I think the concept of Astro-tourism is so new there's no accepted way of spelling it, although what astro-tourism actually is needs to be spelled out. Over the last few days I've had a bit of a flood of astro-tourism tweets into the @SOLIS_Syd Twitter account and so I've been inspired to write a blog post - even though there's several conferences I need to write-up here.
I recently, within the last year have been contacted twice by gradute students conducting research on asto-tourism, these have generally been students in buisness or economics. I think they both struggled to get some taction in getting their survey forms completed and getting a relevant ’n’ value for a significant result. I know that organised astro-tourism does occur in central Australia, centred on the resorts of Alice Springs, Alice Springs though is easily described as remote from most of the population of Australia. What is happening in the rest of Australia and where is astro-tourism headed around the world? Is astro-tourism a real business?
Australia is one of the most urbanised, if not the most urbanised country in the world, over 70% of the population live in the major capital cities of the nation’s states, major urban conglomerations. The dark sky map of Australia from the recent Second World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness shows Australia as being dark.
|Australia - World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness|
I no longer live in Sydney, I’m over 400 kms from Sydney in a regional centre of 25,000 people yet the readings from my Unihedron SQM are on average just one 1 SQM level darker, on the other hand I can easily see magnitude 4.5 and maybe deeper on some nights, yet in Sydney I’d be lucky to get magnitude 4.0, generally somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0, and in my new location, a binocular field, 10x80 Fujinon’s, the area of Scorpius is crammed with stars. From the centre of Sydney, the location of Sydney Observatory and yet 100 metres from the Sydney Harbour Bridge it is possible to make out the 4 stars of Crux (‘Southern Cross’). The future of astro-tourism in Australia must be seen as positive (no puns here) and yet there’s little to be seen, the future is too dark or dim ( I couldn’t resist).
What is happening overseas?
The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held in the Jasper National Park in Canada. This national park was declared by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a ‘Dark Sky Preserve’ and this month held for the third time a ‘Dark Sky Festival’, check out the Twitter feed on #JasperDSF, it was 10 days of astronomy under a dark sky. With a diverse range of activities and some unique sponsors. Such a high level of interest in science and astronomy and with high profile sponsors it looks like science can do well in Canada, check the website on Jasper Dark Sky
The most likely known Dark Sky Activist organisation would be the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) a recent interview with their outreach officer by a travel organisation Confetti Travel Cafe can be found here.
The IDA after being formed in 1988 has fought many lighting battles and established a process for certifying dark sky locations. These days it has become a popular process in the United States and similar systems exist in Europe, locally a dark sky park has been established surrounding the Australian Astronomical Observatories (AAO) at Siding Spring (Coonabarabran) in the Warrumbungles National Park, and the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve was established at Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand a few years ago. The popularity in the United States has led to Utah making applications for 14 State Parks, where two parks have already been established.
Ngari night sky
Also to be included in the list of organisations concerned about the loss of the night sky is an organistaion in China called ‘MountainStar’. A location in the autonomous region of Tibet called Ngari prefecture has been nominated as the location of the first Dark Sky Reserve in China. The description by Tibet Travel is : "With an altitude of 4,200m, Ngari Dark Sky Park is now located, 25 km to the South of Shiquanhe town of Ngari. It is the first dark sky park its kind in Asia, featuring sky observation, photography and study. It is a paradise for star gazers. "