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Nestling in the heart of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, Redesdale offers you some of the darkest skies in England. Here, on a clear night, you can observe more than 2000 stars, including the magnificent Milky Way arching above you.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is so dark because there is very little light pollution unlike urban areas where light from building or street lights, strays into the night sky.
This Star Trail has been created to take you on a journey to the dark side, by visiting 5 dark sky sites in Redesdale that each tell a story of a particular constellation that you can see in the night sky.
At each of the sites, installed in mid December 2022, there is a stone built ‘Star Cairn’ structure. The top plate of each Cairn can be lit from below, by simply putting your mobile phone into the slot underneath it and allowing the low light to shine through, revealing a different constellation at each location.
Star Cairn Locations Around Redesdale
See our Discover Map of Redesdale for the locations of the 5 Star Cairns which are located at:
Byrness – in the field below St Francis Church.
Rochester – on the access path from the (A68) road to Rochester Roundhouse.
Otterburn – at the side of the Rede Tyne and Coquet Sports and Leisure Centre car park on the outskirts of Otterburn.
Elsdon – in the outside seating area behind the village hall. To access it you need to carefully walk round the narrow concrete path which skirts the outside of the hall; immediately to the left side of the building.
West Woodburn/Corsenside – at the side of the minor road which leaves the A68 immediately north and east of the A68 layby approximately 1 mile north of West Woodburn village, Grid ref NY894876, What3Words location dishes.statement.dote. Go down the minor road for approx 1/2 mile and the star cairn is located on the corner of the sharp right angle bend.
Otterburn Star Cairn shows:
THE PLOUGH & POLARIS – The seven brightest stars of the Ursa Major form the Plough, one of the best known star patterns (asterisms) in the night sky. The Plough has many names, including the Big Dipper, the Great Wagon, Saptarishi, and the Saucepan. Four stars define the ‘bowl’ and three define a ‘handle’. The two stars on the outside of the bowl are called the ‘pointer’ stars. You can follow the line made by them to find Polaris (North Star). Look above the north horizon but remember, the Plough rotates around the North Star and appears in different positions throughout the year.
Elsdon Star Cairn shows:
THE PLEIADES (Seven Sisters) – The Pleiades is known for its seven bright stars, nicknamed the Seven Sisters. In Greek Mythology, the Seven Sisters are daughters of Atlas and Pleione. During an ancient war, Atlas rebelled against Zeus, who sentenced Atlas to forever hold the heavens on his shoulders. Zeus allowed the sisters a place in the sky close to their father. Only six of the seven sisters are visible. To view the seventh, you will need a telescope.
Did you know? The brightest stars within the Pleiades were formed within the last 100 million years.
West Woodburn Star Cairn shows:
THE SUMMER TRIANGLE – The Summer Triangle is a notable pattern of stars (asterism) formed by the brightest stars of the northern constellations Lyra, Aquila and Cygnus. The Summer Triangle is visible for most of the year in the southern sky. But it’s summertime when it can be enjoyed in its full glory.
Did you know? Before the invention of GPS systems, the Summer Triangle was an essential orientation tool used by military navigators. They called it the Navigator’s Triangle.
Rochester Star Cairn shows:
ORION – Named after the hero of Greek mythology, it is one of the oldest constellations with roots in many ancient cultures. Taking the form of an hourglass-shaped pattern, Orion contains two of the brightest stars in the sky; Rigel (bottom right) and Betelgeuse (top left). Cutting across the centre are stars known as Orion’s Belt, along with stars that take the form of scabbard. With a pair of binoculars, you can see the Orion Nebulae half-way down the scabbard. Orion is best seen between October and March in the southern sky.
Byrness Star Cairn shows:
CASSIOPEIA – Named after the vain queen of Greek mythology, Cassiopeia can be spotted year-round. To pick her out, look for her zig-zag shape which resembles an ‘M’ or ‘W’. In some interpretations this distinctive shape is an eternal reminder of the queen’s treacherous attempt to have her daughter, Andromeda, eaten by a sea-monster. The formation is said to depict Cassiopeia chained to her throne, an act of revenge for chaining her own daughter to sea-cliffs.
Did you know? Cassiopeia contains the Pacman Nebula, a star-forming cloud that resembles the well-known gaming character.
Please remember: When stargazing, please be courteous to residents at night by keeping noise to a minimum and parking carefully and considerately. Use a red-light torch as white light reduces your natural ability to see the stars. Top tip – to create your own red-light torch paint red nail varnish on the lens of your torch (this is permanent).
It’s hoped these Star Cairns will inspire even more local Dark Skies and star gazing activities in the future to add to the existing Kielder Observatory, Battlesteads and the National Park’s Dark Skies activities.