The North York Moors National Park is a designated International Dark Sky reserve, and every year they host a spectacular festival, celebrating the marvels of the night sky. This year, as travelling and gathering on the moors and coast is not possible, they’ve teamed up with the Yorkshire Dales to provide an amazing programme of virtual events which you can enjoy from your home. Here are a few of the highlights.  

Wildlife Wonders 

The theme of this year’s festival is nocturnal wildlife, and there’s a great selection of events dedicated to the creatures of the dark. Wildlife artist Robert E Fuller has been created bespoke habitats in his garden to give animals a home, and livestreaming wildlife cameras will give you a glimpse into the lives of barn owls, tawny owls, stoats and more. People living in the Ryedale area can receive a free batbox as part of the Ryevitalise project, to encourage wildlife in their local area. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are runnning a family friendly event on 18 February which will explore nature's night-time neighbourhood and how you can make your garden, yard or window box a paradise for wildlife. Also, on 23 February Dr Callum Macgregor from the University of Hull will be explaining how light pollution impacts on nocturnal wildlife, and moths in particular. 

Journey Into Space 

The virtual Dark Skies Festival brings the cosmic into your living room with these amazing events. Martin Whipp, Lead Astronomer from the Lime Tree Observatory, will take you on a backward adventure through the Solar System and beyond in his Reverse through the Universe talk on 16 February, suitable for both spaces novices and seasoned astronauts. The festival is due to coincide with NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing on Mars on 18 February, and a talk on the red planet and this mission links up with this landmark event. A little closer to home, a measly 384,400 km away, is the moon, and you can see livestreamed images of it from telescopes across the UK at some point during the festival (weather dependent).  

Astronomy Meets Art 

You can get expert advice on capturing the night sky from professional photographers Steve Bell (various dates 12 - 19 Feb) and Gary Lintern (15 Feb). With step-by-step guidance from artist Tabitha Grove, you can learn how to make three different origami stars to decorate your home with the jewels of the night sky on Valentine’s Day. There’s also a fascinating talk from Sam Cornwell on the art and culture that humans have sent out into the solar system and beyond on 28 February.  

These are just a handful of the events taking place for the Virtual Dark Skies Festival 2021. For more info and inspiration, visit the festival website.