700 students from Ilfracombe will be treated to a 360-degree immersive planetarium experience for the opening day of the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival next month (17 October), thanks to a generous donation from the Ilfracombe Rotary Club.
Inside a mobile planetarium, the children will be taken on a 3D journey around the wonders of the solar system by an experienced astronomer. A further two ticketed public planetarium sessions will take place at Ilfracombe Academy in the evening, followed by guided stargazing outside.
It’s hoped the experience will provide plenty of inspiration for entries to the Festival’s Dark Skies Poetry Competition. The winners, as judged by award-winning local poet Mark Totterdell, will receive prizes courtesy of Sunday Afternoons and Astronomy Now magazine for the following three age categories: under 11s, 11-15 and over 16s. Anyone wishing to enter should send their poem to firstname.lastname@example.org or ‘Dark Skies Poetry Competition, Exmoor House, Dulverton, TA22 9HL.’ The deadline is 17 November.
Exmoor National Park’s Katrina Munro, who is coordinating the Festival, said: “We hope the competition will inspire everyone to look up at our starry skies, identify planets and constellations and capture the sense of wonder that unfolds. There are ten prizes to be won and the winning poems will be put on public display around Exmoor.”
The pop-up planetarium will later appear at Dunster Tithe Barn on Saturday 3 November, alongside an astrophotography exhibition by Paul Howel of Pictor Images and a chance to try solar-gazing or star-gazing with Exmoor Stargazers. It’s one of 40 events set to take place at venues across the National Park from 17 October – 4 November, aimed at everyone from seasoned stargazers to beginners and families. The full programme is available from National Park Centres in Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth or at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival .
Katrina added: “We are extremely grateful to the Ilfracombe Rotary Club for their kind sponsorship, allowing so many school children to have this wonderful experience, and to our festival sponsors, AirBand. With so many events across the region, we hope to inspire as many people as possible to discover the thrill of gazing up at one of the country’s darkest skies.”