Monthly Archives: September 2012

Starry, Starry Night

One of the most memorable experiences from my trip to Morocco was the night we spent in the Sahara Desert. From riding a camel into the deep orange desert, to singing and playing drums around the campfire while trying to stay warm in below freezing temperatures… it was all amazing.

But it was the experience of seeing the stars that night that is most memorable for me.

The sun was still setting when we arrived at our Sahara camp. We spent the last few moments of light setting up our sleeping tents and settling into our dining tent as we waited for dinner to arrive. After a while of playing word games while we waited for dinner, someone alerted us to the fact that it would be dark outside by now and we should go out to look at the stars. As soon as we stepped out of our warm tent and I looked up to the skies… I was floored. A vast sea of glittering stars were spread out above me. After the initial ooh’s and aah’s (think 4th of July  fireworks reactions), most people headed back to the tent for warmth. I knew I was experiencing a rare nights sky, so I grabbed a blanket, spread it out on the sand and laid down for the best seat in the house. In a unpolluted night sky, one can literally see layers of stars as if you were wearing 3-D glasses. And the milky way! It looked like a kid spilled milk on the sky and his mom tried to unsuccessfully wipe it up. With a sky so clear I spotted a handful of shooting stars. It was a truly magical experience.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult these days to find yourself below a clear night sky as I did, devoid of light and air pollution. The good news is, there is a group of people trying to preserve said skies.

As I was taking in this magical ceiling above me, I remembered that one of my tourism professors, Dr. Edith Szivas, had told us a about a project she was involved in with UNESCO and the UNWTO called the Starlight Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to “promote the importance of clear skies for the humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, and tourism.” The Starlight Foundation has created a certification process, to help promote clear skies for the sake of science and tourism:

The Starlight Tourism Certification System was created with the aim of encouraging, at world-wide level, the improvement of the quality of tourist experiences and the protection of the night skies in Starlight Destinations.The Starlight Certification seeks to guarantee the capacity to enjoy the view of the stars and to discover the associated scientific, cultural, natural and scenic values.

The Starlight Certification makes it possible for the first time to bring science and tourism together, It aims to ensure the quality of tourism experiences involving the nightscapes, the view of stars and the cosmos and the related scientific, cultural and environmental knowledge. Recognition of science as a tourist product and, at the same time, as a working method in tourism, is the foundation of developing this standard. – Source

Looking to find an unpolluted piece of the sky to experience for yourself? Use this Starlight Finder to start your search!

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