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Stargazing live in Hamsterley Forest

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The Universe is set to come a lot closer for everyone in the New Year!

The Forestry Commission has linked up with Sunderland Astronomical Society to stage a Nightwatch event in 2,000 hectare (5,000 acre) Hamsterley Forest on Saturday 8 January 2011 as part of the BBC's Stargazing Live event.

The woodland, near Bishop Auckland, has some of the best dark skies in County Durham, thanks to the absence of street lights. 

Now it will be the launch pad for a real life version of star trek has powerful telescopes swing into action revealing distant galaxies, glittering star clusters and giant planets Jupiter and Uranus.

Ranger Neil Taylor explained:

"The BBC is running it's Stargazing Live event to encourage more people to experience the wonder of the heavens. At Hamsterley we have the perfect dark conditions, making celestial showpiece objects stand out against a velvet black background."

To book a place on the Nightwatch call 01388 412388.  The cost is £5 adults, £4 concessions and £14 family ticket (four people) and the event gets underway at 6.30pm meeting at Hamsterley Forest Visitor Centre.

The last astronomy event in Hamsterley attracted more than 100 people who witnessed a total lunar eclipse in 2007.

Notes to Editor

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit

Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351.  Mobile 0775 367 0038.