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Starlight spectacular

Friday, 11 January 2019 10:55

 Halnaker Windmill near Chichester Halnaker Windmill near Chichester © Derek Finch / Flickr

With the long winter nights still upon us, now is the perfect time to wrap up warm and head outside to enjoy the magic of the stars.

In February 2019, CPRE Sussex is supporting a host of stargazing initiatives across the county to highlight the importance of our dark skies and the need to protect them.

CPRE’s Star Count, Feb 2019

Star Count 2019 will be running for the first three weeks in February and is open to anyone who would like to act as a ‘citizen scientist’ to help create a cosmic census of the quality of our dark skies.

In 2016 CPRE published satellite maps which showed that Wealden in Sussex has some of the best dark skies in the country. Unfortunately the same maps revealed that Crawley has some of the worst light pollution outside London.

This month’s star count has been designed for anyone of any age to take part – whether they live in the countryside or in a town or city. Stargazers can download a simple guide which will show them how to count the number of stars they can see (with the naked eye) within the constellation of Orion. For more information go to

The Star Count in Sussex is supported by the British Astronomical Association and by the South Downs National Park which is an International Dark Sky Reserve.

“The stars over Sussex are magical at this time of the year,” says CPRE Chair, David Johnson, “and we are hoping that our Star Count will inspire everyone to get outside to enjoy them”.

“We are very lucky to have protected landscapes and deep rural countryside where the skies are still dark, but in some parts of Sussex darks skies are becoming increasingly hard to find as our towns and cities grow.”

“For as long as we can remember, humans have looked up at the stars,” adds CPRE Sussex Director, Kia Trainor, “we have used them to help us understand and navigate the world around us and our place in the universe. Mapping the skies in this way will help us to fight back against light pollution in Sussex and to keep our stars bright.”

CPRE star count 2019 gets underway on Feb 2nd and will run until Feb 23rd. The results will create a map showing where to go to get the very best view of the stars.

“We value our star-studded skies just as much as the rolling landscape for which the South Downs National Park was designated,” says Dan Oakley, Dark Skies Lead for the SDNP. “Taking part in a star count is a great way to learn more about the night sky and its secrets”.

The South Downs National Park, the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Woodland Trust and the RSPB all have dark skies initiatives this year.

South Downs Dark Skies Festival

Sussex’s biggest night sky event gets underway on February 15 with the South Downs Dark Skies Festival and stargazing road show. This year’s two week festival is Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings in 1969 so there will be many opportunities to take a closer look at our moon and to learn about its importance to our planet.

Find out more:

The Festival road show will be visiting these venues:

  • Saturday 16 February – Midhurst Rother College, Midhurst, West Sussex, 4.00pm – 8.00pm
  • Monday 18 February – Festival Hall, Petersfield, Hampshire, 4.00pm – 8.00pm

  • Wednesday 20 February – The Town Hall, Lewes, 4.00pm – 8.00pm

If you can’t make the Festival then there are plenty more stargazing events across the county, many hosted by local groups such as the East Sussex Astronomical Society, which is holding a Telescope Fest in March:

And if you would rather stargaze at home, the High Weald AONB has created its own star counting programme which includes free activity cards for children. The initiative called, Help us Count the Stars can be found on the ANOB’s website:

Meanwhile the Woodland Trust has produced guides on nocturnal animals for young stargazers: and the RSPB has a Big Wild


Photo of wheeling stars at Halnaker Windmill © Derek Finch

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