The school was a hive of cosmic fun as people of all ages enjoyed indoor planetarium shows, a VR experience, a giant colouring wall of the solar system, talks, science experiments and the ever-popular astronaut selfie booth. The evening sky was clear enough to capture some amazing views of the Moon and its cratered surface. Astronomers from the South Downs Planetarium and Hampshire Astronomical Group were on hand to help people get the best view through the telescopes lined up in front of the school. Laura Warren, events and engagement officer for the South Downs National Park, said: “What a wonderful way to start our annual Dark Skies Festival! This was a record turn-out for our Stargazing South Downs event – made even all the more special as the national park is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. People came from far and wide to enjoy the fun and many families were visiting Midhurst for the first time. This event has really captured people’s imaginations and it just shows how much interest there is in the Dark Skies of the national park.” Now in its fourth year, the festival celebrates the South Downs National Park’s International Dark Sky Reserve status, which was awarded in 2016 and recognises it as one of the 16 best places in the world to view the moon and stars. The full schedule for the Dark Skies Festival, which runs until February 23, is available online on the South Downs National Park website
More than 1,100 people visited Midhurst Rother College to celebrate the start of the Dark Skies Festival at the free Stargazing South Downs event.