India’s first dark sky reserve will be opened at Hanle in Ladakh Union Territory. It has been nominated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. For this, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Union Territory Administration, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh and the Astronomical Council of India, Bangalore. Dark Sky Reserve refers to an area where there is very little interference of artificial light. This means that only the natural light of the Sun and the Moon is present there.
Now the question arises that why only Hanle of Ladakh has been chosen for this work?
Here are favorable conditions for astronomical observations. For example, there is a cold desert here. It is an arid and cold desert situated on top of Saraswati Mountain in the Neelamkhul plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, with extremely low population density and the nearest to it is the Hanle Monastery. Apart from this, this place is also different from the normal habitat. Cloudless skies and extremely low atmospheric water vapor make it one of the world’s most favorable locations for optical, infrared, sub-millimeter and millimeter wavelengths. That is why the Himalayan Chandra Telescope, High Energy Gamma Ray Telescope, Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope, GROWTH-India Hanley Observatory have been established here.
Talking about the process of selecting dark sky reserves, such places are identified by the International Dark Sky Association, a US-based non-profit organization. The organization designates suitable locations as International Dark Sky Place Parks, Reserves and Protected Areas.
Benefits of Dark Sky Reserve
The designation of Hanle as a Dark Sky Reserve will give a boost to the tourism sector in Ladakh. Apart from this, wildlife awareness will also be promoted here. Astronomical tourism will also get many benefits from this. Partnership with India in this area by various countries will also increase.
Along with this, employment opportunities for the local residents will also increase here. For example, people here can also act as guides for astronomical tourists. Now there is a need to invest in this sector also from the government. Under this, establishment of training school etc. will have to be done. Villagers and local residents of Ladakh will also be trained to assist visitors with astronomical observations. There will be painters on the streets as in foreign observatories. Tourists can come here, park their vehicles, enjoy the open sky view and stay in the homestay.