THE wonders of the night sky will be brought into the nation’s living rooms during the February half term courtesy of a virtual Dark Skies Festival programme created by the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks together with Go Stargazing.

With the national lockdown stopping people travelling for the annual festival, the national parks, which were both awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status in December, have turned to webinars and zoom meet-ups for a virtual event.

Among the line-up of speakers will be scientists sharing the latest cosmic discoveries and upcoming developments in space including the landing of NASA’s spacecraft on Mars on February 18.

Astronomers will take viewers on stargazing and ‘moon watching safaris’ before encouraging people to step outside their front doors and look up for their own DIY tour of the night sky.

As the full moon appears in the second week of the virtual festival, experts are planning a live moon watch with an informal questions and answers session for those keen to understand more about the lunar landscape in front of their eyes.

On other evenings people will be able to watch wildlife and conservation experts as they share why it’s so important to conserve the night skies and prevent the spread of light pollution particularly to protect wildlife species such as moths and hedgehogs.

Together with photographers sharing tips on taking astro images, early evening sessions aimed at capturing youngsters’ imaginations and both national parks sharing images and film footage of their pristine dark skies, it is hoped the virtual festival will also act as a ‘teaser’ for when people can once again visit the UK’s largest dark sky reserve area covering 3,500 square kilometres of northern England.

Already there are plans to stage a second fringe festival for all-things dark skies during the autumn half-term in October before the main annual festival hopefully returns next year. Many businesses also offer dark sky events.

Helen Dalton, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park comments: “We first introduced a small virtual programme of events during last October’s fringe festival and had a considerable audience so we’re confident that a similar format on a larger scale this February will be even more popular particularly as it will help fire people’s imaginations to go outside and view the skies above where they live.”

It will run from February 12 to February 28 and will be a mix of free and paid for events. Visit: