Grey nomads have long appreciated the beauty of Australia in daylight hours, but it seems there is a growing awareness of the stunning majesty of our night skies, also.
The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has just designated Warrumbungle National Park in west-central New South Wales as Australia’s first IDA International Dark Sky Park, to protect the uninterrupted view of the night sky.
The ‘Dark Sky Park’ covers the park near the Siding Spring Observatory and recognises the region’s “key role in astronomical research”.
“Warrumbungle National Park has long been recognised not only for its beauty at ground level, but also for the wonder it holds in the night sky above,” said NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes. “It’s an outstanding place to view the night sky and, as nearby communities grow, it’s important we plan to protect the park’s dark sky qualities from light pollution now and into the future.”
The Minister also announced $100,000 in funding to control light pollution at the site in the future.
“I am thrilled with the new Dark Sky status, which will give central western NSW the opportunity to educate and exemplify the benefits of dark skies and the use of night sky friendly lighting,” said Australian Astronomical Observatory Head of Lighting and Environment Professor, Fred Watson.
Certainly, the magic of the area’s night skies have long been appreciated by travelling grey nomads, a growing number of whom make understanding and studying the constellations and planets above an important part of their trip.
Warrumbungle’s status as the first IDA Dark Sky Park in Australia is a natural extension of the work it has done for years to contain threats to the observatory site through outdoor lighting policy and regional planning. The National Park has increased opportunities for all visitors to take in remarkably dark night skies, whether or not they visit the observatory.
Other Dark Sky Parks include Death Valley National Park in the U.S. and Galloway Forest Park in Scotland and to be approved, applicants submit to rigorous requirements and are judged by ‘dark sky experts’ and previously successful applicants.