India’s first dark sky reserve at Hanley in Ladakh is being set up soon to preserve its night skies
The Hanley Dark Sky Reserve (HDSR), located near Hanle in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh at 4,500 metres above sea level, is to be set up as a collaboration between the union territory of Ladakh, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in Leh, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bengaluru. A tripartite MoU was signed between these three entities to set up the dark sky reserve as part of the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ladakh’s Lt Governor R K Mathur had stated that the HDSR would not only cater to the needs of the scientific community but would also contribute to the region’s economic development through astro tourism and eco tourism.
A thousand-square-kilometre area around the Hanle observatory (above), the Hanley Dark Sky Reserve is one of the promising astronomical sites globally. Dorje Angchuk, an engineer with the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), is quoted to have attributed this to “the advantages of more clear nights, minimal light pollution, background aerosol concentration, extremely dry atmospheric condition, and no interruption by monsoon.” The absence of rain clouds in the area is important since the functioning of observatories in South India is marred by rainfall and clouds.
The HDSR is particularly significant since light pollution is known to have had an adverse impact on biodiversity even in the remotest places across Ladakh. “This (HDSR) will aid astronomy research and even promote astro tourism and education in the region,” a scientist from IIA is reported to have said.
Recently, Hanle, a documentary about the HDSR, was released on YouTube to promote astro tourism at India’s only upcoming dark sky reserve. The film is directed by filmmaker and photographer Rakesh Rao, who specialises in demystifying science through video and photographs. Rakesh also did the cinematography and editing of the film, which is available on the YouTube channel of IIA, Bengaluru.
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