Peak’s dark skies star on party night

To go with star party piece
To go with star party piece

Hundreds of people stayed up through the night gazing at the stars over the Peak District National Park.

The first annual Peak Star Party at Shallow Grange campsite in Chelmorton attracted more than 80 families for the weekend, and a further 40 families who visited for a day.

Star parties are for anyone who wants to enjoy star-gazing in sociable surroundings at a dark sky site (far from towns and cities whose lights interfere with our view of the stars). With talks, an astro-boot sale, a bottle rocket competition and opportunities to try out a range of equipment, the event encompassed all ages and abilities.

The star party was organised by the Peak District Dark Skies Group, a collection of local amateur astronomers and astronomy clubs brought together by the Peak District National Park Authority. The aim is to raise awareness of light pollution and promote the national park’s dark skies, with knock-on benefits for tourism and the local economy. John Tanner, from the Peak District Dark Skies Group, said: “The weekend was great success. Luckily we had several hours clear skies on both nights, so most people had plenty of opportunities to observe and use lots of different types of telescopes, binoculars and cameras, with some stunning results.

“The daytime events were also very successful, with some very interesting talks from several eminent astronomers.”

Pictured: The image shows the Andromeda galaxy, a spiral galaxy situated some 2.5 million light-years away, that is very similar to our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Normally, the Andromeda galaxy is difficult to observe due to the effects of light pollution, but the dark skies of the Peak District mean that it is visible even to the naked eye. This black and white image was taken by Paul Cannon at the Peak Star Party using a camera that ‘looked’ at the sky for a total of two minutes.