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Don’t be afraid of the dark!

Don’t be afraid of the dark!

February 9, 2024

Valley of Stars by Michael Harris

As diurnal creatures, we humans are probably pre-programmed to view darkness with a sense of both intrigue and fear.

One only has to look at our well-lit cities and towns to know how much safety and comfort light brings at night-time.

But seeing a dark sky, brimming with a cascade of stars and the Milky Way in all its limitless beauty, really is a sight that should be seen and enjoyed by everyone.

It’s now eight years since the South Downs National Park was made an International Dark Sky Reserve – and it’s as important now as it was in 2016.

We’re so lucky to have these star-studded skies that are relatively free of light pollution and offer so many stargazing opportunities for people of all ages.

And it’s not just people’s connection with nature on a galactic scale that we’re trying to protect.

Most birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are either nocturnal or crepuscular and the clear shift between night and day is vital for healthy ecosystems. As you may know, the National Park Authority has big ambitions for nature recovery and dark skies will be crucial for this.

We know stargazing may feel a little daunting to some and that’s why our Dark Skies Festival is the perfect introduction. We’ve got nine days of events taking place right across Hampshire and Sussex and it’s a chance to find out more about how to enjoy the dark skies and where the most accessible stargazing spots are.

I was recently at a space-related event at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard helping our events team and it struck me how many people were not aware of the International Dark Sky Reserve on their doorstep and how close it was.

It offers a different experience of a National Park and, if you visit on a clear night with the universe in all its glory, one you will not forget.

So, my message is simple: embrace the darkness!

 Tim Slaney,

Chief Executive (Interim) of National Park Authority

Tim at a recent stargazing event in Portsmouth to promote the dark skies of National Park