South Downs National Park 2022 Festival
The South Downs National Park celebrates the 2022 Dark Skies Festival with moongazing sessions, planetarium shows, cosmic craft activities, astrophotography and exploring the solar system, as well as a line-up of in-person and virtual events over the February half-term holidays (11th to 27th of February).
The theme of this year’s festival is exploring the Dark Skies for yourself, and making the most of the 10 Discovery Sites in the National Park.
The National Park Authority will also be revealing the winners of its popular astrophotography competition.
Walk The Planets Dark Skies Trail
One of their attractions will be “Walk The Planets” trails at Seven Sisters Country Park, in East Sussex, and Queen Elizabeth Country Park, in Hampshire. People can walk a self-guided trail starting from the sun and meeting each planet at the scale they occur in the solar system.
Walkers will be rewarded at the end of the trail with the chance to view the stars through large telescopes, guided by astronomy experts (full events schedule and details here).
For those who can’t make it on the night, they can walk the trail at Seven Sisters during the day from 16th February to 27th February. Queen Elizabeth Country Park will be offering activity packs from its visitor centre, themed around nocturnal wildlife and the solar system.
Dark Skies events at other locations
People can join National Park rangers and astronomers at stargazing sessions at Brighton seafront and Goodwood, near Chichester. Following the Brighton event, “Dark Skies” Dan Oakley, a Lead Ranger for the National Park, will be giving a talk in the BA i360 (booking required for the talk).
Partners will be holding their own events as part of the festival, including at the Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux, Findon Place, Beachy Head Story and Clanfield Observatory.
There will be bookable planetarium shows at the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester. Visitors to Winchester Science Centre will be able to attend a 360° subtitled full-dome film that tells the story of the universe.
The Novium Museum, in Chichester, will have a wizards and space theme, including a Space Day with bookable activities for children.
People can also learn about the dark skies from the comfort of their own home, with a selection of short films and Facebook lives during the fortnight – including how to build a home for bats, top tips for astrophotography and a profile of each of the 10 Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the National Park.
Charity activity packs and programme
Dan Oakley, Lead Ranger and who heads the Dark Skies in the National Park, said: “We’re really excited for our festival this year and there’s something for everyone.
“Seeing these incredible views of the stars and the Milky Way is such a wonderful spectacle and we’re so lucky to have such accessible stargazing opportunities in the South Downs. Dark skies are also vital for nature to flourish as so many nocturnal and crepuscular wildlife rely on the natural rhythm of day into night.
“We are very dependent on the weather, so please do check our website and social media channels on the day of attending one of the stargazing sessions or walks. Some of the events also have to be booked in advance, so do check the programme carefully.”
“The National Park Authority has provided more than 400 free Dark Skies activity packs to charities and community groups in the local area, helping many children and young people who may never have done any stargazing before.”
Details and the full programme: www.southdowns.gov.uk/dark-skies-festival
Information about Discovery Sites in the National Park: www.southdowns.gov.uk/dark-night-skies