India To Get Its First-Ever 'Night Sky Sanctuary' In Ladakh

Recently, Jitendra Singh, the minister of Science and Technology made an announcement regarding India's first ever night sky sanctuary after a meeting with the Ladakh Lt. Governor RK Mathur. This comes with the aim of boosting Astro tourism in India, i.e. travel to remote locations to get a clear view of the starry skies. There are over 15 certified international dark sky sanctuaries across the world, and India's night reserve would be the 16th to join the list.

A dark sky or night sky sanctuary is basically land that has a unique quality of starry nights and a suitable nocturnal environment, that is to be protected for its natural, scientific, or educational value. And the best location for the same has been identified as Hanle's Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary in Ladakh. It is a remote cold desert region located away from human disturbance, with clear skies and dry weather all year round. Another factor to choose Hanle is that it already has an optical, an infrared, and a gamma ray telescope set up by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) at the Indian Astronomical Observatory complex to study the galaxies, the universe, and much more.

To launch the night sky reserve, a tripartite MoU has been signed among the Union Territory Administration, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, and the IIA. The minister said that joint efforts will be put by all stakeholders to preserve the night sky from pollution, unwanted light, and illumination. These factors are a serious threat to the natural sky conditions and scientific observations.