On a night flight across Asia, you are likely to enjoy peering out of the window at the orange haze of Beijing, or the multicoloured riot of lights that is Tokyo, or the golden arteries of southern China’s Pearl River Delta. But these brilliant spectacles come at a price. While skyglow attests to rapid and sophisticated urban development, it also means that tens of millions of people in cities across the world never truly witness the sky at night. As light pollution has become an increasing blight, scientists and astronomers have been fighting back, and Asia is the latest frontier in the quest to develop more dark sky parks.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a US non-profit organisation based in Arizona, established its Dark Sky Places programme in 2001. The aim was to encourage different regions of the world to find ways to protect the night skies above them. The IDA considers pitches for particular sites worldwide, and then works with local representatives to ensure the areas remain protected before gaining an official status.
Though much of the IDA’s work to date has focused on the US and Europe, “Asia is slowly but steadily rising in terms of importance of what we do,” says the IDA’s programme manager John Barentine, a professional astronomer based in Arizona.