BBC Stargazing Live returns with astronomical plans for UK museums and galleries

| 07 January 2013
A photo of a boy looking through a small blue telescope inside a museum

Event Preview: BBC Stargazing LIVE, various venues, until January 13 2013 (continues throughout year)

It seems, looking at the National Maritime Museum’s plans for the latest round of Stargazing, that curators in Greenwich might have pulled out all the stops, lest anyone thought the meridian lines beneath their foundations might be eclipsed for one night.

The Flamsteed Astronomy Society will be there to lead astrophotography workshops, planetarium shows will illuminate the hallowed arches of the Royal Observatory’s animation space, and – in a partnership you’d be forgiven for previously finding improbable – NASA and the UK Space Agency are laying on “Mission X activities” in the company of JJ Jegede, the British long-jump champion.

The expectation stakes have clearly been raised by the success of last year’s festival, which saw more than 113,000 people peer through lenses or help their kids enjoy events across the land.

Professor Brian Cox is on-board again, and loads of well-loved venues are involved, all of whom, we should advise, are very keen on warm clothing.

At Heaton Park, the resident Astronomy Group is hoping to spot the International Space Station. At the National Trust’s Tyntesfield, near Bristol, they’re throwing a Star Party.

A view from the roof of the New Lanark World Heritage Site – courtesy of the Clydesdale Astronomical Society and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – also seems highly promising, as does a night at Hardwick Hall, the Elizabethan country house in Chesterfield.

“During the last series amateur stargazers were hunting for planets,” explains Cox, whose angular features spearhead the BBC’s campaign, given witty accompaniment by comedian Dara O'Briain in a series of interstellar broadcasts on BBC Two.

“This year we will be hunting for asteroids and strange ‘spider’-like features on Mars. Everyone can get involved and you never know what we will find – there are so many possibilities out there.”

It’s not all nocturnal fare: National Museum Cardiff is holding a full day of free activities on Saturday, including talks on extra-terrestrial possibilities and comparisons between the telescopes used by Galileo and Newton and the high-tech ones deployed today.

The Yorkshire Museum and Gardens, meanwhile, are lining up a bank of telescopes, accompanied by a Cosmodome where visitors can take ten-minute trips around the solar system.

“Last year’s event was a real success,” points out Helen Young, the Museum Manager, having seen more than 3,000 people turn out.

“This year we have organised a wide range of events for people to enjoy and learn about the magic of the night sky.”

Five to see:

A photo of a boy looking through the lens of a small blue telescope inside a museum
© National Museum Wales

Stars and Stories of Winter

Thinktank Planetarium, Birmingham

A “cultural dance”, interpreting the Orion constellation, precedes a question-and-answer session. The show highlights easily visible stars.

Stargazing Live

Glasgow Botanic Gardens and The Auditorium, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Expert-led sessions, satellite demos, mini-rocket building and a mobile planetarium, informed by nine groups including Glasgow Science Centre and Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory.

Stargazing in the Planetarium

World Museum Liverpool, Liverpool

Late-night opening of the perfectly-placed, dome-roofed World Museum, with eight-inch telescopes on the balconies, expert tours and craft activities in the Space and Time Gallery.

Stargazing at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth

Even among some exalted company, the Dockyard is one of the more eye-catching places taking part. Discussions, talks and activities focus on maps and navigation near some of the famous vessels which once relied on them.

A Night with the Stars

St Kentigern's Parish Centre, Blackpool

Videos on space, telescopes and the chance to drive a Mars Rover courtesy of Blackpool and District Astronomical Society, who will be hoping the weather proves atypical for a January night in Lancashire.
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