What are the facts?
- The TIME Magazine has listed Ladakh as one the World’s Greatest Places of 2023 along with Mayurbhanj in Odisha.
- The article highlights the rugged beauty of Ladakh’s mountainous terrain and the strong Tibetan-Buddhist culture and gives a range of places to visit including the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve set up by the Indian Institute of Astronomy (IIA).
Also Read | Talacauvery is South India’s top ‘star party’ destination
What is the context?
- With the launch of helicopter services since the summer of 2022, travelling from Leh to far flung and difficult to reach places like Dibling, Drass and Padum, has become convenient and cut down travel time from five to 12 hours by car to 45 minutes.
- Ladakh is among the newest additions in the effort to make astro-toursim more popular in India. Apart from the raw natural beauty of the Himalayas, the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve (HDRS) is another attraction which attracts stargazers, astro-photography enthusiasts and amateur astronomers.
- The IIA and the local government has set up 18 telescopes in the area for astro-tourists and has used the help of amateur and professional astronomers to train locals to guide them.
Why does it matter?
- The village of Hanle consisting of 320 houses was designated as a dark sky reserve in December 2022. The Hanle Dark Sky Reserve (HDRS), located 270 kilometres from Leh, Ladakh’s capital, is a 1,073 sq km area that has been chosen for its high altitude, lack of artificial light and cloud cover for viewing the night sky without disruptions
- The Reserve wraps around a majority of the Changthang wildlife sanctuary, situated 4,500 m above sea level, has recorded approximately 270 clear nights in a year
- The reserve is also home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, which requires clear skies, elevation from the populated areas and dry weather to observe faint radiation and light that are essential for the study of astronomy.