14 August 2015

Chile will have the first International Dark Skies Sanctuary of the world

The astronomical site of the AURA Observatory, right in Valle del Elqui, will be known as the “Gabriela Mistral Sanctuary of Dark Skies”, honoring our Nobel prize winner.

Northern Chile has the optimal conditions for astronomical observation. Its dark skies are considered the best in the world for this practice, however, this resource is under constant threat due to light pollution. That is why, in the context of the General Assembly of the IAU (International Astronomical Union), the International Dark-Skies Association (IDA) decreed the creation of the new sanctuary.

There is a reason behind the name chosen for this observatory. Gabriela Mistral always loved Valle del Elqui, since she was born right in its capital, Vicuña, where she would sit and observe the starry skies.

Besides Aura, there are several other observatories of international collaboration in the region, given that the north of Chile is considered a natural laboratory in terms of astronomic studies. Moreover, it is estimated that in 2022, 70% of all astronomical data will come from our country.

This recognition will serve as a model for other observatories, since the protection of the darkness of the skies is key to safeguard the research carried out in the astronomical field. Hence, collaboration with government institutions is essential, as it was the case of our new sanctuary.

Our national concern to protect the dark skies is an issue that began in the 90’s, however, there are new risks – as the LED lights – that not only endanger astronomical observation, but also people’s health and nature.

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