A Leap in astrophysics and astro-tourism: Ladakh is home to South East Asia's first Night Sky Sanctuary
The sanctuary is gearing up to attract enthusiasts of astronomy and advancing scientific
South East Asia's first Night Sky Sanctuary in Ladakh is all set for a formal inauguration soon. The sanctuary, located in Hanle village, Eastern Ladakh, is an initiative enhancing India's capabilities in both astrophysics and astro-tourism.
The reserve, spanning 1,073 square kilometers within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary and near the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle, will feature facilities for optical, infra-red, and gamma-ray telescopes. It is strategically located at an elevation of 4500 meters, making it one of the highest sites for such scientific research worldwide. This sanctuary is one of only a few globally, designed to captivate stargazers and researchers.
The Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics, in collaboration with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh and the Union Territory Administration of Ladakh, spearheads this project. The institute's involvement in this project underlines its role in advancing India's research in astronomy and its commitment to exploring remote regions.
The Dark Sky Reserve aims to boost local tourism and the economy by attracting astro-tourists and enhancing scientific knowledge. The project, which also intends to minimize light pollution, will contribute to wildlife conservation and community awareness in astronomy and environmental protection.
Speaking at an event on November 26, 2023, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be requested to inaugurate the Night Sky Reserve at Hanle. This is expected to elevate the project's significance at national and international levels. This initiative demonstrates the government's focus on enhancing scientific research and tourism in Ladakh.
The Night Sky Sanctuary announcement coincided with the fourth anniversary of Ladakh's establishment as a Union Territory, marked by the 'Ladakh’s Pride' exhibition. This event showcased the region's cultural wealth, including GI-tagged products like Seabuckthorn and Pashmina wool, emphasizing Ladakh's potential as a prime tourist destination.
In conclusion, the upcoming Night Sky Sanctuary in Ladakh marks a remarkable step in India's journey in space science and exploration, set to position the country as a prominent destination in global astro-tourism and scientific research.