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Embrace the darkness and win £100 as South Downs photo competition returns



Embrace the darkness and win £100 as South Downs photo competition returns

A snow covered church in the middle of a field with the milky way behind it
‘Snow in Springtime’ by Neil Jones, winner of South Downs Dark Skyscapes in 2021/2022  competition

Autumn and winter bring shorter days for exploring the South Downs, but the night-time offers its own dazzling display of the natural world.

Now the National Park is asking people to capture the awesome wonders of the night sky as the popular astrophotography competition returns for its third year.

As one of only 20 International Dark Sky Reserves, the National Park is one the best places to stargaze in the UK.

This year photographers have the chance of winning up to £100 for a breathtaking image in either of the two categories:

‘Starry Crab’ by Anthony Whitbourn

South Downs Dark Skyscapes – Can you capture a dramatic photograph of the landscape showing the cosmos above it?

Nature At Night – Can you capture an amazing shot of living things in the National Park? This could include wildlife, people, trees or plants!

The runner-up prize in each category will be £75 and all submitted images must be taken within the South Downs National Park.

A selection of photos submitted in the contest will be shared throughout the National Park’s Dark Skies Festival next February. Details of the festival will be announced at a later date.

Judging the contest will be “Dark Skies” Dan Oakley, a Lead Ranger for the National Park, Steve Broadbent, Chairman of Hampshire Astronomical Group, and Vanessa Rowlands, Chair of the National Park Authority.

Dan said: “We’re into the season of longer nights and it’s the perfect time to go out and stargaze in the South Downs National Park.

“The National Park is actually one of the best places to stargaze in the world and it’s quite amazing when you consider how close we are to big cities such as London, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton.

“We have 10 Dark Sky Discovery sites in the National Park and they are the perfect spots for admiring some immense views of the universe. Just be sure to pack a hot drink, a blanket and some warm clothes!

“The standard of the competition has been terrific in the past and we’re looking forward to seeing what this year brings, whether you’re a seasoned astrophotographer or embracing the darkness for the first time! Good luck to all participants in the contest.”

The deadline for entries to the competition is midnight on Wednesday, 11 January.

Details of the Dark Sky Discovery Sites can be found at www.southdowns.gov.uk/dark-night-skies/where-to-stargaze.

For entry details and to download an application form visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/AstroPhotoComp

Here are some top tips to help you make the most of stargazing in the South Downs:

  • Check the phase of the moon to plan your trip – stargazing is best before a full moon
  • Take a blanket or mat to lie on
  • Wrap up warm
  • Take some snacks and a hot drink
  • Take a compass or use the one on your smart phone
  • Download a star gazing app to help you identify constellations and stars
  • Allow time for your eyes to adjust – this takes around 20 minutes so turn off any lights, torches and preferably put your mobile phone away (at least when not taking pictures if you are using it to photograph)
  • Leave no trace – remember to take any rubbish home with you.