Big History





Roger Mira

The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine is helping those in power to become aware of the magnitude of the problem associated with light pollution, especially when analysed from an economic point of view, but we are still a long way from being aware of the environmental consequences of unmeasured night-time lighting. This is why, for years now, international organisations have emerged that work for the conservation of the night environment and that promote the installation of ecological lighting, such as the American IDA (International Dark-Sky Association), Cielo Buio in Italy, Cel Fosc, which was born in Catalonia but later extended its scope of action to the whole of Spain, and also the Starlight Foundation, which is linked to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Astrofísica (Astrophysical Institute of Astrophysics), linked to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, which not only watches over the protection and conservation of the night sky through its system of certification of those territories that are suitable for the development of astronomical activities, but also offers the necessary training so that the inhabitants of these territories can make the practice of astro-tourism their livelihood.

If night-time lighting systems were really efficient, astro-tourism activities could be carried out at a short distance from large urban agglomerations, but with the night-time lighting policies that currently prevail in many municipalities, only those places that are far away from the major sources of light pollution enjoy a quality night sky, i.e. rural areas, which are at high risk of depopulation.

Dinosaur replica with a starry sky, in Aras de los Olmos

Astrotourism is a sustainable source of income for the inhabitants of these territories -provided that they are willing to be adequately trained to carry out this type of activity- offering a dignified professional opportunity for people of a wide range of ages and without discrimination based on gender. In addition to the income it provides for the monitors who carry out these activities, it is a source of wealth above all for the hotel and catering sector, although it also benefits commerce in general in the territories that practise this type of tourism.

Logotipo del territorio Starlight “Alto Turia”

The location of Aras de los Olmos, far enough away from large metropolitan areas, allows it to have a high quality sky and, for this reason, it currently has the “Starlight Tourist Destination” certification; at the moment we are taking steps to obtain the “Starlight Reserve” certification together with other municipalities of the “Alto Turia” Biosphere Reserve; this certification imposes even more restrictive conditions regarding the quality of the sky. On the other hand, the staff who carry out astronomy activities in the Big History centre have the corresponding Starlight monitor accreditation, in order to guarantee an optimum level of quality in the activities carried out in our centre. The possession of these certifications is the recognition of the effort and the will of the Aras de los Olmos Town Council to preserve its starry sky, not only for the residents of the municipality, but also for all the people who visit us regularly with the intention of observing and getting to know the night sky in its purest state, which, unfortunately, is no longer seen in areas with large urban agglomerations.