Catalan Montsec mountain range declared one of the world’s six Starlight Destinations for its clear sky
UNESCO has declared the Montsec mountain range, located in Western Catalonia, to be one of the world’s six Starlight Tourist Destinations for the excellent qualities of its night sky for astronomic observation. Only six spots in the world hold this distinction; three of them in Spain. The Starlight Foundation has plans for this distinction to be held by up to 15 spots at the most. The Montsec, located between the towns of Balaguer and Tremp, holds one of Southern Europe’s most important astronomic observatories: the Centre d'Observació de l'Univers, cooperating with the NASA. On the 21st of March, the diploma will be presented as well as some recommendations to keep the luminescent qualities and promote the area for astronomic tourism.
Lleida (ACN).- UNESCO has declared the Montsec mountain range, located in Western Catalonia, to be one of the world\u2019s six Starlight Tourist Destinations for the excellent qualities of its night sky for astronomic observation. Only six spots in the world hold this distinction; three of them in Spain. The rest are in New Zealand, Italy and Portugal. The Starlight Foundation has plans that in the future this distinction will be held by up to 15 spots at the most internationally. The Montsec range, located just below the Pyrenees and between the towns of Balaguer and Tremp, holds one of Southern Europe\u2019s most important astronomic observatories: the Parc Astronòmic del Montsec, cooperating with the NASA. This astronomic park is an initiative of the Catalan Government and it is made up of the Centre d'Observació de l'Univers (COU) and the Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM). It has one of the world\u2019s top ten automatic telescopes. On the 21st of March, the Starlight diploma will be presented at the COU facilities as well as some recommendations to keep the luminescent qualities and promote the area for astronomic tourism.
The Starlight Tourist Destinations are areas that can be visited that have excellent conditions for looking at the stars, considering their protection from light pollution. They are also suitable for hosting tourist initiatives related to astronomy, as an essential element of nature. The bestowing of the certificate is understood to be a quality label and the commitment for a continuous improvement of the Starlight Destination, considering the quality and the coherence of the tourist offerings, as well as the need to preserve the quality of the night skies.
The aim is to gradually create a network of tourist destinations for astronomy lovers, holding a quality certificate that guarantees excellent standards. The certificate is allocated by the Starlight Foundation and UNESCO. At this time, six certificates have been issued, including Montsec\u2019s. The Foundation has the self-imposed objective of not creating an immense network and to limit it to some 15 spots spread worldwide. The other five spots that already hold the certificate are located in the island of La Palma (in Spain\u2019s Canary Islands), in La Rioja\u2019s Biosphere Reserve (also in Spain), in Costiera (Italy), Lake Tekapo (New Zealand) and Alqueva (Portugal).
Furthermore, according to the Starlight Foundation, the analysis of the Montsec sky\u2019s qualities indicates that a wide part of the destination successfully fulfils the requirements to be considered as a Starlight Reserve. The Starlight Reserve distinction could be given within the next few weeks, as it is independent from the other award.
The Catalan Government has declared an area of 1,600 square kilometres covering the Montsec range and its surroundings, including 16 municipalities, to be particularly protected from light pollution in order to preserve the excellent light qualities of the area for astronomic observations. The municipalities \u2013 most of them small villages \u2013 that are included in the protected area are: Àger, Alòs de Balaguer, Artesa de Segre, les Avellanes i Santa Linya, la Baronia de Rialb, Camarasa, Foradada, Os de Balaguer, Ponts, Vilanova de Meià, Castell de Mur, Gavet de la Conca, Isona i Conca Dellà, Llimiana, Ivars de Noguera and Sant Esteve de la Sarga. These villages and towns are obliged to set up some particular models of street lights, which make a yellowish light and only send less than 1% of it up into the sky. In fact, for the last 10 years the area\u2019s public lighting system has been gradually renovated to protect the environmental conditions for astronomic observation at the Montsec range.