Dark sky paintings by London artist Ellie Lou Wythe

In celebration of International Dark Sky Week 2021, Dark Sky London commissioned Crystal Palace-based artist Ellie Lou Wythe to create some nighttime-themed art. As part of the commission, Ellie spent some time outside in London at night, observing both the light pollution and the beauty and potential of our nights. The resulting three digital paintings capture a series of possibilities.

The first painting – a row of glaring, blue street lights – portrays the realities of light pollution in London. The second piece shows our city’s often-forgotten nocturnal wildlife that we wish to protect and help. And the third and final piece is an idealised future London where light pollution has been managed and you can see the stars and a bright Milky Way overhead.

Below, you’ll find the three Dark Sky London digital paintings, as well as a Q&A with the artist.

  • Digital painting. A row of bright, glaring, blue street lights along a road at night with flats in background..
  • Digital painting. Night scene: a shielded amber street lamp pointed down, with a fox looking up at it and a raven on top of the post. Background shows another fox with dark open field, dark city skyline and a bright night sky with semi-full moon and stars and galaxies.
  • Digital painting. Foreground shows well-shielded amber coloured street light, background shows dark parkland, dark city skyline and a bright night sky with Milky Way and shooting stars.

Q&A with artist Ellie Lou Wythe

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been an artist?

I’m Ellie, a Cornwall-raised artist and night sky enthusiast. Growing up, there was no shortage of inspiration surrounding my habitat – The Lizard Peninsula – where I established a love of art after a family friend (and art teacher) passed down to me his illustrated encyclopaedia of animals. It all sort of snowballed from there! Eventually I got on to acrylics, watercolours, and digital painting, which opened up a whole new set of ways to express myself.

How does the part of London you live in help or inspire your work?

Since moving to Crystal Palace in 2018, a different kind of playground has been available to me. South London is vibrant, full of possibilities, and though I miss the sea from time to time, I can’t think of a better place to be at this point in my life. Every walk I go on turns into an adventure. And, oh, the parks are incredible!

You paint a lot of scenes of the night sky and cosmos. What is your process for being inspired by and painting these kinds of images?

It’s been a reoccurring theme in my work, for the simple fact that painting the stars makes me so happy. Unfortunately, we don’t see many perfectly clear skies in London, so perhaps these pieces help bring me closer to my ideal vision of the night sky.

Have you ever visited somewhere you could see the Milky Way? How did you feel?

Yes. On the Transfăgărășean mountain road in Romania, when I was visiting a friend in summer 2017. As we journeyed up to our hotel, I rolled my window down to take a look up. It was past 1am, but I had the sleepiness and lethargy pulled right out of me by what I saw. I mean, I’ve seen a clear night in London before, but this! We pulled over. I cannot describe how energising it feels, standing under all that cosmic sky…like being swallowed up by pure energy, being lifted from the limits of your form and floating in timelessness. I have longed to feel this again ever since.

Tell us about the three commissioned Dark Sky London artworks. Can you give a bit of detail on each of the three images, where they are and what your process and inspiration were?

Absolutely! The first piece, with its offensive blinding streetlights, is an all-too-familiar sight for most city dwellers – one that we often overlook because we’re so used to it. I worked with Dark Sky London to create this snapshot of a light-polluted road to call attention to our shared problem.

Digital painting. A row of bright, glaring, blue street lights along a road at night with flats in background..

The second piece features our wonderful wildlife, almost approvingly checking out some well-designed lighting (artistic licence!), and a starlit sky over the city. We wanted to draw attention to the relationship we have with other living things, and the responsibility we carry to make a better world for us all. It depicts a better-designed lamp post with its dimmed, shielded light in warm amber tones.

Digital painting. Night scene: a shielded amber street lamp pointed down, with a fox looking up at it and a raven on top of the post. Background shows another fox with dark open field, dark city skyline and a bright night sky with semi-full moon and stars and galaxies.

The final piece, and my personal favourite, is an idealistic cityscape seen from Blythe Hill Fields in southeast London. It imagines what we could achieve if we all worked together to reduce light pollution for good.

Digital painting. Foreground shows well-shielded amber coloured street light, background shows dark parkland, dark city skyline and a bright night sky with Milky Way and shooting stars.

Why is light pollution and the night sky important to you, as an artist (or a human)?

I think it’s deeply important on a human level to protect Earth. Feeling connected to the universe around us helps us feel alive, gain perspective, and be awe-inspired. If we change our way of bringing light to our spaces, I truly believe it will be hugely beneficial, not just to the planet, but to the health and happiness of all its inhabitants.

Anything else you’d like to say? What’s next for you?

Bringing these works to life with Dark Sky London has been an absolute pleasure. Not only that, it has brought the issue to light for me, as it were. It can be uncomfortable, often painful, to confront the challenges ahead. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. From here, I will surely be more aware of my own part to play in future, painting stars all the while.

You can follow Ellie on her social media links below, and make sure to visit her website ellielouart.com, where you can snap up original works of art or commission her to create something.

Instagram: lilellou
Twitter: Autumnal_Husky

International Dark Sky Week 2021

From April 5-12, it’s International Dark Sky Week!

Every year, the International Dark-Sky Association hosts dark sky week to create awareness about light pollution and its negative consequences, the solutions, and to celebrate the natural night. This year, IDA is inviting everyone to discover the night where they live with events hosted all over the world by advocates, International Dark Sky Places and other organisations.

Due to the uncertainty around UK lockdowns and ongoing need for social distancing, Dark Sky London encourages all Londoners to safely participate from home or their local areas this year, and to observe government guidelines about COVID-19 safety. As well, there are heaps of online events, many of them free, to get you excited about discovering the night.

Check out our list of the best places to go stargazing in and around London.

Online activities

Full list of International Dark Sky Week events
Twitter AMA with IDA’s Dr. John Barentine
Facebook LIVE – Discover The Night with IDA – A whirlwind global tour of the night with IDA’s Executive Director, Ruskin Hartley

Get involved on social media using the official hashtags: #IDSW2021, #DiscovertheNight and #DarkSkyWeek.

Listen to the official International Dark Sky Week playlist on Spotify.

UK & Ireland Dark Sky Week events

Dark Sky Locations in the UK – A one hour talk by Twice Brewed Stargazing highlighting the best places in the UK for dark skies
Observing the Moon and Planets – talk by astronomer Steve Tonkin of Cranborne Chase Dark Sky Reserve
Lighting – At What Cost To Our Insects – A Talk by David Smith and Prosiect Nos (Snowdonia National Park)
Space4All Virtual Astronomy Workshop Special – hosted by IDA Bristol Delegate Josh Dury
What is a Dark Sky? – short film by Davagh Forest International Dark Sky Park
The Right Light at Night – talk by astronomer Steve Tonkin of Cranborne Chase Dark Sky Reserve
Make Your Own Planisphere Video Workshop – Om Dark Sky Park & Observatory
Bats of Snowdonia – A free talk on Snowdonia’s bat species by Sam Dyer
Stars and Stones – Terry Mossley from the Irish Astronomical Association explains the connection between the stars and the stones at Beaghmore Stone Circles
A virtual road show of Mayo! – online events hosted by Friends of Mayo Dark Skies
Feed from OM Telescope – explore the universe virtually through Om Dark Sky Observatory’s 14” Meade telescope

Dark Sky Week Bingo

This year, you can have some fun by playing Discover the Night Bingo. Everyone who gets bingo will be sent an IDA magnet and sticker. Download your bingo card here or save the image below to get started. If you have a smartphone you can place emojis or use the markup feature to cover the activities that you complete. You can also print it and use a pen or marker. Share your completed cards with on social media (even if you don’t get bingo) by tagging @IDADarkSky and @darkskylondon and using the #DiscovertheNight and #IDSW2021 hashtags.

Stargazing in & around London

Want to view the night sky close to home? We’ve rounded up a few of the best locations with the lowest levels of light pollution for stargazing in London. 

North & West 

☆ Hampstead Heath
☆ Regent’s Park
☆ Richmond Park
☆ Darlands Nature Reserve, Totteridge Common and Mill Hill Park

East & South 

☆ Epping Forest
☆ Blythe Hill Fields
☆ Dulwich Wood
☆ Walthamstow Wetlands

Further Afield 

☆ The National Trust have identified some dark sky areas around London here.
South Downs National Park is the closest International Dark-Sky Reserve to London.

Check out the CPRE’s Night Blight map to see which areas of London are darkest. 

Rediscover the night in London – Urban Stargazing Tips

☆ Get up high
☆ Face away from central London
☆ Use your parks and green spaces
☆ Shield light pollution and glare
☆ Let your eyes adjust for at least 20 minutes without light
☆ Use an app like SkyView to navigate the constellations
☆ Learn to use a paper planisphere (star chart)
☆ Opt for easy-to-carry binoculars
☆ Winter is the best season – grab a tea or mulled wine & bundle up!

Cultural Heritage: London’s Observatories 

Astronomy has been an indelible part of London’s cultural heritage for centuries and astronomical science is still practiced at these historic observatories today. 

Greenwich Royal Observatory

Founded by King Charles II in 1675, the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich is the historical home of British astronomy, where Greenwich Mean Time was initiated and some of the world’s most important astronomical contributions have been made. 

Mill Hill Observatory (UCLO)

Opened in 1929, the UCL Observatory at Mill Hill is one of the most important student observatories in the country, with five telescopes, classrooms and an astronomy library.

Hampstead Observatory

Sitting atop one of central London’s highest points, Hampstead Observatory was founded in 1899 and its Cooke telescope (still in use) was presented in 1923. It was lovingly refurbished and reopened in 2019. 

More resources for astronomy in London 

If you want to find out more about astronomy or join a local astronomy club, check out these astronomical clubs and societies:

Created in partnership with

Dark Sky London partners with CPRE London for Star Count 2021

We are delighted to be partnering up with CPRE London for this year’s Star Count, a cosmic census to map our view of the stars. In 2021, the Star Count takes place from 6-14 February.

A star-filled sky is one of the most magical sights on Earth, but here in London, the high levels of light pollution mean that most of us can’t see many (or any) stars. The Star Count invites Londoners to step outside and count the number of stars in the constellation Orion, and then record your count through the Star Count website. By counting stars, you will be a citizen scientist contributing valuable data that helps us understand London’s light pollution problems and how to solve them.

This year we’re asking everyone to respect the lockdown and to participate from home only. 

Make sure to follow along with us on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #StarCount. We’ll be sharing tips on how to make the most out of this year’s lockdown Star Count from home.

Sign up for #StarCount 2021

Top tips for Star Count   

Count from home  

You won’t need a telescope – just your eyes, a sense of curiosity, and somewhere where you can see the sky to the south. You can see Orion by facing south from your garden, balcony, doorstep or even a bedroom or attic window. 

Wrap up warm   

If you’re heading to your garden or doorstep, wrap up before you head outside. You want to be able to comfortably stay still as you look up at the night sky and it can get chilly at this time of year! Take a thermos of something warm if you’re planning to make an evening of it. 

Turn off all the lights in and around your house 

Light from your home can affect the number of stars you may be able to see. Turn off all the lights in your home and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. You could even get your neighbours to join in and do a count at the same time!

Let your eyes adjust to the darkness 

It takes around 20 minutes for the eye to fully adjust to the dark. So, the longer you wait, the better you’ll be able to see the stars. While you’re waiting, why not listen out to see if you can hear any nighttime wildlife? 

Count the stars in Orion and send us your results

Look south (the way satellite dishes point) and find the Orion constellation. It’s best to look for the three bright stars in a row that form Orion’s belt.

Now find the four stars that form a rectangle around the constellation. Then count all the stars you can see within that rectangle. Include Orion’s belt, but not the four corner stars. Here’s an image of Orion to help you.

Once you’ve finished counting, make sure to jot down the information and send the results back through the Star Count website. This ensures that the valuable data you’ve gathered as a citizen scientist can be included in the study.