‘Mesmerising’ shot of Milky Way wins South Downs National Park dark skies prize

Ben Mitchell, PA

A “mesmerising” shot of the Milky Way over an Iron Age hillfort has claimed the top prize in the South Downs National Park’s astrophotography competition.

The contest was held to mark the start of a dark skies festival being held by the park which stretches across Hampshire and Sussex.

The national park was awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2016 and is one of just 18 around the world.

The winning shot, titled Milky Way From Cissbury was taken by Neil Jones and shows off the chalk landscape at Cissbury Ring near Worthing, West Sussex.

The Milky Way above the lights of Worthing and Brighton from Cissbury Ring with the lights of the Rampion Wind farm in the background by Neil Jones (Neil Jones/PA)
The Milky Way above the lights of Worthing and Brighton from Cissbury Ring with the lights of the Rampion Wind farm in the background by Neil Jones (Neil Jones/PA)

Judge Graham Bryant, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “I like the juxtaposition of the dark monochromatic sky and the colours of the foreground.

“The Milky Way has not been overprocessed and you can see it in all its glory.”

Second place in the contest was taken by John Fox with his photo taken at Birling Gap near Eastbourne.

Second place was awarded to Milky Way at Birling Gap by John Fox (John Fox/PA)
Second place was awarded to Milky Way at Birling Gap by John Fox (John Fox/PA)

Judge Tiffany Francis-Baker, author of Dark Skies, said: “It’s just a stunning photograph.

“The length in the image really helps you to see the whole of the Milky Way.

“I could look at this photo for a long time.”

The first prize in the Living Dark Skies category was awarded to Anthony Whitbourn, who captured a shore crab at Cuckmere Haven, near Seaford.

Starry Crab by Anthony Whitbourn won the Living Dark Skies category (Anthony Whitbourn/PA)
Starry Crab by Anthony Whitbourn won the Living Dark Skies category (Anthony Whitbourn/PA)

Judge Dan Oakley, the park’s dark skies ranger, said: “I’d give this picture 10 out of 10.

“It’s really fun, lively and quirky.

“We don’t often see images like this in the national park.”

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