A STAR-STUDDED evening is in store at a Northumberland country estate as astronomers discuss, ‘Where are the aliens?’.
The star-gazing night will take place at Meldon Park Kitchen Garden Cafe next month when beginners and experienced astronomers alike will be invited to explore the skies.
Telescopes will be set up for visitors to search for planets.
And Dr Adrian Jannetta, who is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Training Officer with the Northumberland Astronomical Society (NASTRO), will be guest speaker for the evening.
He said: “Because it is surrounded by wide-open countryside, Meldon is the perfect location. It is away from street lights and houses so you can have a good view of the sky.
“We will give a short lecture on planets being discovered around stars and attempt to answer the question that if there are so many places for life to exist, why aren’t we in contact with other forms of life?
“Although astronomers speculate that habitable planets are commonplace in the Milky Way, there is no evidence to suggest life exists beyond Earth — a paradox I’ll discuss at Meldon.
“October is a brilliant time to see the Milky Way and lots of star clusters and nebulas. I can show people some stars where planets have been spotted orbiting around them. It will be an interactive night as there will be a Q&A session and people will be invited to give us feedback on their ideas.
“There is a lot of interest in the subject and everyone is very curious about the night sky and the big questions about where we come from.”
The event has been organised by Meldon Park estate owners James and Emily Cookson to raise funds for NASTRO to help support its educational work and purpose-built observatory at Hauxley Nature Reserve as the group’s only sources of income are from donations and holding talks and observing sessions.
There will be no charge for the Meldon evening, but collection buckets will be there for donations.
Dr Jannetta said: “The event at the Kitchen Garden Cafe will help us to continue education and the work we do with children, who are fascinated by astronomy.
“Our biggest outgoing is on insurance for the observatory and we have also recently had to replace a projector we use for presentations.”
The fund-raising event is being supported by BBC Look North weather presenter Hannah Bayman, a keen astronomer who is studying for a degree in the subject.
She said: “Now is a great time to have a go at star-gazing as the nights are getting longer, but it’s not too cold after dark yet.
“In the last few years more and more planets like our own have been discovered orbiting other stars, which I think is one of the most exciting developments in astronomy. Dr Jannetta and the Nastronomers will help show you where to look to find our alien neighbours. Now all we need is good weather.”
The North of England boasts some of the darkest skies in Europe, making ideal conditions for exploring astronomy.
The star-gazing event takes place at Meldon Park on Saturday, October 5, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Refreshments will be available.
While entry is free, donations are invited and booking is essential. To book a place at the session, telephone 01670 772341 or email firstname.lastname@example.org