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Tibet aims to preserve its starry nights

By Source:China Daily 2016-07-06

China has launched its first dark-sky reserve in the Tibet autonomous region's Ngari prefecture.

The reserve covers 2,500 square kilometers and aims to limit light pollution by stepping up protection of dark-sky resources for education and tourism development.

It was launched by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and the regional government of Tibet.

Wang Wenyong, head of the legal affairs department with the foundation, said at a news briefing on Tuesday that launching the preserve is the first step in protecting the area from light pollution.

The reserve will also seek accreditation from the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit organization based in the United States devoted to preserving and protecting the nighttime environment and dark skies.

If the reserve is able to obtain accreditation, it will be the first in Asia. The International Dark-Sky Association has so far only given dark sky reserve status to 11 areas in the US, Canada and Europe.According to the association, a reserve must possess an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for scientific, natural, educational or cultural heritage purposes, or for public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core.

Wang Xiaohua, head of the Chinese branch of the association and a leader of the Ngari reserve program, said such areas are important for promoting astronomy.

Ngari is among the best sites for astronomical observation on Earth due to its high altitude and large number of cloudless days.

However, the recent inflow of people has given rise to increasing urbanization and the associated risk of more light pollution.

"If we do not take action now to preserve the area, we risk losing one of the best astronomical sites on Earth," Wang said at the news briefing.

The foundation has also signed an agreement with authorities in Tibet's Nagchu prefecture to establish a night-sky park, which will feature limited lighting facilities and an area for astronomical observation.

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