‘A global top spot for stars’

West Sussex Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

The South Downs Na­tional Park is the sec­ond In­ter­na­tional Dark Skies Re­serve (IDSR) in Eng­land.

One of only 13 IDSRs in the world, it is one of its most ac­ces­si­ble as two mil­lion peo­ple are thought to live within five kilo­me­tres of the na­tional park.

The re­serve in­cludes a host of Dark Sky Dis­cov­ery Sites (DSDS), which are the most ac­ces­si­ble places in the na­tional park to view the night sky and are based on tens of thou­sands of mea­sure­ments of the qual­ity of the night sky and the lev­els of light.

Cur­rent sites range from Hamp­shire’s Bu­ri­ton, Hart­ing Down and Butser Hill to Iping Com­mon, Big­nor Hill and Bir­ling Gap in West Sus­sex, among oth­ers.

‘Dark Skies’ Dan Oakley, the na­tional park’s lead ranger, said a DSDS is a ‘great place’ to start star-gaz­ing and look­ing for the Milky Way.

Dan said: “The first thing is to get to the north side of the downs to block out light pol­lu­tion from the coast.

“The dark­est part of the Na­tional Park lies on the bor­der be­tween Hamp­shire and West Sus­sex - make sure that you’re at least 2 km from the street­lights of Peters­field, Mid­hurst and Pet­worth.” This year’s Dark Skies Fes­ti­val pro­vides an­other op­por­tu­nity to go stargaz­ing with over 30 events across the na­tional park.

They in­clude Stargaz­ing South Downs, a free, fam­i­lyfriendly oc­ca­sion with no book­ing re­quired, at 4pm to 8pm on Sat­ur­day, Fe­bru­ary 16 at Mid­hurst Rother Col­lege; Mon­day, Fe­bru­ary 18 at Peters­field’s Fes­ti­val Hall; and Wednes­day, Fe­bru­ary 20 at Lewes Town Hall.

In ad­di­tion to lec­tures on var­i­ous dates at the South Downs Plan­e­tar­ium, Chich­ester, events in­clude, among oth­ers: Fri­day, 15 Fe­bru­ary – Dead­wa­ter Val­ley Trust Sky at Night Tues­day, 19 Fe­bru­ary – Star Party at Pet­worth Park Tues­day, 19 Fe­bru­ary – Moon gaz­ing on Brighton Seafront Thurs­day, 21 Fe­bru­ary Stargaz­ing at Slin­don

Mon­day, 25 Fe­bru­ary Stargaz­ing and night hike to Bea­con Hill

Tues­day, 26 Fe­bru­ary - Star Party at Good­wood

Thurs­day, 28 Fe­bru­ary - Star Party at Old Winch­ester Hill Sat­ur­day, 2 March – Fam­ily friendly pup­pet work­shop at Iford

For full de­tails and to book tick­ets, please visit www. south­downs.gov.uk/en­joy/ events/dark-skies-fes­ti­val/

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