ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India’s first Dark Sky Reserve to come up in Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dark Sky Reserve

Mains level : Not Much

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has announced the setting up of India’s first dark sky reserve at Hanle in Ladakh in the next three months.

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

  • A dark-sky reserve is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory that is kept free of artificial light pollution.
  • The purpose of a dark sky preserve is generally to promote astronomy.
  • Because different national organizations have worked independently to create their programs, different terms have been used to describe the areas.

How is it designated?

  • A dark sky reserve is a designation given to a place that has policies in place to ensure that a tract of land or region has minimal artificial light interference.
  • The International Dark Sky Association is a US-based non-profit that designates sites as international dark sky places, parks, sanctuaries and reserves, depending on the criteria they meet.
  • Several such reserves exist around the world but none so far in India.

Dark Sky Reserve at Hanle

  • Hanle, which is about 4,500 metres above sea level, hosts telescopes and is regarded as one of the world’s most optimal sites for astronomical observations.
  • However, ensuring that the site remains well-suited for astronomy implies keeping the night sky pristine, or ensuring minimal interference to the telescopes from artificial light sources such as electric lights and vehicular lights from the ground.
  • The site will have activities to help in boosting local tourism and economy through interventions of science and technology.

The Himalayan Chandra Telescope, High Energy Gamma Ray Telescope, Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope and GROWTH-India are the prominent telescopes located at the Hanle observatory.

Ideal conditions in India

  • The Indian Astronomical Observatory, the high-altitude station of the IIA, is situated to the north of Western Himalayas, at an altitude of 4,500 metres above mean sea level.
  • Located atop Mt. Saraswati in the Nilamkhul Plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, it is a dry, cold desert with sparse human population.
  • The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths.


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