The Forest of Bowland will provide a stunning setting for a week-long celebration of the night sky.

Kicking off on Sat 12 Feb, the festival will feature a live moon watch, bat talk, stargazing, forest moon bathing, smartphone astrophotography and craft workshops.

The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) boasts some of the darkest skies in England, with a number of Dark Sky Discovery Sites accredited by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

February offers the optimum time for clear skies—though stargazers are advised to wrap up for the elements.

The festival also hopes to raise awareness of the issues light pollution bring to our night skies. Migrating birds, nocturnal animals and insects are all affected by artificial lights. Our own health can also be affected, with light pollution impacting human circadian rhythms, which can result in sleep deprivation, fatigue and anxiety.

Hetty Byrne, Sustainable Tourism Officer for the AONB said: “Light pollution means that truly dark skies are becoming increasingly rare. With our Dark Skies Festival, we want people to discover the magical sight of the planets and constellations. The longer nights of winter are good for star gazing and, given the right conditions, you can feast your eyes on everything from the Plough to the Milky Way.”

Astronomer Robert Ince, who will host a number of the events, hopes the festival will inspire the next generation of scientists: “We’re very lucky that the Forest of Bowland has excellent dark skies and very low light pollution. Pendle is a beautiful location with the advantage of being very elevated; you can actually see the aurora from there in the right conditions.

“As a star is basically a nuclear fusion reactor and with the planets going around the stars showing the classic laws of motion in action, the young enquiring minds can really start to latch on to astronomy, bringing science into their direct experiences whilst being enthralling and visceral.”

The confirmed events for the festival can be found below:

  • Saturday 12th – Live Moon Watch (face to face) with local professional astronomer, Robert Ince
  • Sunday 13th – Live Moon Watch (virtual) with Robert Ince
  • Monday 14th – Exploring the Universe with Robots (virtual) with Dr Chris Arridge, Lancaster University Department of Physics
  • Tuesday 15th – Family bat talk (virtual) with Gail Armstrong – aka The Bat Lady
  • Wednesday 16th – Smartphone Astrophotography talk (virtual) with Robert Ince
  • Thursday 18th – Family dark skies crafts (face to face) with Alison Cross, Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership
  • Date TBC – Star Gazing (face to face) with Robert Ince
  • Date TBC – Forest Moon Bathing (face to face) with Stacey McKenna-Seed of Rewilding Outdoor Therapy
Sat 12 Feb - Sun 20 Feb
Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Wed 16 Feb 2022