Celebrating the Dark Skies of Northumberland
Interested in exploring the wonders of the night sky ? Northumberland is full of opportunities.
Northumberland has some of the darkest skies in the UK. As a result people visit the area to view the night sky. There are a number of astronomy observatories both professional and amateur.
Perhaps the most well known observatory in Northumberland is in Kielder Forest (one of the darkest sites). It hosts regular astronomy events for visitors.
Northumberland is famous for its beautiful countryside, landmarks and in particular castles. There are some popular sites for landscape photography that also sit in dark sky areas. These ‘dark sites’ lend themselves to landscape astrophotography.
Northumberland is a great area for astrophotography. The darker skies allow camera sensors to take long exposures and gather fine detail of galaxies and nebulae without swamping them with light pollution.
For this reason many amateur astrophotographers who live in towns will drive out and find ‘dark sites’ to carry out their hobby. Northumberland is a good option for a ‘dark site’.
Northumberland is one of the best areas in the UK to observe the Aurora Borealis or ‘Northern Lights’. However, the Aurora isn’t a common sight at UK latitudes. You’ll need to have suitable conditions and luck on your side to catch a view !
"The whole thing is so much bigger than I am, and I can't understand it, so I just trust myself to it; and forget about it."
Edwin Powell Hubble
Some Useful Tools
If you are in Northumberland and want to enjoy the night sky, first you need to consider the viewing conditions. For the best views of space you need to be away from the ‘sky glow’ created by towns. The sky will also need to be free of clouds to see the stars and ideally moonless too. Of course the latter doesn’t apply if you want to look at the Moon specifically !
The Moon is amazing but also brings with it lots of light. This causes a glow similar to light pollution and reduces visibility of most other objects we can see in the night sky. Because of this, people looking for the Milky Way, Deep Sky Objects or the Aurora Borealis tend to avoid nights when the moon is up.
Below are some useful ‘quick check’ resources for planning a night out under the stars in Northumberland.
Todays Moon Phase
Check here to see the current moonphase
Current Moon Phase
Distance: 61 earth radii
Ecliptic latitude: 4 degrees
Ecliptic longitude: 104 degrees
Light Pollution Map
This map of Northumberland shows the main sources of light pollution, useful for planning visits to a dark sky area. As you can see from the map, south west Northumberland is affected by strong light pollution from Newcastle upon Tyne and surrounding towns. Away from this area there are a few other towns that emit some sky glow but many rural areas are much darker.