THE winners of this year’s South Downs National Park astrophotography competition have been announced.

Almost 100 entries were submitted to the competition, which celebrates the park’s status as one of only 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. It stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne.

The contest was judged by Dan Oakley, an expert on the dark skies of the national park, Steve Broadbent, from Hampshire Astronomical Group, and Elinor Newman, an astrophysicist who works on the events team at the park.

Taking the top spot in the “South Downs Starry Skyscapes” category was a night-time image of Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters, in East Sussex. Called Galactic Bay, the photo was captured by Giles Embleton-Smith, from Eastbourne.

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Judge Steve said: “This image evokes a wonderful atmosphere and shows just how spectacular the stars can be in the South Downs National Park on a clear night.”

Winning £100, Giles said: “The shooting conditions at the Cuckmere Haven were ideal, with the Milky Way lining up perfectly over the old wooden breakwaters. This is such a fantastic and prestigious competition, which always has a consistently high standard of entries. I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to win.”

Runner-up in the skyscapes category was an image of Cissbury Ring – the largest hill fort in Sussex which dates back more than 5,000 years – taken by Carl Gough, from Littlehampton who won £50.

Carl also came top in the “Nature at Night” category with his picture of heathland surrounding Burton and Chingford ponds, near Petworth, West Sussex.

Hampshire Chronicle: Heather and Milky Way by Carl GoughHeather and Milky Way by Carl Gough (Image: Carl Gough)

He said: “The National Park offers so many opportunities for someone like me who has a passion for astronomy and nature. I’m able to view the Milky Way with my unaided eyes arching over heathland, reaching into land from out to sea, and towering over the world-famous chalky cliffs. With this particular photo, it was the heather that drew me – nothing screams heathland like heather and nothing screams South Downs like heathland!”

Runner-up in the nature category, which could also include images of humans connecting with the dark skies, was A Sky Full of Stars, by Lorcan Taylor-Hood, taken at Warren Hill dew pond on the Eastbourne downland. Lorcan, from Eastbourne, wins a prize of £50.

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Taking the top spot in the “Magnificent Moon” category was an eerie image of a harvest moon rising over Racton Ruins, near Chichester, West Sussex, taken by Nathan Hill, from Emsworth. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Harvest moon over Racton Ruins by Nathan HillHarvest moon over Racton Ruins by Nathan Hill (Image: Nathan Hill)

Meanwhile, the runner-up in was a picture of the full moon behind Beachy Head lighthouse, near Eastbourne, and wins Giles Embleton-Smith £50.

All the winning images will be showcased during the National Park’s Dark Skies Festival, which runs from February 10 to February 18.

Following the festival, the shortlisted astrophotography will go into “The People’s Choice” with the chance for the public to vote for their favourite.