India’s First Dark Night Sky Reserve:
Ladakh is all set to have India’s first Dark Night Sky Reserve at Hanle village in Changthang region. In about eighteen locations in Hanley, powerful telescopes will be installed for stargazing.
- The Hanle Dark Sky Reserve (HDSR) will come up within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, situated 4,500 metres above sea level, which makes it a perfect host for telescopes.
- Ladakh is also ideal for long-term observatories and dark-sky sites because of its large arid area, high elevation, and sparse population.
- The Milky Way Galaxy is visible through the night in the Hanle region due to its cloudless skies and lower atmospheric disturbance.
- Hanley is home for the second-highest optical telescope in the world, established in 2001 by Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
- The Department of Science and Technology and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bengaluru are providing support for the facility.
- The International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) defines an international dark sky reserve (IDSR) as “a public or private land of substantial size (at least 700 km², or about 173,000 acres) possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment, and that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment”.
- A dark sky reserve requires a “core” area that has clear sky without any light pollution, which can enable telescopes to see the sky in its natural darkness.
- To support the core, it should be surrounded by a “peripheral” or “buffer” area that supports dark sky values in the core while receiving the same benefits.
- According to IDSA, it considers land suitable for dark sky sites only if it is on public or private land, is publicly accessible all or part of the year, protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, cultural and/or public purposes.