A fabulous exhibition featuring images of the night sky above Bowland can currently be seen at Clitheroe Castle

From the winter constellation of Orion to the magical sight of a meteor shower and the fabulous sweep of the Milky Way, the skies above Bowland are filled with wonder – and look amazing when captured on camera.

The Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership and Clitheroe Castle Museum are celebrating the area’s celestial beauty with a special exhibition. And as part of the fourth Bowland Dark Skies Festival, they invited people to submit their very own night-sky photographs for inclusion.

Manager of Clitheroe Castle Museum, Claire Sutton, explains: “We have a fantastic gallery space here at the museum and we’re really excited to be hosting this brand-new exhibition.”

Images taken by amateur and experienced photographers have been selected for the exhibition and are truly stunning.

Dark skies expert and photographer Robert Ince, who is showing his work in the exhibition, has been involved in developing various Dark Skies projects in Bowland from the start, running workshops for tourism businesses, raising awareness about light pollution and delivering a range of stargazing and night sky photography courses as part of Festival Bowland.

Speaking about the exhibition Robert says: “In the Forest of Bowland we are so lucky to have amazing, relatively light pollution-free skies and with the abundance of local photographical talent we have enjoyed some amazing astro-photography as part of the exhibition. The standard has been so high, featuring the Milky Way, galaxies, meteors, star trails and more.

“My own shots were all taken in the Gisburn forest area with a Canon DSLR and a wide angle lens but you can even take similar images with a smartphone!”

Hetty Byrne, Sustainable Tourism Officer with the Forest of Bowland adds: “We’re lucky to have such dark skies here in Bowland and it’s great when people take the opportunity to get out and enjoy them. We hope this exhibition will help to show just how special Bowland is once the sun has set – and how important it is that we help to keep it that way.”

Truly dark skies are becoming increasingly rare as light pollution from towns and cities dilutes the blackness of night obscuring the stars for much of the population.

In 21st century Britain, many town and city dwellers may never have seen the Milky Way – our home galaxy – and will only catch the faintest glimpse of a handful of the brightest stars.

The night skies over Bowland have been recognised as some of the darkest in England and on a clear cloud-free and ideally moonless night, the skies 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.

And as well as these 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 are visible at various times of the year, as are more distant objects like the Orion Nebula and the Great Galaxy in Andromeda.

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

The Forest of Bowland AONB has five designated Dark Sky Discovery sites that include Beacon Fell Country Park and Gisburn Forest Hub.

Speaking about the exhibition Sandra Silk of the Forest of Bowland AONB, adds: “The standard of entries for our first Bowland Dark Skies Exhibition with Clitheroe Castle Museum has been so impressive. The photographers have captured such a fantastic range of images, from nebulae to brooding, fell-top sculptures – no easy feat given the unpredictability of the weather here in Bowland. The Stewards Gallery at the Castle will be a great setting for them.”

The Dark Skies Exhibition at Clitheroe Castle will run until late May and admission to the gallery is free




Tedd Walmsley

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