‘A global top spot for stars’
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/