If you want to see the stars, you need the darkness


Unfortunately, not many people can admire our Milky Way anymore, the nights are now too clear. 83 percent of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies. The non-profit organization DarkSky honors places with a particularly good quality of darkness. The Tyrolean Kaunertal, where star walks are offered, could become one of them.

Stars don’t die quietly. When their time comes, they will explode in a supernova. A departing star shines as brightly as an entire galaxy for a short time. But he doesn’t have to do that to make people look up in awe. Perhaps we feel connected to them because we too are made of stardust – and not just metaphorically. Or because they have been with us so long: on the high seas, captains and navigators once leaned low over star charts and looked through telescopes at the night sky so as not to lose their course on the waves. Stars found their way into religions (Star over Bethlehem) and into astrology, where star interpretation is used to learn about human behavior or to predict the future. Stars have been with us since time immemorial, but lately we have lost sight of them. Stars don’t die quietly, but our view of the sky does.

Where the Milky Way can be clearly seen
Anyone who lives in the city has probably noticed it. If someone from Innsbruck looks at the night sky, he can count a few hundred stars. The city’s artificial light surpasses all others. But Tyrol also has darker places, for example in the Kaunertal. If you look up at the sky there on a clear night, you can see about 3,000 stars. Star walks have been offered in the Kaunertal between June and September for about four years, explains amateur astronomer and star walker Philip Hughes. A one-hour walk from the Gepatschhaus starts at dusk.

Beautiful and emotional experience
The participants are given red light lamps so that the eye does not lose its habituation effect to the darkness. The star guides then provide insight into the history of astronomy and myths about the constellations. Mountain guide Andreas Penz also tells something about nature in the mountains. No matter how impressive the sky is, the glaciers also have their beautiful treasures. A star bowl made of pine wood invites you to lie down. “First of all, you can relax and enjoy the starry sky. The Milky Way will then be clearly visible above us,” Hughes describes. For most visitors, he says, a night sky of this quality is a rarity and therefore a very beautiful and emotional experience.

Almost everyone lives under light-polluted skies
More than half of humanity – about 60 percent – ​​can no longer see the Milky Way – the cities are now too bright. 83 percent of the world’s population and 99 percent of Europeans, North Americans and Japanese live under light-polluted skies. However, there are still some places that are not only dark enough but also accessible for viewing the starry sky. One of them is located in the Kaunertal.

Lights out in the Tyrolean Kaunertal: the way to the “DarkSky-Place”
The Tyrolean Competence Center for Light Pollution and Night Sky has been committed to reducing light pollution for more than 20 years. Stefanie Pontasch from the Tyrolean Environmental Lawyer explains: “Light pollution is the overlay of artificial light on natural twilight and night conditions.” The nights are artificially lit. The fact that we can no longer see stars is a loss, “after all, humanity has been looking at the stars since ancient times. The stars are our original home, our original roots,” Pontasch describes, “but the disruption of natural light conditions has consequences for people, flora and fauna.”

200 DarkSky locations worldwide
The result is birds that sing earlier in the morning and moths that no longer pollinate. And humans, the ‘mammals’, who apparently never sleep, also need an intact night for rest and regeneration. Kaunertal wants DarkSky Place Award DarkSky is the name of a non-profit organization that honors accessible places with an excellent quality of darkness. Pontasch knows that there are just over 200 such places worldwide, and only one in Austria, the Attersee-Traunsee Star Park. But a second DarkSky Place is coming soon: Kaunertal is currently in the certification process.

Making pristine night skies accessible to people
Johannes Kostenzer, Tyrolean environmental lawyer and head of the Competence Center for Light Pollution and the Night Sky: “The starry sky plays a fundamental role in the development of human cultures. The Kaunertal in the heart of the European Alps gives us access to this treasure. We seek recognition as a DarkSky Place to make the pristine night sky accessible to many people and preserve it for future generations.”

Curtains closed, lights off
This can also be used for tourism, because “it is important that people can experience the night with all its fascination. Only when we understand what we are missing in the cities will we be willing to allow change.” In other words: putting more emphasis on dark nights again, that is to say: closing the curtains and turning off the lights in the shop windows.

Two-thirds of Vienna’s light bubble comes from non-public light sources
“The light clocks of major cities can be seen on the horizon hundreds of kilometers away. Two-thirds of light levels in Vienna are caused by non-public light sources (light from shops and facades), one-third by public light sources (street lighting),” explains Pontasch, but “I would like to highlight the mini-shop MPreis in a positive way Kaunertal, that even switches on the shop window lighting. “Not just one,” praises Pontasch. Nadine Isser

Source: Krone


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