Families invited to explore the shining night sky above West Norfolk

Peering through his telescope in his back garden, this is one of the many wonders astronomy enthusiast Bill Mathis has captured in the night sky above West Norfolk.

The Downham Market resident is a member of the King's Lynn and District Astronomy Society which is gearing up to host a family stargazing event at Tottenhill Village Hall later this month.

The free event is being held next Saturday to coincide with the return of BBC2's Stargazing Live and it is hoped both will spark a new generation of stargazers in the borough.

Mr Mathis said: 'Following the BBC Stargazing Live show last year, there were a lot of people looking up their local astronomy societies so we thought it would be good to host this family event just after the show.

'We will introduce people to astronomy and I think people will be amazed at what is very visible with a medium spec telescope.

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'Even with a pair of binoculars you can see the andromeda galaxy, the Seven Sisters and even the Orion Nebula but, of course, the better the telescope, the deeper you can go into space.'

The society has been running for three years and currently has around 40 members.

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But it is hoped more people will join following next weekend's event, which will run between 4pm and 9pm, after they gaze through telescopes and have the night sky interpreted for them by members of the society.

Mr Mathis continued: 'I think people are very interested in what's out there while trying to comprehend just how big the things they are seeing really are.

'Space is the next frontier for us. We've explored almost every part of our planet and we've started exploring our local neighbours but we really want to know more about what's beyond our solar system and galaxy.'

He added: 'Tottenhill is a brilliant place to explore the night sky because it is a very dark location and there isn't much light pollution.'

The astronomy society's chairman Richard Last said there is a 'full range' of things to see in the night sky above West Norfolk.

But he warned gazing through telescopes at next weekend's event will depend on the weather.

He added: 'It all depends on whether or not we have a clear sky but we will also be having displays of the equipment we use as well as giving people a visual tour around the solar system.

'Our members will also be on hand to answer any questions like how long does it take Jupiter to rotate on its axis.'

He continued: 'I think the increase in interest in astronomy is down to the BBC's Stargazing Live project and the likes of Brian Cox presenting it. Dr Cox is popular with the public because he puts complicated subjects into simple terms.'

For more information about the King's Lynn and District Astronomy Society visit www.westnorfolkastro.co.uk

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