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The sky at night

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: January 07, 2014

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ASHBOURNE’S stargazers are being invited to learn more about the sky at night.

New information panels have been installed to give a guide to the night sky over the Peak District National Park.

The Dark Sky panels, which will be changed seasonally, can be found close to Arbor Low stone circle and Minninglow burial mound, where the position of the stars seemed significant to our Neolithic ancestors more than 4,000 years ago.

To help people appreciate the relation of these special sites to the stars, the panels are positioned at nearby National Park car parks which are easily accessible and on clear nights provide good conditions for stargazing.

The car parks are both beside the High Peak Trail at Parsley Hay and Minninglow.

Peak District Dark Skies co-ordinator Sue Smith said: “The national park’s night skies can be up to 15 times darker than nearby towns and cities so the stars are much more visible here.

“We hope people can use these panels to explore the universe and understand how the stars relate to these special landscapes.”

Interesting objects to look out for in the January southern night sky include the constellation Orion and planet Jupiter.

Orion the hunter is easily recognisable by his belt and sword, a line of three stars with three stars that ‘hang’ beneath it, while Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, appears as a bright pink star to the left of Orion.

Ms Smith said: “The Peak District’s dark skies mean that planets, constellations, meteor showers and even satellites can be seen with the naked eye or ordinary binoculars, an experience that can be rare nowadays in other parts of the UK.

“We’d like to thank Nottingham Trent University, part of the Peak District Dark Skies Group, which obtained funding and helped design the panels.

“The group includes professional and amateur astronomers with a keen interest in safeguarding the night skies in and surrounding the national park from inappropriate lighting.”

More information is available online at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/darkskies

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