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The dark sky as a natural resource

  • Published
    24th Jan, 2023
Context

Recently, the district administration of Ladakh designated six hamlets within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary as a ‘dark-sky reserve’.

About the Dark-sky reserve:

  • A dark-sky Reserve (DSR) is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory that restricts artificial light pollution.
  • The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is associated with the International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) and International Dark Sky Park (IDSP).
  • An International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was founded in 1988 to reserve public or private land for an exquisite outlook of nocturnal territories and starry night skies.
  • In 1993, Michigan became the first state in the United States to designate a tract of land as a "Dark Sky Reserve" at the Lake Hudson State Recreation Area.
  • It is generally understood that a dark-sky reserve, should be sufficiently dark to promote astronomy.
  • However, this is not always the case. The lighting protocol for a dark-sky reserve is based on the sensitivity of wildlife to artificial light at night

Sky glow and causes:

  • Sky glow would be familiar to most people as that light dome that appears over populated areas that become visible, especially when you go outside of that populated area and look back towards it.
  • That dome that you see is an amalgamation of all the light sources that have been exposed to the exterior environment.
  • Causes:
    • Skyglow, also known as light pollution, is the brightening of the night sky as the result of excessive and inappropriate artificial lighting.
    • Light pollution is an increasing problem threatening astronomical facilities, ecologically sensitive habitats, wildlife, and energy use.

What is the objective of these reserves?

  • The purpose of the dark-sky movement is generally to promote astronomy.
  • However, astronomy is certainly not the only objective of conserving a dark sky.
  • A dark night sky is associated with so many facets of history, philosophy, religion, societal development, poetry, song, mathematics, and science.
  • The preservation of a DSR is necessary to understand our environmental history.

Significance:

  • The designation meant that the reserve had a responsibility to keep the skies dark, particularly for the astronomical observatories located in the area.
  • While authorities safeguard telescopes’ access to dark skies by actively lowering light pollution around their sites, the night is actually becoming brighter in almost the rest of the world.
India’s first site for dark reserve:
  • A part of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary at Hanle in Ladakh is all set to become India’s first Dark Sky Reserve.
  • The site will also promote astronomy tourism, giving a boost to local tourism through science.
  • The reason for selecting a site for the programme:
  • Ladakh holds great potential for undertaking uninterrupted astronomical observations.
  • At a height of 4,500 metres, Hanle is already home to optical, gamma ray and infrared telescopes for Space exploration.
  • It is pristine for the dry weather for most months of the year, remains cloudless during nights and offers dark skies, making it a perfect natural setup for sky gazing.

Environmental Consequences of light pollution:

  • According to a 2003 report, light overnight on beaches deters sea turtles from coming ashore to nest.
  • A 2006 review found that skyglow keeps trees from sensing seasonal variations.
  • A 2017 study found that young burrow-nesting seabirds don’t take flight unless the nesting site becomes dark.
  • A 2019 study reported that clownfish eggs don’t hatch when exposed to artificial light at night, killing the offspring.
  • A 2020 study noted that skyglow interferes with multiple aspects of insect life and allows insect predators to hunt for longer.
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