Australia’s first Dark-Sky Park named

By AG Staff July 5, 2016
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Warrumbungle National Park in central western NSW has been recognised as Australia’s first Dark-Sky Park, where you can see “the full array of visible sky phenomena”.

WARRUMBUNGLE NATIONAL PARK in central western NSW, has been declared Australia’s first Dark-Sky Park, following confirmation from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). 

Since half the world’s population lives in cities, half of all humans may never see the Milky Way as their ancestors once did. Although Australia is one of the luckiest countries in this regard, with some of the world’s lowest levels of light pollution, the growing glow of artificial light poses health problems for both humans and animals alike. Not to mention dimming the sky’s starry spectacle. 

The Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) has picked one of the most pristine sky areas in Australia – where its Siding Springs Observatory is located – and led the charge to have an Australian Dark-Sky site named to protect it. The IDA has classified it as gold-tier quality site. 

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To date, the IDA has registered 20 Dark-Sky Parks around the world, most in the USA, and nine Dark-Sky Reserves, a lesser category. The IDA’s approval process is strict and results in a park receiving one of three star ratings: gold, silver or bronze. In a gold-rated park you can see “the full array of visible sky phenomena”, the IDA says, including auroras, the Milky Way, the zodiacal light and even faint meteors. Twelve of the registered parks are gold-starred.

Australia joins Dark-Sky Parks around the world

AG columnist and the AAO’s Head of Lighting and Environment Fred Watson helped submit the nomination with the help of Reg Wilson, a Sydney-based lighting consultant who is also the IDA’s Asia Pacific liaison officer. This involved registering the park with the IDA, a US-based body with a mission to “preserve and protect the night-time environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting”.

Dark Sky Park Warrumbungle

The Breadknife in Warrumbungle National Park, which recently became Australia’s first internationally recognised Dark-Sky Park. (Credit: Bill Hatcher)

“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 sky-friendly lighting,” says Fred. 

Warrumbungle National Park joins other international parks such as Death Valley National Park in the USA and Galloway Forest Park in Scotland as officially designated Dark-Sky Parks. This, however, is the first Dark-Sky Park to be declared in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand and South Africa both boast a Dark-Sky Reserve each. 

You can read our feature on Dark Sky places and light pollution in the May-Jun 2016 issue of Australian Geographic (AG#126).