India’s 1st Night Sky Sanctuary to come up in Ladakh soon

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: India’s first-ever Night Sky Sanctuary, being set up by CSIR under the Union Ministry of Science & Technology, in Ladakh’s Hanle will be completed in over a month’s time. In a unique and first-of-its-kind initiative, the Night Sky Sanctuary is being set up as part of a well-formulated policy to boost astro-tourism (travel to remote locations for unpolluted views of the cosmos) in the region.

“It is being developed to attract tourists from across the world over the picturesque Ladakh”, said Union minister for Science and Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh after meeting with Lieutenant governor of Ladakh, R K Mathur.

The minister said that Hanle has been chosen for the project as it is located in Ladakh’s cold desert region; it is away from any form of human disturbance and has clear sky and dry weather conditions that exist throughout the year.

According to an official source, the Dark Sky Reserve is coming up as a part of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the world’s highest-located sites for an optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes. “This is being set up at a height of 4,500 meters and will help in studying stars, and galaxies”, said an official.

This would be the world’s 15th certified Night Sky Sanctuary after Kalahari Heritage Park in South Africa, Great Barrier Island in New Zealand, the Black Gap Wildlife in the US Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in the US, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (US), Cosmic Campground (US), Devils River State Natural Area-Del Norte Unit and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (US).

The Night Sky Sanctuary is a public or private land that has an exceptional; or distinguished quality of location for starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, its cultural heritage and public enjoyment.

A tripartite MoU has been signed recently among the UT Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the UT Administration for setting up the Night Sky Sanctuary.

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