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The Windows to the Universe Document included within the ICOMOS-IAU Thematic Study on Heritage Sites of Astronomy



Windows to the Universe Starlight, Dark Sky Areas, and Observatory Sites Co-ordinating author: Cipriano Marín1 Authors: Richard Wainscoat2, Malcolm Smith3, Margaret Austin4, John Hearnshaw4, Günther Wuchterl5, Casiana MuñozTuñón6, Juan Carlos Pérez Arencibia6, Eduardo Fayos-Solá7.

The sky, our common and universal heritage, is an integral part of the environment perceived by humanity1. Starting from this general idea, the Declaration in Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight adopted in 2007, states that “an unpolluted night sky that allows the enjoyment and contemplation of the firmament should be considered an inalienable right of humankind equivalent to all other environmental, social, and cultural rights”2. Multiple factors, and most notably the continued increase in light pollution are leading this resource, virtually unchanged throughout the history of humankind, to turn into an extremely scarce asset. An essential element of our civilisation and culture is rapidly becoming lost, and this loss is affecting most countries on Earth (Fig. 1). Under these conditions, certain places whose sky is still dark, and whose scientific cultural or environmental values depend on starlight, should be recognized and preserved as reference sites of a common heritage in danger.

An eroding nightscape The importance of preserving places with pristine dark skies has repercussions not only for astronomical observation, since it covers multiple dimensions of vital importance. The light of stars and other heavenly bodies has always enriched terrestrial nature’s display as well as human habitat, creating reference landscapes traditionally perceived by people as an integral part of their natural and cultural heritage. Starry skies were one of the most powerful driving forces related to landscape throughout the time, but they have been losing their original power over time and across continents. The nocturnal dimension of skyscapes, in spite of its diver-

sity and magnificence, is still the most hidden aspect of the current concept of cultural and natural landscape. Nightscapes can be very diverse whether starry landscapes related to rural areas, urban oases, geoparks, natural areas or sites associated with tangible and intangible astronomical heritage. Throughout their history, all cultures have identified the most privileged sites for the observation of the firmament. Each place has its own view of starlight handed down through generations. These sites and settings should be preserved to prevent them losing their meaning. Looking at starry night landscapes brings us to seriously value the imperative to protect dark skies in order to preserve essential parts of our common heritage. There are several reasons to protect the natural night sky: To preserve starscapes related with geology. Some geological landscapes reach their highest value in combination with the nocturnal sky. Sites like Cerro Ventarrones at Atacama (Chile), the natural bridges at Arches National Park and Alabama Hills (USA), Mount Norikura (Japan) Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary (Australia) and Pic du Midi (France), are a small sample of how geological landscapes blend with starlight, creating emblematic natural spaces at night. Commemorative integrity, or the authenticity at historic sites, monuments and cultural-ritual skyscapes. Night sky quality is often a factor that may affect the integrity of the tangible cultural heritage of astronomy. Starry-sky settings are inherent to the perception of some cultural landscapes related with the view of the firmament. The degradation of this element in sites like Rapa Nui (Chile) and Montaña de Tindaya (Spain), would involve an evident decontextualization of the protected heritage itself. A similar consideration applies to prehistoric monument

Co-ordinator Starlight Initiative - IAC/Starlight Foundation University of Hawaii. Institute for Astronomy. Chairman, IAU Working Group on Controlling Light Pollution. 3 Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO). 4 Starlight Reserve Working Group - New Zealand. 5 Thüringer Landessternwarte, Tautenburg, Germany and,Vienna, Austria. 6 Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Spain. 7 Regional Representative for Europe, Executive Secretary, Education and Science Council UNWTO - United Nations World Tourism Organization. 1 2



ensembles associated with the vision of the firmament, such as Zorats Karer (Armenia) and Stonehenge (UK). The loss of integrity is even more evident in historical observatories like Cheomseongdae (Korea), Jantar Mantar (India), as well as in the most recent ones, like Armagh (Ireland) or Mount Palomar (USA). The preservation of cultural traditions, both aboriginal and classical, that relate to the night sky. Like a silently approaching plague, light pollution causes the disappearance of starry skies, both physically and from cultures, leading to irreparable losses of the intangible heritage. Legends, folk tales, children stories, old pilgrimage routes, and traditional festivals are critically endangered worldwide. This situation suggests the possibility that this dimension can be considered for inter-convention recognition, in particular with the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Ecological integrity of natural environments. The experience accumulated in some protected areas such as Torrance Barrens (Canada), Galloway Forest Park, and Hortobágy National Park (Hungary)3, in emblematic places for nature conservation such as Doñana (Spain) or the East Alpine Starlight Reserve (Austria), or exceptional landscape areas like the MacKenzie Basin (NZ), forces us to seriously consider the importance of night sky quality for conserving nature and the exceptional values that certain spaces have with regard to the night. Darkness and natural night light are indispensable for the healthy functioning of species and ecosystems. We tend to forget that life goes on 24 hours a day and that ecosystems have adapted themselves to the natural rhythms of the moon and stars in the course of millions of years of

evolution. As over half of the creatures living on this planet are nocturnal, any degradation in the quality of sky, by day or by night, is having a profound effect on their behaviour and on the equilibrium of the biosphere. For the reasons related to the conservation of nature, and in recognition of the other benefits of dark skies, the Dark Skies Advisory Group of the IUCN’s Cities and Protected Areas Task Force supports the inclusion of night sky protection and appreciation in world heritage considerations, either as one of the outstanding universal values of a heritage site, or as part of a new class of protected areas4. Within this context, and in view of the different approaches to this dimension, it is worth reminding the appeal made by the Starlight Declaration (2007): “the Conference requests the five Conventions in the Biodiversity Liaison Group to examine the outcomes of its deliberations and, if appropriate, take to their governing bodies a combined view of the role of the conventions in helping increase protection for the night sky, understanding that this action will have positive effects on the landscape conservation and wise use of biodiversity”. Appreciation of integrity, character and beauty of urban and rural landscapes. Nowadays it would be impossible that minds like Vincent van Gogh would capture works of art such as “Starry Nights” on a canvas. Dark sky loss is not only affecting cities, since light pollution can show its adverse effects even hundreds of kilometres away. The European Landscape Convention as well as initiatives such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)5 have approached this issue for the first time.

Figure 1. The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness. Credit: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder). Copyright Royal Astronomical Society. Reproduced from the Monthly Notices of the RAS by permission of Blackwell Science. P. Cinzano, F. Falchi and C. D. Elvidge.



After all, it is about rediscovering the idea that a dark, starfilled sky has always been a rural quality. When talking of the possibility to preserve pristine dark skies, we are not only referring to locations far away from cities and bright areas, the exceptional natural landscapes at night or unique settings related with the astronomical culture. It also has to be taken into account that there are areas near cities, towns and villages which - even if they cannot be considered exceptional because of their natural or heritage values, or if their sharpness parameters do not meet the required standards for astronomical observation – do, nevertheless, offer excellent opportunities for education in astronomy and the possibility to enjoy clear skies, which determines to a great degree the natural outdoor experience. This would be the case, for example, of Großmugl Starlight Oasis (Austria), Monfrague National Park (Spain) or the various public observatories in the Coquimbo Region of Chile, relatively accessible places where people can still have an easy access to this heritage at risk: Starlight. Certain sites feature multiple qualities and exceptional values in the same space, like multifunctional windows to the Universe. This is the case - as presented in the corresponding case study - for Lake Tekapo and Aoraki / Mt Cook. This region has outstanding rural natural landscapes of exceptional scenic beauty, magnified by its starry sky setting. Both quality and clarity of the night sky are very high, which has favoured the establishment of an observatory and significant stargazing activity. It also is a reference space for the Maori culture, who visited the area for generations for food gathering and to observe the regular night visitors – the constellations. These places, where multiple natural and cultural values converge under the stars, deserve special attention when approaching night preservation. This is also the case for Onk Jmel (camel neck), located at the deep South of Tunisia and featuring a landscape of great dunes and stars historically crossed by caravans, which includes exceptional troglodyte settlements. Having reached this point, it is essential to remember that the World Heritage Convention refers to science in Articles 1 and 2. More specifically, in Article 2 it establishes that the following shall be considered as natural heritage: “natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty”. Nevertheless, as in other Conventions, the most emblematic dark sky areas and their associated scientific, cultural or natural heritage, are not taken into account as an indivisble whole, regardless of how exceptional they are. In terms of heritage identification to date, the day is considered immutable, while night is ephemeral.

Where the Earth meets the Universe The scientific dimension of a starry night is an essential part of the legacy of the sky. The ability of the planet’s astronomical sites and observatories to detect and interpret data from outside the world we live in should be considered as a resource of extraordinary value for the progress of knowledge, as it has been throughout history. Dark skies are still the windows to our knowledge of the greater Universe. Unfortunately, unlike the existing World Heritage sites, current areas devoted to astronomical observation do not enjoy appropriate recognition. Ground-based observatories have historically provided the vast majority of our knowledge of outer space. However, present technical and scientific requirements restrict suitable areas to very specific and limited locations offering good conditions for the development of astronomy, of optical and infrared astronomy in particular. There are only a few places on the planet where we find this unique combination of environmental and natural circumstances: well conserved spaces with very little alteration to natural starlight. The quality of astronomical observation is influenced in many ways by Earth’s atmosphere. Although these effects can be eliminated by launching telescopes into space, space astronomy is extremely expensive, very large telescopes cannot be launched into space, and servicing and maintaining space telescopes is difficult or impossible. The identification of windows on Earth for the observation of the Universe is a task where several limiting factors come into play (table 1). Most of them affect the sharpness of images that is of paramount importance in astronomical observation. Blurry images cause confusion, and nearby stars cannot be resolved from each other. Faint stars take much longer to detect if the images are blurry6. Table 1

ATMOSPHERIC FACTORS AFFECTING ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATION7 Turbulence in the atmosphere air blurs images of stars and other objects — turbulence causes mixing of cooler and warmer air, and the turbulent air acts like a lens, blurring images of astronomical objects. Weather (e.g., clouds, rain) prevents observations some of the time. Water vapour and carbon dioxide absorb infrared light at some wavelengths, making the atmosphere opaque. Air molecules and aerosols scatter artificial light, making the sky bright. Molecules and atoms high in the atmosphere absorb sunlight during the day and reemit it at night, creating a dim glow from the atmosphere at night.



At mid-latitudes, the wind direction in the upper atmosphere is from west to east. This arises from Earth’s rotation and the Coriolis force. As a result, the air arriving at the west coast of a continent or isolated island flows in a non-turbulent manner. After a first selection we obtain the sites which have the best image quality, without turbulences caused by phenomena such as mixing of cooler and warmer air that causes blurring of stellar images. Observatories must be located at sites with good weather. Tropical rain forests and temperate rain forests are not good locations for observatories. In general, trees are not consistent with good observatory sites. The equatorial region has convergence and a lot of rainfall. Latitudes close to 30 degrees (north or south), correspond to subsidence (dry air) and are good locations for observatories while latitudes close to 60 degrees are also regions of convergence, and are poor locations for observatories. Wind is also an important consideration. High altitudes have strong winds. Mid altitudes have more gentle winds. Low altitudes have more air pollution, and there

is a low moist marine layer in coastal locations. Lower altitudes also have more atmospheric turbulence, because there is more air to look through. A temperature inversion often traps the moisture and air pollution at lower altitudes. The dominant west to east airflow means that mountains on the west coast of continents, or isolated islands with moderately high mountains are ideal locations for observatories. The mountains allow the observatory to be located above the turbulent lower atmosphere. Clouds at lower altitudes can blanket artificial light sources, reducing light pollution. Observatory sites must also be accessible — they cannot be too high, since higher altitudes are very difficult to work at. Antarctica is an excellent site for astronomy, but is not easily accessible, and cannot see the northern sky. Observatory sites should also be geologically stable. High seismicity zones, active volcanoes or glaciers are therefore to be excluded. Collisions of Pacific and American plates have created mountain ranges along the west coast of North and South America. At mid-latitudes, these mountains are in California, Baja California, and northern Chile. The

Figure 2. Selection of exceptional observing sites. Based on “The process of selection of exceptional observing sites” by Richard Wainscoat, University of Hawaii. Own elaboration on CIA’s Physical Map of the World, 2004.

mountains in California are located too close to major light sources, and are no longer good observatory sites. Instead, several areas in Northern Chile and Baja California feature excellent qualities and appropriate locations for observatories. Other continents, such as Australia, do not have suitable mountains on the west coast. Volcanic hotspots have created the Hawaiian and Canary Islands. These isolated islands each have excellent



observatory sites, most notably Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, Teide and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Islands. The South Island of New Zealand has suitable high mountains along its west coast, but is located further south in the Roaring Forties zone and weather conditions along this coast are not the best, although on the east side of the mountains there is a protected high country plateau, the Mackenzie

Basin, which is moderately good for optical astronomy. Observatory sites in South Africa (SAAO Site), Arizona and Texas are also good, but not as good as the Chilean, Hawaiian and Canary Island sites, because they are located further from the coast. The above mentioned sites are characterised by extraordinary good sky-quality parameters which determine exceptional windows to the Universe, They are8: Useful Time (of clear sky), Sky background (darkness), Atmospheric Extinction9 (transparency), Seeing10 (for sharp images). Finally, after identifying the best sites for astronomical observation throughout the planet, it is critically important to try to conserve and protect sites in both the northern and the southern hemisphere. Northern sites cannot see parts of the southern sky, and southern sites cannot see parts of the northern sky. There are natural and man-made threats to the observatory sites that make it essential to protect several sites in each hemisphere. These include volcanic eruption, major earthquake, mining, atmospheric pollution and light pollution. Because of these points, more than talking of outstanding isolated observatories, a joint vision of an ensemble of windows open to the Universe, to be kept open and protected appropriately, should prevail. These exceptional sites, including their natural components, can be considered as “landscapes of science and knowledge”. As we would have expected, the world’s largest contemporary observatories11, true scientific monuments12, are located in these places and are, to a greater or lesser extent, historical sources of native astronomical culture. The case studies for Hawaii, the Canaries and northern Chile are for an ensemble of discrete sites that, within this context, have outstanding universal significance as a group, justifying a serial nomination.

such as biosphere reserves or other protected entities. The Starlight Reserve concept, developed in cooperation with the Thematic Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage”, establishes this type of zoning criteria (core, buffer and external zone). Along the same line, an ensemble of requirements and general recommendations on total exclusion or intelligent use of artificial lighting are set for each area, and compiled into a Guide13. This guide has been proposed and developed as a general reference document for World Heritage Sites and in particular for those related to astronomy. Similar considerations are found in the application criteria developed for International Dark Sky Parks and Reserves14. In any case, dark sky should be considered as an additional criterion for existing WHS, not only for those having astronomy-related values, but also for those landscapes and natural areas sensitive to the alteration of natural light. Furthermore, reducing light pollution at cultural sites connected with astronomy, can be considered at least as an exercise in coordination to safeguard the integrity of the site, With regard to legal issues, it is necessary to observe that some of the most important areas for astronomical observation were pioneers in developing regulations and laws to ensure adequate protection of sky quality. These issues are dealt more in depth within the case studies. However it is worth recalling that the first attempts to regulate light pollution are found in the U.S. (e.g.: Arizona), but the first National Law that explicitly protects the sky for astronomical observation is the “Sky Law” that protects the Canary Islands’ Observatories (1988). Then Chile developed its “Norma Lumínica”, and Ha-

Management of sites.There is another way to light up the night The effective preservation of dark areas requires the establishment of appropriate criteria for its management, especially those relating to mitigation or elimination of light pollution. Similarly, it is important to identify and establish “umbral” areas, and “penumbral” zones around them, depending on the level of impact on the different values to be preserved in each area: clear skies for astronomical observations, scenic values of cultural sites related to astronomy, dark skies for wildlife conservation, and natural areas or nightscapes. According to the function of each site, the requirement level will be higher or lower. Zoning systems proposed so far are similar, in terms of night sky quality, to those established in areas



waii an ordinance for the Mauna Kea Observatory. Lake Tekapo as well is governed by an ordinance which dates from 1981, pioneer in its kind. The example of these first initiatives has been spreading to other areas, from protected sites to cities. More than 200 initiatives were started over a decade, culminating in advanced laws and regulations on intelligent lighting, such as the most recent law against light pollution of the Lombardy Region (Italy). Some of these instruments have been designed to face two challenges at the same time: to protect the quality of the night sky and to support energy-saving intelligent lighting systems, that is to say, fighting against climate change and recovering starry skies. The fragile light of stars can become the sustainable development engine for several local communities. The star tourism opens new possibilities for responsible tourist destinations and new products appear before our very eyes in an enormous spectrum. Such diverse activities as watching starry skies, aurorae, eclipses, visits to astronomical observatories, sailing holidays featuring navigation by the stars, some pilgrimage routes, discovering the nature at the night or the innovative experiences offered in the desert under the stars all becoming viable, sustainable sources of income and selfsustaining employment are emerging for an increasing number of areas around the world. With regard to tourism, we are on the threshold of a significant, innovative situation. Star destinations can be defined as visitable places characterised by excellent quality for the contemplation of starry skies and the practice of tourist–educational activities based on this resource. Starlight tourism makes it possible for the first time to bring science and tourism together. Star tourism

allows the recognition of science as a tourist product and, at the same time, develops new working methods in tourism, through science-based standards and procedures, as it has been already done in cooperation with UN-WTO for the development of the Starlight certification. This new way shows that the right coupage of science and tourism could contribute to the global acceptance of the “new ways”, the “green economy” and the “global sustainable village”. We can refer to destinations as diverse as observatory sites, cultural landscapes of astronomical heritage, darksky areas of outstanding beauty, or the already mentioned natural areas. The Alpine Starlight Reserve case shows us how the night skies are already well embedded in National Park programs including night hiking and observation of nocturnal species, many of them endemic and relying on the natural nighttime environment, integrating additional night resources, beyond astronomical observation. Also of note is the advantage that the development of this type of tourism has in reducing tension between modern astronomy and indigenous concerns. Astronomy becomes a vector of development for local communities. In the case of the Amalfi Coast, in this new era of tourism the first customers and recipients are the local communities, avoiding the creation of resorts and special ghettos for the enjoyment of a common heritage. It has been stressed recently that the heritage of science is insufficiently recognized15, but a part of this recognition, at least in the astronomical field, may come from this new concept of tourism. In addition, the starry sky can highlight the strong link between tangible and intangible heritage.

Figure 3. Case studies. Own elaboration on CIA’s Physical Map of the World, April 2004..



Case Studies AURA Observatory (Chile) Presentation and analysis od the site 1. Geographic position: Coquimbo Region. Approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile. 2. Location: 30°12’S 70°47’W, 2,240 m a.s.l. (Cerro Tololo) and 2,700 m a.s.l. (Cerro Pachón). 3. General Description: Two mountain-top groups of telescopes: Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachon. Cerro Tololo is the site of the first of the various major, international observatories which are now operating in Chile. Following this lead, and attracted by the pristine night skies, the world’s astronomers have made northern Chile the primary center for major astronomy research observatories in the southern hemisphere. The wide-field, 4m, Blanco telescope was the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere during the period 1975-1997. Clear, dark skies over the Blanco telescope were crucial to its selection by the two groups who used it to make the initial discovery of the acceleration of the Universe. 4. Telescopes: 4m Blanco. 8m Gemini South, 4.2m SOAR, 8.2m LSST under development. Other smaller telescopes. The LSST group recently selected this site after an international, competitive survey. This telescope will provide deep images of the whole sky every 3-4 nights. 5. Justification for Outstanding Universal Value: It is part of a single set of sites in the world with exceptional conditions for observing the Universe. These sites, including their natural and cultural components, are exceptional “windows of science and knowledge”. Observatories should be regarded as scientific monuments.

Figure 4: Tololo at night, September 2009. Photo by Arturo Gómez & José Velasquez / CTIO.

AURA, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. AURA is recognized by the Chilean Government as an accredited International Organization, with a variety of diplomatic privileges c. Stakeholders. 40 international member institutions of AURA Inc. d. Protection of buffer zone. Any mining activity within this property, including prospection work, would require the written permission of the President of the Republic of Chile. The Region of Coquimbo is one of three Regions in northern Chile where artificial lighting is governed by the requirements of Supreme Decree 686/98. On the property, AURA voluntarily complies with and exceeds all environmental protection requirements of the Chilean government. 3. State of Conservation: a. The observatory has been in operation on this site for nearly 50 years. Buildings and telescopes are well Figure 5: Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachon by day. Photo by Roger Smith (2001).

Present site management 1. Present use of the site: As the southern-hemisphere site of the international telescopes mentioned above. 2. Protection: a. Legal pattern for protection. The zone around the site has been declared “of Scientific Interest” by the Chilean Government which protects against incursion by mining interests. The northern Regions of Chile are subject to Supreme Decree 686/98 (the ‘norma luminica’, signed by the President of the Republic of Chile) which protects against light pollution. b. Owner. The entire 34,491-hectare site is owned by



maintained, consistent with the operation of a major research facility. b. The buffer zone is protected from mining operations via a formal program of constant monitoring of requests for mining activity. A National Office for the Protection of the Quality of the Skies of Northern Chile (OPCC) has the mission to carry out public education and to assist the government in the protection of this natural heritage. Under supervision of the Superintendent’s Office of Electricity and Fuel (SEC) and local municipalities, about 2/3 of all street lights in the three, key, “astronomical” Regions of Northern Chile have now been modified or replaced in order to comply with the requirements of the “norma luminica”. The broad-band, artificial sky background is, even in the worst directions, still within 10-15 degrees of the horizon, and does not yet interfere with any observatory operations. 4. Context and environment, landscape: “Astrotourism” has grown from the contrast between the polluted skies of Europe, Japan and the USA and the unparalleled, naked-eye view of the night sky over the Andes, the

Pacific Ocean and the deserts of Northern Chile. Recognizing this natural and cultural heritage, the motto of the Coquimbo Region of Chile is now “Coquimbo - the Star Region”. 5. Archaeological/historical/heritage research: Diaguita and Molle cultures in the immediately surrounding area are extinct. Two examples of rock art (not necessarily connected with astronomy) are on Cerro Pachon. A statistical study of Molle sites might reveal further astronomically-relevant information. 6. Main threats or potential threats to the site: Light pollution (this is the most threatened of the major observatory sites in Chile). Mining. 7. Interpretation and outreach at the site: The observatory has formed a 200+ schools network and support organization in collaboration with the Municipality of La Serena and the local University. The Coquimbo Region has an extensive astro-tourism development initiative. 7 public and private observatories have opened in the Region in response to the demand from networks of schools and from tourists.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA Presentation and analysis of the site 1. Geographic position: Summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii, USA. It is located about 300 km from Honolulu, which lies on the island of Oahu. 2. Location: 19º82’N 155º47’W, Island of Hawaii, 4,200 m a.s.l. Figure 6: Mauna Kea Observatories viewed from the Northeast. Photo by Richard Wainscoat (1998).



3. General Description: Mauna Kea (“White Mountain”) is a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii, the largest and southernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. The highest point in the Pacific Basin, and the highest island-mountain in the world, Mauna Kea rises 9,750 m from the ocean floor to an altitude of 4,205 m above sea level, which places its summit above 40 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. The broad volcanic landscape of the summit area is made up of cinder cones on a lava plateau. Mauna Kea is unique as an astronomical observing site. The atmosphere above the mountain is extremely dry -- which is important in measuring infrared and submillimeter radiation from celestial sources - and cloud-free, so that the proportion of clear nights is among the highest in the world. The smooth shape of the isolated mountain, along with its high altitude, produces astronomical image quality that is among the best of any location on Earth. The atmospheric pressure at the summit is approximately 600 mb. 4. Telescopes: Keck I and II, Subaru, Gemini North, IRTF, UKIRT, CFHT, JCMT, CSO, SMA, UH 2.2-m and 0.9-m, VLBA. The first large telescope on Mauna Kea, the 2.2-m, demonstrated the remarkably stable and dry atmosphere above the observatory, and led to the development of a series of larger telescopes, many of

which are owned and operated by international countries or partnerships. Mauna Kea was recently selected as the site for the Thirty Meter Telescope. 5. Justification for Outstanding Universal Value: It is part of a single set of sites in the world with exceptional conditions for observing the Universe. These sites, including their natural and cultural components, are exceptional “windows of science and knowledge”. Observatories should be regarded as scientific monuments. Present site management 1. Present use of the site: As the site of the telescopes listed above. 2. Protection: a. Legal pattern for protection: The zone around the observatory is called the “Mauna Kea Science Reserve,” and has strict controls on usage. A subset of this reserve is designated for astronomical usage. A pie shaped sector of the zone around the observatory is preserved as the “Mauna Kea Ice Age Reserve.” A lighting ordinance for the island of Hawaii has been established to limit artificial light and its damaging effects on the observatories. b. Owner: The Mauna Kea Science Reserve and Ice Age Reserve are owned by the State of Hawaii. A large area around these reserves is also owned by the State of Hawaii.

c. Stakeholders: Each of the telescopes has a sublease from the University of Hawaii. The University of Hawaii has leased the Mauna Kea Science Reserve from the State of Hawaii. The lease expires in 2031. d. Protection of buffer zone: A large area around the science reserve is preservation land owned by the state of Hawaii. Few people live closer than 25 km from the summit. The county of Hawaii lighting ordinance provides protection of the summit region from light pollution. 3. Management: The summit area is managed by the Office of Mauna Kea Management of the University of Hawaii. Rangers patrol the summit area for conservation purposes and to assist visitors with problems. The larger conservation area surrounding the summit is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaii. 4. State of Conservation: The observatory has been in operation for 40 years. Buildings and telescopes are well maintained, consistent with the operation of a major research facility. The lighting ordinance has been in place for 20 years, and has provided good protection to the night sky. However, there are many of lights on the island that do not conform to the ordinance, either because they were installed prior to the ordinance, or have been installed in violation. Better enforcement is expected in the future. The present level of light pollution does not compromise research. An

Figure 7: Observing the night at Mauna Kea. Photo by Richard Wainscoat (2008).



ongoing eruption of nearby Kilauea volcano is producing copious amount of volcanic gases and haze. These gases are nearly always trapped at lower altitudes by a temperature inversion, and do not affect astronomy. 5. Context and environment, landscape: The summit region is sacred to the native Hawaiians. The summit area is a spectacular natural landscape composed of multiple cinder cones, a high altitude lake, and glacial moraine field. 6. Archaeological/historical/heritage research: An ancient adze quarry is located to the south of a summit, with very hard rocks formed during the last ice age from lava being cooled by a glacier; the hard rocks were

used as tools by pre-European contact Hawaiians. Numerous archaeological monuments are located around the summit region. 7. Main threats or potential threats to the site: Light pollution from the nearby urban areas. Population growth is occurring mostly on the western (dry/clear) side of the island leading to increasing artificial light. 8. Interpretation and outreach at the site: The Mauna Kea Visitor Center is open 365 days per year, and offers summit tours on weekends and evening stargazing. The annual visitor count exceeds 250,000. Astronomers and staff from the Mauna Kea Observatories are engaged in extensive outreach activities across the island of Hawaii, and elsewhere in Hawaii.

Canarian Observatories, Spain Presentation and analysis of the site 1. Geographic position: Canary Islands. The Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM) is located on the island of La Palma (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), on the edge of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. The Teide Observatory (OT) is located on the island of Tenerife, close to the Teide National Park, which is a World Heritage Site. 2. Location: Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM): 28º46’N 17º53’W, 2,396 m a.s.l. Teide Observatory: 28º18’N 16º30’W, 2,390 m a.s.l. 3. General Description: The observatories of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) are an “astronomy reserve” which has been made available to the international community. Canary Islands’ sky quality for astronomical observation has long been recognised

Figure 8: Teide Observatory (OT). Tenerife, Canary Islands. (Photo IAC).



worldwide. They are near to the equator yet out of the reach of tropical storms. The whole of the Northern Celestial Hemisphere and part of the Southern can be observed from them. The Observatories are located 2,400 m above sea level, on top of the temperature inversion layer produced by the trade winds. This ensures that the installations are always above the so-called “sea of clouds” where the atmosphere, stabilised by the ocean, is clean and turbulence-free. As far back as 1856, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland conducted astronomical experiments on the mountain summits of the island of Tenerife16. 4. Telescopes: ORM: 10.4m Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT), 3.5m Telescopio Nazionale GALILEO, 2.56m Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT), 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT), 2m Liverpool Telescope, 1,2m MERCATOR, 0.45m Dutch Open Telescope (DOT), 1m Solar Telescope (SST), MAGIC I and II (detect very high energy gamma rays), SuperWASPNorth (robotic observatory). OT: 1.55m CARLOS SÁNCHEZ, 1m OGS, 0.8m IAC-80, 0.5m MONS, 0.4m OTA, 1.5 GREGOR (Solar), 0.9m THEMIS (Solar), 0.7m VTT (Solar), 0.3m Bradford Robotic Telescope, 1.2m Robotic telescopes STELLA. The ensemble of observatories has played an important role in astronomy. It has been there where, among many others, the optical counterpart of a Gamma Ray Burst was observed first ever, the first unequivocal evidence for a stellar-size black hole in the Galaxy was obtained, which had been sought for decades, and the first brown dwarf was discovered. The GTC, so far the largest optical and infrared tel-

Present site management 1. Present use of the sites: As the site of the telescopes listed above. 2. Protection: a. Legal pattern for protection. The astronomical quality of the Canary Islands’ Observatories is guaranteed under a specific national sky law approved in 1988 (“Ley del Cielo” - Law 31/1988). The whole area where each observatory is located enjoys of a high level or protection. Each one of the observatories is located within a European Special Area for Conservation, and lays at the edge of a National Park. b. Owner. Both areas are municipality-owned and administrated by IAC. The IAC is constituted administratively as a Public Consortium, created by statute in 1982, with involvement from the Spanish Government, the Government of the Canary Islands, the University of La Laguna and Spain’s Science Research Council (CSIC).

Figure 9: Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC). Photo by Pablo Bonet.

escope in the world, will ‘see’ the farthest, faintest objects in our Universe, it will help provide answers to many questions about how the known Universe was created. 5. Justification for Outstanding Universal Value: It is part of a single set of sites in the world with exceptional conditions for observing the Universe. These sites, including their natural and cultural components, are exceptional “windows of science and knowledge”. Observatories should be regarded as scientific monuments. The Teide National Park is inscribed in the World Heritage List (criteria vii, viii). Connection with science is found within the application of criterion viii “…the area is a major centre for international research with a long history of influence on geology and geomorphology especially through the work of von Humboldt, von Buch and Lyell which has made Mount Teide a significant site in the history of volcanology”. It should be added that pioneer atmospheric observations have been carried out in this area. Within this context, it is logical to consider its extension to astronomy.

c. Stakeholders. The Observatorio del Teide (Tenerife) and Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (La Palma) are currently home to telescopes and other instruments belonging to 60 scientific institutions from 19 different countries. These observation facilities, together with the scientific and technological resources of the IAC’s Instituto de Astrofísica at La Laguna (Tenerife) and Centro de Astrofísica en La Palma (CALP) at Breña Baja (La Palma). d. Protection and zoning (ORM). Relying on the regulatory development of the Sky Law, a high sensibility area of 9 km around the Observatory (core area) is established. The rest of the island of La Palma (25 km around the Observatory) is considered a high

Figure 10: Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (ORM). La Palma, Canary Islands. (Photo IAC).



protection buffer zone, while the external zone is the area visible from La Palma, 100-160 km around the Observatory, which corresponds to the island of Tenerife. The protection also covers radio and atmospheric pollution (no emission sources above 1500 a.s.l.), and air traffic. 3. State of Conservation: The sky protection law has been in place for 22 years, and has provided good protection to the night sky, especially on the island of de La Palma. The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has long been aware of the importance of promoting initiatives for the characterization and protection of the Observarorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma, and the Observatorio del Teide (OT) on Tenerife. For this purpose, in the late 80’s a Sky Quality Group was created as well as a technical office for sky protection (OTPC). The OTPC was set up by the IAC in January 1992 to provide advice on the application of the Sky Law. The level of protection has been increasing in the last years, overcoming the initial reluctance of local population. Better enforcement is expected in the future. The present level of light pollution does not compromise research, maintaining the high level of excellence of the sky quality parameters.

4. Context and environment, landscape. Both observatory are located within areas of utmost value from an environmental and natural scenery point of view. The ORM is located within the core zone of the La Palma Biosphere Reserve and within the buffer zone of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. The OT is located on a mountain covered of volcanic cinder with a spectacular view to the Teide stratovolcano. 5. Archaeological/historical/heritage research: Close to the Roque de los Muchachos is the prehistoric cult area of “Llano de Las Lajitas”, part of the Awara’s astronomical legacy. The Awara people were the ancient inhabitants of the island of La Palma. The Teide mountain is a world-renowned place for its contribution to science in modern times, especially in the field of geology and the study of the atmosphere. 6. Light pollution (a common risk to the main observation sites in the world). 7. Interpretation and outreach at the site: Both observatories have carried out for decades an intense activity in dissemination and interpretation of astronomy. Over 30,000 tourists visit every year the Teide National Park at night to see the stars. The ORM receives about 5,000 visitors yearly. La Palma is now consolidated as a starlight tourist destination.

Lake Tekapo-Aoraki-Mt Cook Starlight Reserve. New Zealand. Presentation snd analysis of the site 1. Geographic position: Central South Island of New Zealand in an area bounded by the main range of the Southern Alps in the west and the Two Thumb Range in the east, including a large part of the Mackenzie Basin and also Mt Cook National Park in the province of Canterbury. Villages include Tekapo, Mt Cook and Twizel. Figure 11: Comet McNaught seen from Lake Tekapo in 2007. Photo by Fraser Gunn.



2. Location: Tekapo Village is at 44°00’30’’S 170°28’41’’E. 3. General Description: The core area is Mt John University Observatory at Lake Tekapo. The observatory is at 1032 m altitude on the south-western shore of Lake Tekapo (710 m). Tekapo Village (population about 400) is 3 km in a direct line from the Mt John summit. Twizel is 40 km and Mt Cook Village 50 km in direct lines but are not visible from Mt John. The environment in the Mackenzie Basin is mainly highland tussock, being crown lease land or privately owned and used for sheep runs or recreation. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park adjoins the basin and comprises steep mountain valleys, high peaks (to 3700 m), glaciers and some native forests. Three large lakes formed in the last ice age dominate the region: Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. 4. Mt John University Observatory instruments: Four research telescopes of aperture 1.8, 1.0, 0.6 and 0.6 m are at Mt John. The 1.8-m telescope is owned by Nagoya University and jointly operated by Japanese and NZ astronomers. One of the 0.6-m telescopes has been automated by AAVSO (Cambridge, Mass) for variable star observing. Atmospheric and geophysics research

by Washington, Boston and Otago universities is carried out at the observatory. Earth and Sky Ltd owns a 45-cm telescope on Mt John and a 40-cm telescope at Cowan’s Hill near Tekapo for public outreach. 5. History of the site: The Mt John site was surveyed in the early 1960s using NSF funds from the University of Pennsylvania. With over 2200 sunshine hours and 575 mm rainfall annually, it is one of the driest and sunniest locations in New Zealand. The observatory was founded in 1965 as a joint astronomical research station of the Universities of Canterbury and Pennsylvania. The partnership continued for a decade. 6. Scientific and other qualities of the site: The Mt John site is the principal astronomical observatory in NZ and the world’s most southern observatory (other than instruments in the Antarctic). It is an excellent site for the Magellanic Clouds, and the Galactic Bulge. High resolution spectroscopy, variable stars, microlensing and near-Earth asteroids are the main activities. In addition, the Tekapo and Aoraki/Mt Cook regions have outstanding landscapes of exceptional scenic beauty, including mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The flora and fauna are also exceptional, some being protected or endangered. Light pollution is very low and is controlled through a lighting ordinance covering a large region of up to 50 km around Mt John. Atmospheric transparency is excellent. Tourist access to Mt John and other dark sky sites in the region is excellent and encouraged. For 1000 years Maori vis-

ited the area for food gathering and to observe the regular night visitors – the constellations. 7. Justification for Outstanding Universal Value: Multifunctional window to the Universe. Multiple qualities and exceptional values in the same space. Exceptional conditions for astronomical observation. Including its natural and cultural components can be considered as exceptional and privileged “cultural landscape of science and nature”. Present site management 1. Present use of the site: Astronomical research. Geophysical and atmospheric research. Astro-tourism, education, recreation. 2. Protection: The Mackenzie District Plan (including lighting ordinance) and to the NZ National Parks Act 1980 cover the existing protection. The lighting ordinance includes the village but not the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. An extension of the protected zone to the park is currently mooted. 3. Management: The Mackenzie District Council is the branch of local government with jurisdiction over the Mackenzie Basin and Aoraki/Mt Cook. The Council’s District Plan is part of the Resource Management Act 1991 and includes a lighting ordinance, first enacted in 198117. The Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park18 is controlled and managed by the NZ Dept of Conservation under the authority of the National Parks Act 198019.

Figure 12: Aerial view of Mt. John Observatory. Photo by Fraser Gunn.



4. Conservation of buildings and instruments: The scientific buildings on Mt John are maintained to the highest standards by the University of Canterbury, commensurate with those of a world-class scientific establishment. Three university staff members are permanently resident on site or in the nearby Tekapo Village. Further maintenance personnel make regular visits to Mt John to ensure building maintenance and health and safety issues are addressed. 5. Main threats to site: The enforcement of the lighting ordinance needs to be maintained with vigilance. Over one million tourists annually pass through Tekapo en route to other destinations, and many stay overnight. The careful protection of the environment in the village as tourism develops is essential. Fortunately the Mackenzie District Council is committed to sustainable development that protects the environment, including the night sky. The Mt John site is a mixed site for scientific research, educational tourism and rec-

reation. So far this has been a successful venture, but it needs to be carefully controlled and monitored. 6. Site management and outreach: See earlier sections. The University of Canterbury leases the 3 ha. summit of Mt John from the crown (NZ government). Earth and Sky Ltd have an agreement with the University of Canterbury to run educational astro-tourism at Mt John. This activity is a required condition of the Mt John lease imposed by Land Information NZ (LINZ)20. The university lease includes the 5 km private road up Mt John. The remaining land area of Mt John is a privately owned sheep station. The observatory area is fenced off from the private land. Earth and Sky Ltd own the AstroCafe and 45-cm telescope on Mt John. They have been major tourist attractions since 2005. They are required to be maintained to high standards suitable for an important tourist destination attracting some 30,000 day-time tourists and 10,000 night-time skywatching tourists annually21.

Alpine Starlight: Oasis and Reserve 1. The world heritage of northern mid-latitude skies: North of the historic tropic of the Cancer the mid-latitude nightskies contain the classical proofs for the Earth-rotation, the laws of the motion of planets including the one of Earth. These are the naked eye skies of Copernicus,

Figure 13: Moonset at Großmugl. The town is below the Milky Way, the Bronze-Age Tumulus towards the right, the Moon sets on the le�. Photo by M. Reithofer



Tycho, Kepler and Galilei. That skies gave birth to the ecliptic, the Zodiac, the month and many concepts of the year. They are the origin of the hour and constitute for the first millenia the only universal “story book”, a carrier of myths and stare lore. 2. Alpine starlight for the millions: The Austrian Eastern Alps contain an area of near natural night time environment of 200x100 km extending WSW of Vienna. Mountain height and shielding combine perfect skies and easy access for many millions of people. The broad alpine mountain ridge provides a unique natural resource that has a starlight-saving potential for the continent and the world that is not less fundamental than its role for shaping political and traffic superstructure of the continent. 3. Alpine Starlight Reserve and Oasis: World heritage alpine starlight will be protected and made accessible by an area of perfect skies in the mountains and a unique window to the Milky Way near Vienna. These are a Starlight-Reserve and a Starlight Oasis as outlined by the Starlight Initiative’s documents. Großmugl Starlight Oasis 1. Location: 48°29’57’’N, 16°13’50’’E, 217 m a.s.l. 2. General Description: A modern wonder of nature gives access to the Milky Way at the Alp’s east-end. Their

last hills cover Vienna’s sky-glow and together with the nature reserve Leiser Berge create a few km small starlight-area within 70 km of 3 Mio people – the Großmugl Starlight Oasis. A viewing spot near the largest Bronze-age Tumulus in Central Europe offers a 360° unobstructed horizon, 300m above sea level. Dependable skies with visual limiting magnitude 6, at 30 km from St. Stephen’s Cathedral. A deep Milky Way site within easy reach of 70% of the Austrian population and full support by Großmugl a community of 300 households and less than 100 lights. Astronomical use is established for Schools and University courses, recreational and amateur astronomy. East Alpine Starlight Reserve 1. Location: 47°37’N, 14°40’E, 1,500 m a.s.l. 2. General Description: Where the Alps grow from Vienna to reach a height of 3000 m, about 300 km westward, pristine skies are found at the heart of an area comparable in size to the Republic of Slovenia. Low lighting in the communities and the mountain topography provide an 80 km wide shield against the central European light-pollution and city-lightdomes. The height reduces light scattering and extinction of starlight resulting in exceptional skies. It is optimum for the combination of sky and people due to moderate temperatures and enough oxy-

gen for visual perception. Inversion situations frequently provide views above cloud covered valleys analogous to W-continent deserts and trade-wind volcanic islands. The area contains the Kalkalpen and Gesäuse National Parks (both IUCN category II), the Dürrenstein wilderness-area (IUCN Ib) and more than 10 nature reserves. National Parks are 2.5 h from Vienna and 30 minutes from a main continental N-S-route. The alpine skies share the area with the world’s largest monastic library Admont and the Eisenerz-iron road world heritage initiative. Local Alm-management reaches back to the Bronze Age. The night-skies are already well embedded in National Park programs including night hiking and observation of nocturnal species, many of them endemic and relying on the natural nighttime environment. 3. Assessment of sky quality: The naked eye the sky quality is indistinguishable to the best sites in the world. Measurements at 800 to 1800 m, give a sky brightness of 21.6 (Milky Way) to 21.8 mag/arcsec² (Galactic pole). Light-levels of near 1 mlx are indistinguishable from the world’s best astronomical sites. With the mountains shielding most of the natural airglow, valley light levels drop below 100 μlx - pure starlight.

Figure 14: A midnight view from the “Alm”. Looking NE towards the SW-end of the “Gesäuse National Park” in the East-Alpine Starlight Reserve. The se�ing Moon illuminates the Admonter Kalbling, 2196 m, in the background. Photo by Thomas Posch.



References 1 Explanatory Note concerning the Proclamation of 2009 as International Year of Astronomy (33rd session of the UNESCO General Conference) 2 The Declaration was adopted on the occasion of the Starlight Conference (La Palma, 2007), promoted, among the others, by UNESCO, IAU, UN-WTO, IAC and with the support of several International Programmes and Conventions, such as the World Heritage Convention (WHC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), MaB Programme, and the European Landscape Convention. 3 IDA’s International Dark Sky Places 4 Welch, D., Trzyna, T. and Lopoukhine, N.. Prologue by IUCN DSAG to the Report of the Expert Meeting ‘Starlight Reserves and World Heritage’, March 2009. 5 With the support of British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies (CfDS) 6 With a good detector, the signal-to-noise ratio is: Signal-to-noise = N* / sqrt (N* + npix(Ns)), where N* is the number of photons from the star, npix is the number of pixels containing the star and sky, and Ns is the number of photons per pixel from the sky. Sharp images reduce npix, and therefore allow observations to be acquired more quickly. An elevated sky background from artificial light makes astronomical observations more difficult and slower. 7 Richard Wainscoat. University of Hawaii. 8 Muñoz-Tuñón, C., “Observing Sites Characterization and Criteria”. International Workshop and Expert Meeting “Where the Earth meets the Universe”, Starlight 2009. La Palma, November 2009. 9 The term “extinction” means the loss of light in the atmosphere from a directly transmi�ed beam. Two different mechanisms contribute to extinction: absorption and sca�ering. 10 Astronomical seeing refers to the blurring and twinkling of astronomical objects such as stars caused by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere.



11 Biggest observatories: Hawaii (Keck I and II, Subaru, Gemini North), La Palma (Gran Telescopio Canarias), Chile (Very Large Telescope 1,2,3,4; Magellan 1,2; Gemini South), Arizona (Giant Binocular Telescope, Multiple Mirror Telescope), South Africa (South African Large Telescope), Texas (Hobby Eberly Telescope). 12 Article 1 of the Convention defines “cultural heritage” as monuments and gropups of buildings “wich are of outstanding universal value from the… scientific point of view”. 13 This Guide was finalised at the Fuerteventura International Workshop and Expert Meeting (Starlight Reserves and World Heritage: scientific, cultural and environmental values), held in March 2009. The Starlight Reserve Guidelines were prepared with the participation of over 100 international experts and developed in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and organizations like the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the IAC (Canary Island Astrophysics Institute), UN-World Tourism Organization, the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) and the MaB Programme, with inputs from IDA (International Dark Sky Association) representatives. 14 IDA (International Dark Sky Association ( 15 Results of the International Expert Meeting on Science and Technology (UNESCOs WHC), London, UK, 21-23 January 2008. 16 Teneriffe: An Astronomer’s Experiment, Piazzi Smyth, 1858. 17 aspx 18 h�p:// 19 h�p:// 20 h�p:// 21 h�p://

The Windowsto the Universe  
The Windowsto the Universe  

Co-ordinating author: Cipriano Marín. Authors: Richard Wainscoat, Malcolm Smith, Margaret Austin, John Hearnshaw, Günther Wuchterl, Casiana...