Celebrating the Dark Skies of Northumberland
Welcome to Northumberland Astro ! This website is dedicated to enjoying the night sky in Northumberland.
The county of Northumberland in Northern England is lucky to have many dark sky areas. Large distances between major towns ensures that most rural areas are still relatively dark at night. This darkness allows much better night sky viewing when compared to light polluted areas elsewhere. In dark sky areas many well know features of the night sky may be visible. The Milky Way, Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) and Noctilucent Clouds are all possible in Northumberland.
Useful Tools for Stargazing and Aurora Hunting
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 artificial light sources and the ‘sky glow’ created by large 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 many other objects we can see in the night sky. Because of this, looking for the Milky Way, Deep Sky Objects or the Aurora Borealis is best done on nights when the moon isn’t present.
Below are some useful ‘quick check’ resources for planning a night out under the stars.
Todays Moon Phase
Check here to see the current moon phase, including the moonrise and moonset times for Northumberland.
Light Pollution Map
This map of Northumberland shows the main sources of light pollution, it is 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.
Current Aurora Status
Fancy seeing the Aurora Borealis ? These two sources of information will give a quick idea of current aurora status and whether you may be lucky !
The NOAA Aurora Forecast Map is a good visual indicator. It allows you to see the latitude of the aurora and whether it is reaching as far south as the UK on any given night.
The real time ACE satellite data tells us the speed and density of the solar winds that cause the auroras. Solar wind density and speed are important but the key information here is the BZ graph, this tells us about the current interplanetary magnetic field. For aurora activity to occur this magnetic field must swing to the south (the red line must drop below the dotted line).