The towns and villages bordering Ireland’s only dark sky park are teaming up once again to organise the fifth annual Mayo Dark Sky Festival, which takes place on October 31st next. The 2020 Festival will be a little different of course, as it will take place online, respecting current Covid-19 restrictions.
In previous years, the festival has featured talks on physics, culture and the environment, family friendly science workshops, as well as walks, stargazing sessions – and more than a little magic!
The hardworking team behind the popular festival has put together an exciting online programme which will include innovative ways of celebrating the stunning dark skies of Mayo.
According to festival director, Fiona Hopkins: "We certainly will miss welcoming people in person to events here in Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy – but we think this new format offers great scope for combining creativity and technology to bring the magic of Mayo’s skies to the world - and all events are free of charge this year."
The day will start with a fascinating virtual journey through the Nephin Beg Mountains by local guide Michael Chambers, telling the tale of how a hike through those mountains led to the discovery of priceless artefacts. His findings remained undisturbed for thousands of years and are a window into some of the rituals of ancient Ireland.
Also on the programme will be the renowned botanist and broadcaster, Éanna ní Lamhna, in conversation with Dara McAnulty, the youngest ever winner of the Wainwright prize for nature writing.
The day will finish with a guided online tour of the night sky led by Dr Niall Smith of Blackrock Castle Observatory, encouraging everyone to get outside and look up at the wonders above.
Fiona outlined the reasons behind the annual festival, saying: "We really want to share our passion for the pristine night skies of Mayo with as many people as possible.
"Clear unpolluted skies are now, sadly, a rarity - the Milky Way is so obscured by the effects of modern lighting that it is no longer visible to over 50 per cent of Irish people – and that figure is as high as 80 per cent in mainland Europe and The US. Mayo Dark Sky Park is a stunning natural asset that we are only now beginning to truly appreciate.”
The one day festival will take place on Saturday, October 31. The full programme of online events is available on the festival website at www.mayodarkskyfestival.ie