Stargazing reminds us of how small we truly are. Looking into the vast universe never fails to leave us absolutely spellbound. Maybe this is why we hunt for places with starry skies where we can gaze endlessly at the fascinating universe beyond us. But with air and light pollution, it’s hard to find such places with star-studded skies. You’re lucky if you can spot even one lone star in some cities. So where do we go when we crave to look at the universe?
Have you heard of a Dark Sky Sanctuary?
The Dark Sky Sanctuary is a status provided to any private or open land that has extraordinary starry nights. These areas possess a specific night-time environment that is preserved for its educational, scientific, and natural value, its heritage and/or for public enjoyment. There are also Dark Sky Reserves or Parks which are more accessible to people. However, a Dark Sky Sanctuary is differentiated from Reserves and Parks due to its remote locations and relative inaccessibility. This isolation from people along with zero light pollution are key factors to achieve the designation of a Dark Sky Sanctuary. It is particularly intended to increase awareness of these fragile sites and to ensure their protection and conservation in the long run.
Dr Andreas Hänel, an astronomer and the director of the planetarium at Museum am Schölerberg, Osnabrück said, “60% of Europeans and 80% of North Americans can no longer see the Milky Way”. The light pollution is not only obstructing stargazing, but it also has harmful effects on environmental and public health.
Harald Bardenhagen (director of the Eifel National Dark Sky Park) has spoken extensively about the importance of darkness for human health and biodiversity.
Astro-tourism as a sustainable adventure travel
There are several certified International Dark Sky Sanctuaries around the world. A majority of them are in the US or New Zealand with a few others in countries like Chile, South Africa and Australia. The IDA or ‘International Dark-Sky Association‘ keep a tab on such locations and certifies them as Dark Sky Sanctuaries if they meet the criteria after a rigorous application process.
Preserving Dark Sky Sanctuaries, Reserves and Parks is probably one of the ways to ensure that we always have option to look at an uninterrupted view of the night sky.
Do you know of any places with brilliantly starry skies that people should know about and might qualify for a Dark Sky title? Comment below!