THE South Downs National Park’s popular astrophotography competition returns for its fourth year and is challenging people to capture a dazzling view of the night sky.

The park is one of 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world because of its particularly “dark” spots away from light pollution, with other reserves including Idaho, USA, and the River Murray in Australia.

This year photographers have the chance of winning up to £100 for the best image in one of three categories:

  • South Downs Starry Skyscapes – A dramatic star-studded photograph of the landscape showing the cosmos above it.
  • Nature At Night – Photos of living things in the National Park. This could include wildlife, people, trees, plants or fungi.
  • Magnificent Moon – Images of the moon should be alongside the landscape, buildings, towns, villages, cultural heritage or people in the South Downs.

Hampshire Chronicle: 2023 winner of Nature At Night2023 winner of Nature At Night (Image: Peter Brooks)

READ MORE: GALLERY: Winning photographs of the South Downs National Park's dark skies

Runners up will receive £50 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, from February 10 to 18. The theme of the festival is about protecting our dark skies and the line-up of events and activities will be announced in the New Year.

Judging the contest will be Dan Oakley, an expert on the South Downs International Dark Sky Reserve, astrophysicist and the national park’s events assistant Elinor Newman, and  Steve Broadbent, chairman of Hampshire Astronomical Group.

Hampshire Chronicle: Starry Skyscapes winner 2023Starry Skyscapes winner 2023 (Image: Richard Murray)

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Mr Oakley said: “The autumn and winter are the perfect time to go out and stargaze in the South Downs National Park. It’s always worth checking the weather forecast as you’ll see the most when cloud cover is minimal.

“To many people’s surprise, the South Downs 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 busy light-filled urban locations such as London, Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton and Farnham.

“We have 10 Dark Sky Discovery sites in the National Park and they are the perfect spots for stargazing, whether you’re a seasoned astrophotographer or trying it out for the first time. You’ll be amazed at just how much you can see with just the naked eye.”

Jan Knowlson, biodiversity officer for the national park, said: “While humans are diurnal, so many animals are nocturnal and live on a completely different time cycle. Around two thirds of all wildlife is most active at night, so having those dark skies with low light pollution and a clear shift from day into night is very important. In the South Downs countryside and gardens you may be lucky enough to spot foxes, owls, bats, hedgehogs and moths. We’ve even had a crab submitted to our Nature at Night category.”

The deadline for competition entries midnight on Friday, January 12.

For more on the Dark Sky Discovery Sites go to

And to enter the competition go to