The silent beauty of the night sky

Poster Dark & Quiet Skies for Science and Society. Credit: Inés Bonet / IAC.

Yesterday saw the start of the Conference on Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society) organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) with the support of NOIRLab (The National Laboratory for Research in Optical and Infrared Astronomy of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As had been announced a few months ago, after last year’s Workshop, the aim of this new meeting is to focus on putting into practice the recommendations made in the exhaustive report which resulted from the meeting which took place in October 2020. This report, prepared by 85 international experts, had five theme headings: “dark sky oasis”, optical astronomy, the impact of artificial lighting on the biological environment, constellations of satellites, and radioastronomy. For each theme a set of recommendations was presented, designed to mitigate the impact of the various causes of interference. These recommendations will be discussed in depth during this week, so that governments and companies can adopt them and thereby reduce their negative impact on science and on society.

The conference “Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society 2021” should have taken place in Santa Cruz de la Palma, on the Island of La Palma. But the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which started on September 19th brought about the decision, only a week ago, to celebrate the meeting completely on-line. “This decision was taken jointly by the United Nations, the Government of Spain, and the IAU and was motivated by the growing need of resources for the island itself” explained Casiana Muñoz-Tuñón, Deputy Director of the IAC and organizer of this meeting. “From the IAC we consider that all present efforts should be centered on the needs of the people on the island and management of the emergency”.

During the conference, which will end on Thursday October 7th, the meetings will take place on-line, and a set of recommendations will be produced. It is a matter of finding compatibility between technological development and the conservation of dark and quite skies. The recommendations of the conference will be submitted for discussion in the Commission of the United Nations on the use of Outer Space for Peaceful purposes (COPUOS).

Conference website:

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