What's a dark sky park?
A Dark Sky Park is an area, usually a public park or protected wilderness area, that has been recognised for its exceptionally dark night skies. These areas are managed to minimise light pollution and preserve the natural darkness of the night sky, making them ideal for stargazing and astronomy observations.
Australia's first IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) International Dark Sky Park is the Warrumbungle National Park. It is located in New South Wales, Australia and was designated as a Dark Sky Park by the IDA in 2016.
The Warrumbungle National Park has very little light pollution and is an ideal location for stargazing and astronomical observations. The park offers a range of activities for visitors, including guided astronomy tours, a visitor centre with interactive displays, and various walking trails. The IDA's Dark Sky Park designation recognises the park's efforts to preserve its natural darkness and promote the value of dark skies for the environment and human well-being.
The Park is also home to the amazing siding springs observatory and the Anglo-Australian Telescope which among other things, has a robotic instrument which builds tiny arrays of fibre optics to allow it to see deep into space! (Check out this Dr Karl podcast if you are really interested).
Needless to say its important that the surrounding development takes care to limit light pollution as this will significantly inhibit the observation of the skies by these important instruments and the tourists who flock to the area to witness the impressive darkness.
VIDEO - 2 min- Dr Fred Watson - Cheif Astronomer Siding Spring Observatory
In support of the Dark Sky Park designation the NSW Government and the Siding Spring Observatory developed a dark skies guideline which provides details on how surrounding development can assist in avoid sky glow and helping to preserve the darkness. The guideline was then used to develop targeted planning controls where development includes outside lighting in the Coonamble, Dubbo, Gilgandra, Warrumbungle Council areas and additional land use criteria for developments closer to the observatory. The controllers were updated in March 2023 to include adjustments to land use controls and lighting details based on consultation and feedback.
This initiative is a great example of how Councils can work with the State to create alignment between their strategies, local initiatives and local controls.