Dark Sky Reserve

See the Stars Like Never Before: India’s First Dark Sky Reserve in Ladakh-2022

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India’s First Dark Sky Reserve in Ladakh

The government of India declared that India’s first-ever “Night Sky Sanctuary” or Dark Sky Reserve would be set up in Ladakh; the proposed Dark Sky Reserve will be established at Hanle in Ladakh by the end of the year 2022; it will boost Astro tourism in India.

A Dark Sky Reserve is an area with little to no artificial light pollution. These areas are important for stargazers and astronomers because they allow for clear views of the night sky. In order to be designated as a Dark Sky Reserve, an area must meet certain criteria set forth by the International Dark-Sky Association. Some of these criteria include having low levels of light pollution and providing ample public education about the importance of dark skies.

As the world becomes more industrialised and populated, the natural night sky is becoming increasingly obscured. Light pollution is a growing problem in many parts of the world, making it difficult to see stars and experience the full beauty of the night sky. However, there are still some places where it is possible to experience the darkness of night and the glory of the stars. A dark sky reserve is an area where light pollution is carefully monitored and controlled in order to preserve the darkness of the night sky.

What is Light Pollution

Light pollution is excessive or misdirected artificial light. It is a growing problem because more and more artificial light sources are being created. Light pollution has many negative effects on the environment, animals, and humans. Some of these effects include: disrupting ecosystems, causing insomnia, and affecting human health.

The improper or excessive use of artificial light, often known as light pollution, may have severe environmental effects on people, animals, and our climate. Among the cause of light pollution are:

  • Glare – extreme brightness causing visual discomfort
  • Skyglow – the illumination of the night sky over populated regions
  • Light intrusion — light falling where it is not desired or required
  • Clutter – Bright, disorienting, and overbearing clusters of light sources.

India’s first site for dark Sky reserve

The dark sky reserve will be set up inside The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a protected area in the Indian UT of Leh. The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1987 and is managed by the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department.

Hanle Dark Sky Reserve
Hanle Dark Sky Reserve

Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary

Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary) is a high-altitude wildlife sanctuary situated in the Ladakhi extension of the Changthang plateau in the Leh District of the union territory of Ladakh. It is significant as one of the few locations in India where the Kiang or Tibetan Wild Ass and the rarest Black-necked Crane thrive. The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses 4,000 square kilometres.

black necked crane
black necked crane

A portion of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary in Hanle, Ladakh, is earmarked to become the first Dark Sky Reserve in India. The facility will also encourage astronomy tourism, providing a scientific boost to local tourism. Ladakh has considerable potential for conducting undisturbed astronomical observations, which is why it was chosen as the venue for the programme. Hanle is already home to optical, gamma ray, and infrared telescopes for space research at an altitude of 4,500 metres. It is spotlessly clean during the most of the year’s dry months, stays cloudless at night, and provides dark skies, making it an ideal natural setting for stargazing.

Hanle Dark Sky reserve

The HDSR will include a 22-kilometre radius centred on the Hanle observatory. Locals and visitors alike must abide by restrictions governing outdoor illumination, the use of high beam car headlights, light shields and curtains, and other steps to reduce light pollution. Under the leadership of the observatory, local council members and scientists will work together to protect the night sky from undesired light pollution and luminosity.

Concept of Dark Sky Reserve

  • Dark Sky Sanctuary offers unique or distinguishing starry nights and nighttime settings that are preserved for their scientific, environmental, educational significance, cultural heritage, or public pleasure.
  • A sanctuary varies from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is often located in a highly isolated area with few (if any) surrounding hazards to the quality of its dark night sky and does not otherwise fulfil the conditions for classification as a park or reserve. The characteristic geographical isolation of Dark Sky Sanctuaries severely restricts chances for public communication; thus, a sanctuary designation is intended to raise public awareness of these fragile locations and encourage their long-term protection.
  • The Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) has committed to establishing India’s first “Night Sky Sanctuary” in Ladakh in the year 2022.
  • The planned Dark Sky Reserve will be situated inside Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary in Hanle, Ladakh. It will be one of the world’s highest-located facilities for optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes, boosting Astrotourism in India.
  • The UT government, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have inked a tripartite MoU for the creation of the Dark Space Reserve.

Why at Ladhak

  • Ladakh is a cold desert region with great potential for undertaking uninterrupted astronomical observations.
  • The majority of the year is characterised by dry weather and beautiful skies, making Hanlea a naturally ideal location for stargazing and the establishment of astronomical observatories.
  • At the height of 4,500 metres, Hanle is already home to an optical, gamma ray, and infrared telescope at the IIA-operated Indian Astronomical Observatory complex. These telescopes have examined stars, galaxies, exoplanets, and the universe’s expansion.
national parks in jammu kashmir map
national parks in jammu kashmir map

What is a Dark sky reserve?

A Dark Sky Reserve is an area where the night sky is protected from artificial light pollution. These Areas are typically found in remote locations, away from city lights. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) works to designate these special places around the world. 

There are many benefits to having a dark sky reserve. One of the most important is that it protects nocturnal animals who rely on darkness to hunt and forage. Artificial light can also disrupt the natural migration patterns of some animals. In addition, dark skies are necessary for stargazing and astronomical research

The IDA has designated several dark sky reserves in the United States, including Great Basin National Park in Nevada and Big Bend National Park in Texas. To be designated as a reserve, an area must have very little artificial light pollution and must offer public educational programming about the importance of protecting dark skies.

Brief History of the International Dark-Sky Association

  • In 1988, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was established to conserve public or private property for a breathtaking view of nocturnal lands and the starry night sky. International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is affiliated with International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) and International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) (IDSP). 
  • In 1993, Michigan was the first state in the United States to designate a portion of the Lake Hudson State Recreation Area as a “Dark Sky Reserve.” It is often accepted that a dark-sky reserve should be sufficiently dark to encourage astronomy. The procedure for lighting a dark-sky reserve is based on the sensitivity of nighttime animals to artificial light.

The objective of these reserves?

In general, the objective of the dark-sky movement is to encourage astronomy. However, astronomy is not the primary reason for preserving the dark sky. Numerous aspects of history, philosophy, religion, social evolution, poetry, music, mathematics, and science are related to a dark night sky. It is vital to preserve a DSR in order to comprehend our environmental history.


A Dark Sky Reserve is a great place to go to experience the night sky. There are few places on Earth where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye, and a dark sky reserve offers this opportunity. 

The establishment of India’s first-ever Dark Sky Sanctuary is a big step in the right direction. Not only will it help to preserve one of the most beautiful night skies in the world, but it will also promote astronomy and eco-tourism in Ladakh. This is a win-win situation for all involved, and we can only hope that more Dark Sky Sanctuaries will be established in the future. We can all do our part to help keep our skies dark and free from light pollution, and this new sanctuary will be a shining example of what is possible.

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