THINGS are about to get dark across East Hampshire as a two-week programme of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings will soon begin.

Astronomers of all ages will have a field day later this month as the South Downs Dark Skies Festival will begin on Friday, February 15.

The third annual festival will have a lunar theme with moongazing sessions, planetarium shows and star parties all planned.

Petersfield is at the heart of the action as the festival’s flagship event, Stargazing South Downs, will take place in Festival Hall between 4pm and 8pm on Monday, February 18. Highlights will include a ‘dark night skies’ colouring wall, the chance to dress up as an astronaut against a backdrop of the moon, talks on nocturnal wildlife and interactive science demonstrations.

The South Downs National Park is officially recognised as one of the best places in the world to view the Moon and stars having been granted International Dark Sky Reserve Status in 2016. Butser Hill is one of ten ‘Dark Sky Discovery Sites’ across the park with Buriton and Harting Down, Iping Common and Old Winchester Hill also on the list.

Dan Oakley, ‘Dark Skies’ lead ranger at the South Downs National Park, is hopeful of capturing some awe-inspiring views of the Moon and its cratered surface over the coming weeks.

He said: “The star-studded skies above our heads are as valuable as our beautiful rolling landscapes and we can’t wait to share them with even more people.”

A further Stargazing event will take place between 4pm and 8pm at Midhurst Rother College on Saturday, February 16, while around 30 other events will take place across the park.

The Deadwater Valley Trust in Bordon will hold a Sky at Night event on Friday, February 15, and a Star Party will take place at Petworth Park on the 19th.

There will be a Stargazing and night hike to Beacon Hill, just west of Exton, on the 25th, while further Star Parties will take place on the 26th and 28th, respectively, at Goodwood and Old Winchester Hill.

For further details on all the events and to book tickets visit