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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.

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Once you understand the hand rankings, you can start playing a round of poker. Players are each dealt two cards, which are kept face-down (known as “hole” cards). The first round of betting then takes place, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. This continues until all players have either folded (given up their hand), called (matched the previous bet), or raised (increased the previous bet). The next phase of the game involves the dealer laying three cards (known as the “flop”) face-up on the table, which can be used by all players to make their best hand.

After another round of betting, the dealer will reveal a fourth card (the “turn”), followed by more betting. Finally, a fifth and final card (the “river”) is revealed, and players make their final bets. If two or more players remain in the game, a showdown takes place where the best hand (using any combination of the hole cards and the community cards) wins. Of course, this is just a basic overview – for more detailed instructions and strategies.

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The Milky Way viewed from the Northumberland Coast
The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) - Image taken in North Northumberland using a telescope and equatorial mount

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.

Astronomical Times for North-Northumberland (55.49, -1.63)
Starting 17 Jun 2024, for the next 1 day
DateMorningSunriseSunsetEveningMoonriseMoonsetMoon Phase
17 Jun 202402:5004:2021:5423:2417:0001:52day 10 of Moon

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).

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