities at the festival’s opening event at Castle Howard.

The space expert, who regularly appears on BBC Radio Five Live and breakfast TV, said: “For thousands of years humans have looked up to the stars and wondered about our place in the universe. It is crucial that we protect our shared heritage of the night sky and so I am very much looking forward to supporting the Dark Skies Festival.”

READ MORE: Why light pollution is leaving stargazers in the dark

Astrophysicist Tim O'Brien will open next February's Dark Skies Festival by giving a talk at Castle Howard.

Astrophysicist Tim O'Brien will open next February's Dark Skies Festival by giving a talk at Castle Howard.

READ MORE: Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors aim to cut light pollution to protect stargazing

More than 100 events will feature as part of the festival which will take place for the fourth time between February 15 and March 3. Many of those events will be themed around the moon in celebration of the half-centenary anniversary of the first lunar landing by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

There will be moon gazing sessions, nature watch evenings, guided cycling, running and walking events in woodlands, across moors and in coastal villages, plus family crafts activities such as rocket-making.

More details about the festival, which is organised jointly by the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park Authorities, will be released in the coming months.