Stargazers look to skies

STARs have held a fascination for us since long before Prof Brian Cox made studying the universe sexy.

For centuries we have been considering the mysteries of the night sky and what lies ‘out there’.

Lifelong stargazer Richard Darn believes it’s something to do with trying to figure out our place in space and time.

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He said: “Looking through a telescope can be truly gobsmacking and it gives you a sense of place in the universe.”

“It makes you feel quite humble.”

“I like looking for other galaxies and some are so far away they only look like a little fleck of light. But that galaxy will be full of billions of lights, it’s quite mind numbing to think what’s out there.”

Richard, 52, will be sharing his enthusiasm for the night sky when he hosts a stargazing event at Sherwood Pines Forest Park on 19th January.

The Forestry Commission has linked up with local astronomers to stage a glittering Nightwatch event in the 3,000-acre beauty spot, near Clipstone, as part of the BBC’s Stargazing Live series.

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Richard said it was a good spot because of the absence of street lighting.

He said light pollution spoiled people’s chances of appreciating starry skies in urban areas.

“Light pollution has got worse over the past ten years with things such as security lights, and supermarket car parks lit up. And as things have got brighter, you’re able to see fewer and fewer stars from your own back garden.”

“At Sherwood Pines you’re away from the worst effects of light pollution, so you can see more stars than you could from the middle of Worksop.”

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Richard has about five telescopes and thinks nothing of packing them into the car and driving for miles to find a suitably dark spot - even going as far as the USA.

“I have been star gazing in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii where there are observatories.”

“Closer to home there are some dark spots in Lincolnshire, the Peak District, North Yorkshire and Scotland.”

Richard said that looking at the sky might seem a bit geeky but that demand for stargazing events was incredibly high.

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“We get oversubscribed very quickly. It re-ignites my own enthusiasm when I do these events because people are just so amazed at what they see through the telescopes and they ask some really good questions.”

“We once looked at Saturn and could see all the rings, someone thought I’d stuck a picture on the lens because it was so sharp and clear.”

The highlight this month could well be Jupiter, currently riding high in the sky and promising the best viewing of it in recent years.

Richard’s own fascination with the stars began when he was a child and enthralled by Dr Who.

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Astronomy doesn’t seem to be taught in schools, I think I got ten minutes in a physics lesson, and yet there is an enormous amount of interest in it.”

“The sky is a really happening place. You can buy a telescope fairly cheaply and you only need to buy it once and it will show you amazing things for years.”

l Tickets are £5 and must be booked in advance by calling 01623 822447. The event gets underway at 7pm.

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