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Twinkle, twinkle, lots of stars - stargazing at RSPB Bempton Cliffs

Last modified: 03 January 2013

Cloudy sky at sunset, Strathspey, Scotland

The skies above the cliffs are an ideal spot for viewing the planets and stars.

Image: Andy Hay

TV viewers who have booked a place on the sofa for BBC Stargazing Live in early January, might also want to book a date in the diary for a visit to RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Hot on the heels of the popular TV programme, experts from Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society (S&RAS) will be setting up their telescopes on the cliff tops at the nature reserve, between Bridlington and Filey, on Saturday 12 January from 7.30pm. 

Ian Kendall, site manager at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, said: “The big skies above the cliffs are particularly dark, being so far away from artificial light sources, making them an ideal spot for viewing the planets and stars.

“We are all used to watching wildlife at the nature reserve, as well as marvelling at the grandeur of the cliffs and crashing seas. Turning our eyes towards the stars will be a real treat.”

Andy Exton, from S&RAS, is looking forward to the prospect of bringing the wonders of the universe to a new audience.

“Working together with the RSPB means we can introduce people with an interest in wildlife to a different aspect of the natural world,” he said.

And it promises to be a good night to be out with a telescope.  Weather permitting, there will be plenty to see. The winter constellations of Taurus, Orion, Auriga, Gemini and Cancer will be visible, along with the Orion Nebula, which is the ‘sword’ below Orion’s Belt. 

Visitors will also be able to see the Seven Sisters (or Pleiades) and Jupiter will also be visible with the Galilean Satellites, so it should be a spectacular show.

It will even be possible to see the Andromeda Galaxy, a close neighbour to our own Milky Way. At around 2.5 million light years away, this is the most distant object visible to the naked eye. 

“It might interest visitors to know that stars don’t actually twinkle.  Twinkling, or stellar scintillation, is an effect caused by light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Andy, who has promised there will be more secrets to be revealed on the night.

Booking is essential. To book a place, call 01262 851179.   Both entry to the event, and parking is free.  Please bring a torch and wear sensible shoes or boots. Soup and other refreshments will also be available for a small charge.

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