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Read our tips on staying safe as you enjoy the South Downs National Park.

Win £150 prize by capturing incredible beauty of night sky

Win £150 prize by capturing incredible beauty of night sky

November 4, 2020

The enchanting Dark Skies of the South Downs National Park will be celebrated this autumn and winter with an awesome astrophotography competition.

As the clocks go back and the cosmos comes into view earlier in the evening, people are being invited to capture the beauty of the night sky in and around the National Park.

There are three categories available to enter:

  • South Downs Dark Skyscapes – an image that captures the star-studded Dark Skies of the South Downs National Park. Judges will be looking for awe-inspiring photography that shows off the landscape and/or cultural heritage and the dark skies above it!
  • Living Dark Skies: people and nature – any image that captures human or wildlife activity. Ideas include images of people stargazing, people running or walking under the cover of darkness, or images of nocturnal wildlife or trees at night.
  • Our Magnificent Moon – judges will be looking for breathtaking shots of our nearest neighbour in the solar system.

The South Downs Dark Skyscapes category must be taken in the South Downs, but there is no geographical limit on the two other categories and it’s hoped people living in towns and cities around the National Park will take part.

Please note that images can be taken any time since January 2018 and you can see the full terms and conditions here.

The first prize for each category will be £150, second prize is £75, and third prize is £50. Judging the contest will be Dan Oakley, “Dark Skies” Ranger for the National Park, Graham Bryant, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and Petersfield-based Tiffany Francis-Baker, author of Dark Skies.

The Milky Way over the Cuckmere by Jamie Fielding

Images submitted for the competition will be shared by the National Park Authority on social media during the annual Dark Skies Festival, which will take places from 12 to 28 February next year. The festival celebrates the National Park’s International Dark Sky Reserve status, which was awarded in 2016 and recognises the South Downs as one of the 16 best places in the world to view the moon and stars.

Dan said: “The Dark Skies status of the National Park is very special indeed. We have some of the best, and most accessible, views of the stars anywhere in the UK and it’s here to be gazed at and enjoyed by everyone.

“We’re really excited to be launching our first astrophotography contest and hope it inspires people about the wonders of the Dark Skies. Looking up and seeing those immense views of the universe is a really calming and mindful experience – something that’s perhaps needed now more than ever during these testing times.

“Whether it’s an awesome image of the moon from your garden, or a stunning shot of the South Downs at night, we hope people have fun capturing the beauty. It doesn’t matter if you’re seasoned astrophotographer or a total novice, we’re keen to see a range of photographs that show off the spectacle of the big universe out there.”

Please remember to stick to the Government guidelines around COVID-19 and being safe outside. Our advice is to plan your trip ahead and look to visit your local green space, rather than travelling long distances, as per the current government guidance.

Please wrap up warm and remember to take a warm drink! For other tips on taking pictures at night please visit

There are 10 Dark Skies Discovery Sites in the National Park and these are a good place to start stargazing and taking pictures:

Entries for the South Downs National Park Astrophotography Competition should be submitted by midnight on 10 January.

To download an application form please visit


Pic by Sam Moore