STARGAZERS are setting their sights on the clear skies of the North Pennines for a now third year of stellar viewing activities later this year.

But with the 50th anniversary of the first man to set foot on the moon falling today the programme for this year’s North Pennines Stargazing Festival is being released to coincide with the milestone in space travel.

The return of the sell-out festival has been pencilled in for the half-term holiday week, from October 23 to November 3.

But in the wake of the half-century landmark of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon’s surface, events in the 2019 stargazing festival are designed to celebrate and mark the pioneering Apollo XI lunar mission, of 1969.

The programme will include moon talks, family moon trails and moon-themed planetarium shows, alongside broader astronomical subjects, space-orientated talks, as well as stargazing opportunities.

New features this year will be a night skies run, taking in the High Force waterfall in Teesdale, and a ‘Star-E-bike’ adventure at Derwent Waterside Park, near Edmundbyers.

This year’s festival package brings a packed programme of informative events to a variety of venues, all spanning the school autumn half-term holidays for the neighbouring counties of Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria.

It includes activities for more experienced stargazers alongside events for novices, children and families.

Among the highlights are a screening of CAPCOM GO! The Apollo Story, in Pop-up Planetarium events, in Hexham, Barnard Castle and Alston, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic first manned lunar mission.

There will also be night photography workshops at High Force, the Bowes Museum, Raby Castle and at the Lord Crewe Arms, at Blanchland.

The return of the two-night Star Camp at Doe Park Caravan Site, in Cotherstone, Teesdale, with astronomy expert Richard Darn is expected to prove popular once again.

Skywatch events are once more scheduled to take place at Killhope Lead Mining Museum, in Upper Weardale, and Nenthead Mines, on the Cumbrian side of the county boundary.

New venues at Talkin Tarn County Park, in Cumbria, and at Tan Hill are added to this year’s programme.

Sell-out Stargazing Suppers are also making a welcome return to the Lord Crewe Arms with Andy Gray and Gary Lintern.

Shane Harris, tourism lead of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), said: “The festival was fully booked last year and we hope that our events for 2019 will be as popular.

“We have a wide range of events spread across the whole of the North Pennines.”

Organised by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, the festival is supported by Visit County Durham, Northumberland County Council and Carlisle City Council.

Would be visitors should turn to to discover the full festival programme.