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Watch the stars come out while you stay in

Published on Friday 15 January 2021

January’s annual stargazing event at Alvaston Park has been a heavenly highlight for ten years, but in these different times it is going online, encouraging you to enjoy the winter skies from the comfort of your own home while staying safe – and importantly at this time of year, warm!

This year’s virtual event, run by Alvaston Park Friends and Derby Parks, runs from Sat 23 to Sun 31 January. Katie Smith from the Friends said: “January is always a tough month, and this January is going to be particularly hard. We really just want to brighten things up a bit with the beauty of the night sky. We will be encouraging people to decorate their windows with star-themed displays and hope that some of our online events will provide inspiration for that.

“This will be the 11th Alvaston Park Friends Star Party, and it is really wonderful that so many people have turned up to the park on cold winter evenings to be a part of these events in more normal times. This year at least people might be warmer as they enjoy our virtual star party at home.”

In line with current Government restrictions no activities will be taking place at the park this year. Everything has been planned for you to do without leaving home, so your garden or your window can be your portal to enjoying the night sky. Highlights include a short, live video for each day of the week, explaining how each day is named after a celestial object and saying a little about both the science and the mythology. 

Derby and District Astronomical Society (DDAS) will give a live video online introduction about what to see in the night sky, using the open source planetarium software Stellarium. This is free to download and use, and even has several telescope options – as if you were really viewing the stars through a telescope. The Society will also be doing some live video question and answer sessions.

Derby Museums are pre-recording videos to include a craft activity, and talks about two of its stellar artefacts, Joseph Wright’s Orrery painting and John Flamsteed and his Star Atlas. 

There will also be craft activities to enjoy at home, and local author Anne De Waal will read an excerpt from her new book, When the Stars Went On.

To complement the videos, Derby Libraries have come up with a selection of starry stories and inspiring non-fiction books for children of all ages, which members can access for free from the e-library, or order online to collect at Alvaston, Mickleover or Riverside libraries in line with current Government restrictions. Choices include: 

•    Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers 
•    The Star of the Zoo by Virginie Zurcher 
•    Ori’s Stars by Krystina Litten 
•    Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman 
•    Beyond the Stars – Short Stories edited by Sarah Webb
•    Stars and Galaxies by Isabel Thomas 
•    When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson 
•    Silvermane Saves the Stars by Daisy Meadows
•    The Sun and Stars by Ellen Labrecque 
•    Galaxies & Stars by Ian Graham

The events, which are all free and use the Crowdcast video platform, start at 6pm on Sat 23 Jan, with a live introduction followed by DDAS’ guide to using Stellarium to view the night sky. You can sign up now to watch. For full information about this year’s online star party and how to view the online events, see the event page on the InDerby website and the Alvaston Park Friends’ webpage.

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