The night skies over Bowland have recently been recognized as some of the darkest in England and granted official status as Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

On a clear cloud-free and ideally moonless night, the skies above the Forest become home to all manner of legendary figures and mythical beasts. This is the domain of Pegasus, the winged horse, Taurus, the bull, Orion, the hunter, and Andromeda, a beautiful princess.

Most of these groups of stars or ‘constellations’ were identified and named by the world’s earliest astronomers from Ancient Greece or Babylon.

And as well as these often rather tenuous characters in the sky, there’s a whole host of other heavenly objects to look at. Many of the earth’s companion planets in the solar system: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are visible at various times of year, as are more distant objects like the Orion Nebula and the Great Galaxy in Andromeda.

The winter months, when the nights are longer and the skies are darker, tend to be the best time to stargaze, but events like the Perseids meteor shower in mid-August, when observers can see dozens of shooting stars an hour, also make a real celestial spectacle.

The Stargazers' Calendar

WINTER: the absolute best time of year, when the skies are darkest and the stars at their brightest – and children don’t need to stay up late to enjoy the spectacle. Look out for the Milky Way on moonless nights, stretching like a faint plume of smoke directly overhead.

SPRING: Warmer nights make for more comfortable viewing and long dark nights mean there’s still plenty to see. Look out for spring constellations like Leo and the Plough.

SUMMER: On the plus side, it’s warmer, but the sky doesn’t get properly dark during June and July, so wait until August when you should look out for the Perseids meteor shower around the 13th.

AUTUMN: Dark skies return and with them, your chance to see fainter objects like the Andromeda Galaxy – the furthest object from earth that is (just) visible with the naked eye. Look for a faint blotch in the sky just above the constellation of Pegasus on moonless nights.

A series of timelapses and images of the sky above the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, produced by amatuer astroner Robert Ince:

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Wood End Farm
Dunsop Bridge
Clitheroe
Lancashire
BB7 3BE

Tel: 07890609567 or 01200 448223

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