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South Downs Centre - Temporary Closure

The South Downs Centre in Midhurst is temporarily closed to visitors but our team are still on hand to answer your calls and emails.

Programme for 2021 South Downs Dark Skies Festival

Programme for 2021 South Downs Dark Skies Festival

12-28 February – ‘My Dark Skies’

  • Sign up for our ‘Big Dark Skies Quiz’ to win your very own telescope and other fantastic prizes
  • Visit our Dark Night Skies Pinterest Board to download colouring sheets of nocturnal wildlife and the planets, including one of the Mars rover landing! 
  • Download a PDF version of the festival programme
  • Want to learn more about what life is like on the International Space Station? Ever wondered what it’s like to work in micro-gravity, or how to make your very own space rocket? Tune in to The Novium’s Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our YouTube channel, during the Dark Skies Festival for a series of Space videos, story-telling and craft activities! Just search @TheNovium and have fun!
  • You can also contribute to an important citizen science project by taking part in the CPRE’s annual star-count  which asks the nation to measure the light pollution in their area by counting visible stars in the constellation Orion between the dates of the 6 -14 February.

How to watch?

All the Festival videos will be available to watch either on the South Downs National Park Facebook page or Instagram channel unless otherwise stated.

Just switch over to the channels at the time the videos are due to start.

  • Friday 12 February

    10.00 am: Short Film ‘South Downs Dark Skies Festival Launch’ with ‘Dark Skies Dan’ – Dan Oakley, Dark Skies Lead for the South Downs National Park welcomes you to this year’s festival.

    Although we can’t travel to observe the stars this year there are still stars you can see and wildlife you can hear from your own gardens and local spaces. Dan will be telling us about all the things we have to look forward to in this year’s two-week festival.

    7.00 pm: Real-time Tour of the Night Sky direct from the South Downs Planetarium with Dr John Mason – find out what’s going on in the sky tonight!

    With the planetarium set up exactly as the sky would will be at this moment in time, Dr John Mason will talk you through the constellations you can see from your garden, back doorstep or window and some of the myths and legends that go with them.

  • Saturday 13 February

    10.00 am: Short Film ‘Embracing the Darkness’ The South Downs National Park’s journey to becoming an International Dark Sky Reserve.

    Learn how the South Downs National Park was judged to be worthy of this important global designation and the work that now takes place to raise its profile and keep our night skies dark enough for our children to see the Milky Way.

  • Monday 15 February

    5.15 pm: Facebook Live ‘Stargazing at Home’ with South Downs National Park Rangers, Charles and Kate, setting up for an evening of stargazing in their back garden and looking at simple things you can do to help nocturnal wildlife.

    We can’t travel into the National Park this year but there is still a lot to be learnt from watching the stars from your garden or back doorstep. Charles and Kate chat about how they’re going to watch the night sky from home and show us what they have done in their own garden to encourage nocturnal wildlife to feel at home.

  • Tuesday 16 February

    7.00pm: Instagram Live ‘The Human Cosmos – A Secret History of the Stars’ Author Jo Marchant chats to South Downs National Park Cultural Heritage Lead, Anooshka Rawden, about her new book tracing humanity’s enduring relationship with the stars.

    From early cave paintings to the efforts of scientists to discover if early life-forms existed on Mars this fascinating book is a must for anyone interested in the science and culture around our ever changing relationship with the stars. In this live interview Jo talks to Anooshka about what inspired her to write this book and why she thinks it is important for us to reconnect with night skies now.

  • Wednesday 17 February

    7.00 pm: Real-time Tour of the Night Sky with a focus on Mars ahead of the NASA rover ‘Perseverance’ Mars landing (the following day), direct from the South Downs Planetarium with Dr John Mason

    Dr John Mason takes us on another tour of the night sky as it is at this time on this evening, before homing in on the planet Mars, to explore why it is of such interest to NASA scientists and what they are hoping to discovering from the latest Mars landing

  • Friday 19 February

    6.00pm: Facebook Live Question and Answer with Dr John Mason – a chance to ask questions about the Mars landing or any other astronomy related subject

    A chance to put your questions to the expert. Dr John Mason will be live on Facebook to answer your questions as they come in, or if you want to submit a question in advance email them to darkskiesfestival@southdowns.gov.uk  To help John frame his answer at the right level, it would be helpful to know your age (if you are a youngster) and whereabouts you live

  • Saturday 20 February

    10.00 am: Short Film ‘My Dark Skies – Your National Park’ featuring author and South Downs National Park Custodian, Tiffany Francis- Baker

    Local author and South Downs National Park Custodian for Storytelling, Tiffany Francis – Baker explores the night time landscapes of the South Downs and explains why it is so good to experience and interact with both the natural and the physical world around us

  • Tuesday 23 February

    7.00pm: Instagram Live ‘Dark Skies – A Journey into the Wild Night’ Author Tiffany Francis-Baker chats to South Downs National Park’s cultural Heritage Lead, Anooshka Rawden about exploring the nocturnal landscapes of the South Downs and other places.

    Walking at night brings a whole host of new experiences and emotions. Anooshka chats with Tiffany about their shared love of exploring the National Park at night

  • Wednesday 24 February

    7.00 pm: Real-time Tour of the Night Sky from the South Downs Planetarium with Professor John Mason – – find out what’s going in the sky tonight!

    Dr Mason’s final tour of the night sky to show you what constellations and planets you can see at this very moment.

  • Thursday 25 February

    5.30 pm: Facebook Live ‘Nocturnal Wildlife Walk’ with South Downs National Park Ranger, Jan, and Sussex Bat Group’s Kim Dawson as they take an evening walk around their local village.

    A whole new community of wildlife comes out after the sun goes down. In this live event Kim and Jan go for a walk at dusk to see what sights and sounds of nocturnal wildlife they can see and hear.

    Download the nocturnal wildlife colouring sheets: Barn owl; hedgehogs; and, badgers

  • Friday 26 February

    10.00 am: Photo and Footage Roundup – a collection of the photos and film clips you have sent us over the festival fortnight

    This festival is themed ‘My Dark Skies’ and we would love you to send us photos and film clips of the night sky or nocturnal wildlife in your local area. Here we will be looking at some of your ‘best bits.’

    You can send your videos and images to comms@southdowns.gov.uk

  • Saturday 27 February

    10.00 am: Short Film ‘Let’s Take Care of our Dark Skies’ with South Downs National Park’s ‘Dark Skies Dan’ –   what we can all do to keep our wonderful starry skies dark

    Dan closes the Festival by reminding us of things we can all do to make sure that we keep our star-studded skies safe from light pollution for the next generation to enjoy.

  • Sunday 28 February

    Astrophotography ‘People’s Choice Award’ voting opens

    Throughout the fortnight of the festival we have been showcasing the winners and runners-up in three classes of the South Downs Astrophotography competition held earlier this winter: ‘South Downs Skyscapes, Our Magnificent Moon and Living Dark Skies: people and nature. It is now time to vote for your favourite in the popular ‘People’s Choice’ award.


" The Downs...too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness. "