New Zealand land designated largest Dark Sky Reserve

The International Dark-Sky Association is combating light pollution to keep stargazing from going the way of the dodo bird.

If you live in, say, New York City, and then go camping in, say, the Himalayas (which, yes, I did this), then you will likely be flabbergasted when you see just how many stars there are in the night sky. They are spread like handfuls of sand across black velvet.

But don't think that it's just skyscrapers that block the heavens.

As you can see from the photo above, pretty much anywhere you are in the U.S. or Europe has nighttime "light pollution," in which lights on Earth make it hard to see the twinkle of little stars.

To help prevent light pollution and create and preserve areas good for stargazing, the International Dark-Sky Association is setting up "Dark Sky Reserves."

The IDA just announced its fourth, and largest, Dark Sky Reserve to date: a 1,600 square-mile patch of land on New Zealand's south island.

"The new reserve is coming in at a 'Gold' level status," the IDA's executive director Bob Parks said. "That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth."

The new reserve, which includes Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, will be called the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. The area has had outdoor lighting controls since the early 1980s, so it is already a popular spot for stargazers. The lighting controls have also helped conserve energy and protect wildlife.

The IDA named its first dark sky reserve last month: the NamibRand Nature Reserve in southern Namibia.

Watch the video below to learn more about light pollution.

Related on SmartPlanet:

via: Discovery News

photo: Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA Godard Space Flight Center

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