A national park has launched its astrophotography competition and is looking for your pictures.

The South Downs National Park has announced that its contest challenging people to capture dazzling night sky views is returning for a fourth year.

As the clocks go back, days are shorter for exploring the South Downs, but the night-time can offer its own celestial charms.

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

  • South Downs Starry Skyscapes
  • Nature At Night
  • Magnificent Moon

The runner-up prize in each category will be £50 and all submitted images must be taken in the South Downs National Park.

A selection of photos submitted in the contest will be shared throughout the national park’s Dark Skies Festival, which will take place from February 10 to 18 next year.

The theme of the festival this year will be about protecting precious dark skies.

Judging the contest is 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.

Dan said: “The autumn and winter are the perfect time to go out and stargaze in the South Downs National Park – just make sure you pack something warm to wear and a hot drink. It’s always worth checking the weather forecast as you will 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 and Brighton.

“We have ten 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.”

The deadline for entries to the competition is midnight on Friday, January 12, 2024