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First Dark Sky Park in Australia Designated

First Dark Sky Park in Australia Designated Image

The Milky Way sets over Siding Springs Observatory on the edge of Warrumbungle National Park, Australia. Photo by Ángel López-Sánchez / SSO.

Warrumbungle National Park in west-central New South Wales (NSW) has been designated Australia’s first IDA International Dark Sky Park, recognizing and protecting its key role in Australian astronomical research.

Warrumbungle’s new status as a Dark Sky Park is a monumental achievement for the National Park, and a hopeful sign for the future protection of dark skies in Australia,” IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend said.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Environment Minister Mark Speakman welcomed the park’s new status, following confirmation from the International Dark Sky Association.

Mr. Stokes said the park’s dark sky qualities will be protected with $100,000 in funding to control light pollution through implementation of updated planning policies. A new Dark Sky Planning Guideline has also been developed with the Australian Astronomical Observatory as part of the NSW Government’s review of state planning policies.

“Warrumbungle National Park has long been recognized not only for its beauty at ground level, but also for the wonder it holds in the night sky above,” Mr Stokes explained. “It’s an outstanding place to view the night sky and, with the nearby Siding Spring Observatory, plays an important role in Australian astronomical research. As nearby communities grow, it’s important we plan to protect the park’s dark sky qualities from light pollution now and into the future.”

Mr Speakman said the Dark Sky Park’s status would benefit the environment as well as stargazers.

“Light pollution has a detrimental effect not only on professional and amateur astronomy, but it also impacts on those parts of the ecosystem, such as nocturnal animals, which are reliant on dark night skies,” Mr Speakman said.

Australian Member of Parliament for Barwon Kevin Humphries welcomed the Dark Sky Park declaration.“ Warrumbungle National Park is a place our local community has always treasured, and I’m delighted it’s now been recognized in this way,” Mr. Humphries said.

Australian Astronomical Observatory Head of Lighting and Environment Professor Fred Watson led the nomination for the Warrumbungle National Park to be Australia’s first Dark Sky Park. “I am thrilled with the new Dark Sky status, which will give central western NSW the opportunity to educate and exemplify the benefits of dark skies and the use of night sky friendly lighting,” Professor Watson said.

Warrumbungle National Park joins other international parks such as Death Valley National Park in the United States and Galloway Forest Park in Scotland as officially designated Dark Sky Parks.

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