New art experiences, simulated space walks and a recently-opened constellation trail will all be part of this year’s Dark Skies Festival.

The annual event which showcases the International Dark Sky Reserves above the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, runs from February 9 to 25.

A number of artists have come up with creative ways that people can enjoy the dark skies and be inspired to create their own pieces of art.

For instance electronic dance poets Claire Hind and Robert Wilsmore will walk with a group after dark along Blakey Ridge before reaching a place to listen to the duo’s creative score, The Long Dead Stars, inspired by the North York Moors landscape. During the return walk people will be encouraged to write their own material using performance writing techniques.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Aurora Borealis above Reeth Yorkshire Dales National Park

There are also several new starry night watercolour workshops being run by artist Ione Harrison at locations including Helmsley and Nunnington, while talented photographers will share how to create nightscape and astro images at locations such as Castle Howard and Whitby.

Subscribe to the Darlington & Stockton Times for just £3 for 3 months

Those who are in awe of space travel can experience how NASA uses underground cave systems to help train astronauts by heading to Stump Cross Caverns in Nidderdale and follow in the footsteps of a rocket scientist who once spent 105 days in the subterranean environment collating data that helped advance space science.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Cygnus and Andromeda over Newton Dale, by Brinton Darnell

Parents with younger children can try the new permanent dark skies themed trail at either Sutton Bank or Danby Lodge National Park Centres. Alternatively there’s the Planet Trail at Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales where youngsters can learn fun facts about the universe while spotting planets in the woods.

This year there are several new locations for the festival's astronomy evenings, including Birkdale Farm at Terrington in the Howardian Hills, Ashes Farm near Ribblehead Viaduct and a weekend combining stargazing with yoga, hiking and live music at Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg.

Mountain Goat is laying on a special minibus journey touring popular spots in the Yorkshire Dales during an afternoon before ending up at Bolton Castle, near Leyburn, as darkness falls for a stargazing safari.

Astrophysicist Professor Carole Haswell, from Saltburn, will also be holding an online interactive presentation, while Sutton Bank Bikes will host a night bike ride. In the Yorkshire Dales, Stage 1 Cycles will be running an afternoon cycling and planet pizza making event and an evening’s mountain biking.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Jack Rear at the Dark Skies Observatory Sutton Bank. Charlotte Graham

Activity-seekers can also join a night run at Reeth or go on a dark skies walking adventure in the company of experienced guides at beauty spots such as Rievaulx Abbey, Robin Hood’s Bay, the Hole of Horcum or the Wainstones.

Phoebe Smith, marketing assistant for the North York Moors National Park, said: “This will be the ninth Dark Skies Festival since we organised the first event back in February 2016 and it is safe to say it has now become a popular annual fixture for so many people because of the broad range of events that appeal to all ages.”

The events are individually priced and some are free. See for more details.