TNI Bureau: Ladakh is ready to get the first Dark Sky Reserve of the country months after plans were announced to launch a unique initiative. Radha Krishna Mathur, the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, will virtually inaugurate the facility on October 31.
The initiative by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), the Union Territory administration, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru aims to lower light pollution in the region for better observations and to boost the local economy by harnessing the power of astronomy.
What is dark sky reserve?
The Dark Sky Reserve is located at Hanle, which is about 300 kilometers away from Ladakh and is part of the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary. As part of the initiative, 24 astro ambassadors have been selected from a cluster of five villages in and around the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO).
Funded by the LAHDC, the astro ambassadors will be provided with 8-inch Dobsonian telescopes that will be used to look out into the universe and provide a new avenue of income. The ambassadors will cater to tourists visiting Hanle in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Milky Way galaxy, which shines through the night in the region due to its cloudless skies and lower atmospheric disturbance.
The Dark Sky Reserve will be centered in a radius of 22 kilometers around the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle.
A total of 24 astro ambassadors have been selected out of over 70 applications received for the opportunity. They have been trained in handling telescopes and identifying objects, stars and different patterns in the sky. The ambassadors have gone through workshops with IAO and astronomers from IIA Bengaluru.
About 70 per cent of the applications received for the post of astro ambassador came from girls and of the 24 finally selected, just 7 are boys.
With the virtual inauguration on October 31, the ambassadors are also being trained in avoiding light pollution and have been provided with special curtains to lower light pollution. After getting hands-on experience with telescopes, the astro ambassadors are also interested in getting trained in astrophotography.