In an attempt to boost ‘astrotourism’, Ladakh and The Indian Institute of Astrophysics along with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) are setting up India’s first dark sky sanctuary at Hanle.
The Dark Sky Reserve in India has been in the making for a few months now. It is located within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, where the six hamlets of Bhok, Shado, Punguk, Khuldo, Naga and Tibetan Refugee habitations together have formed the cluster now known as Hanle Dark Sky Reserve. According to ANI, Jitendra Singh, the Union Minister of State (independent charge) Science & Technology said in a recent meeting, “On behalf of the Department of Science and Technology and CSIR, we will request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the Night Sky Reserve at an early date.”
He added, “This Dark Sky Reserve is among only the 15 or 16 of its kind in the world that will offer a spectacular view of the night sky. Because of its altitude and location across the Himalayas in the rain shadow area, this Night Sky Reserve is the ideal place for stargazers almost throughout the year.”
Everything we know about Ladakh’s Dark Sky Sanctuary till now
Located in the Hanle river valley, in the Changthang sanctuary, near the Line of Control with China, is one of the world’s highest sites for an optical telescope. At an elevation of 14,764 feet, The Indian Astronomical Observatory, established in 2001, will now be the centre of the dark sky sanctuary. This decision was announced by the Union Territory’s Principal Secretary of the Planning, Development and Monitoring Department, Pawan Kotwal, during a high-level meeting last year, as reported by First Post. Leh-based Army officer Colonel Pankaj Sinha, who was also present at the meeting, said that the Army will extend all the cooperation necessary towards protecting Hanle as a dark sky sanctuary.
View this post on Instagram
Singh had said last year that the stakeholders will come together to come up with ways for protecting the sanctuary from unwanted light pollution and illumination. He also added that a tripartite was signed between the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) for launching the Dark Space Reserve.
A dark sky sanctuary is an area, usually surrounding an observatory, that has distinct and clear starry nights, which calls for certain measures to restrict artificial light, protect the dark night skies and ensure proper illumination, without causing excess pollution. By declaring Hanle as a dark sky sanctuary, astronomy and tourism will be promoted, without causing harm to the natural environment and wildlife.
Hanle is a village of great historical importance and is the site of the 17th-century Tibetan-Buddhist Hanle Monastery. It sits at the top of a small hillock, overlooking the village and the valley. The village is located on an old branch of an ancient Ladakh–Tibet trade and pilgrimage route. A remote region in the already remote Union Territory, Hanle offers enchanting scenic views of the surrounding landscape and the great starry night skies, making it a must-visit offbeat location.
Hero and Feature Image Credit: Ryunosuke Kikuno/Unsplash
Related: 8 Places To Go Stargazing In India That’ll Leave You Mesmerised