Friday, January 2, 2009

The Starlight Reserve

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allStarry Night Sky - artist Ken Allan

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to look up at the night sky and see, among thousands of brilliant stars, Herschel’s Jewel Box, or the beautiful Hercules star cluster?

This is the International Year of Astronomy. There is fascinating activity in an area of land in New Zealand, known as MacKenzie Country. Very little smoke or other pollutants rise to the sky from its less than 2000 inhabitants, so cloudless nights are abundantly rich in starlight.

Jet streams - high-altitude, high-speed wind currents - usually flow from the west at high speeds in the upper atmosphere and can spoil the view of the night sky. But there's no significant turbulence in the air above MacKenzie Country, for there is no jet stream near enough.

For these reasons, MacKenzie Country is tipped to host the first world heritage site in the sky.

Graeme Murray is the director of Earth and Sky Ltd, which has exclusive tourist rights at the Mt John Observatory, a main centre for astronomy research in New Zealand.

Murray’s dream is to establish a World Heritage Starlight Reserve in the MacKenzie Country by obtaining
recognition and protection for sky in the region from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

UNESCO support for the project may well be celebrated this year.
New Zealand could then become the centre for The Startlight Reserve in this, the International Year of Astronomy.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

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