During the next decade, Chile will consolidate its place as the ‘World Capital of Astronomy’. By 2025, more than 70% of the world’s infrastructure for conducting professional astronomical observations will be installed in the Atacama Desert in the north of the country. The amazing scientific discoveries these telescopes produce have a direct impact on our understanding of the cosmos, and protecting this ‘window to the universe’ is fundamental in order to ensure humanity’s right to contemplate the night sky and decipher our origins. As a country, Chile faces the challenge of fighting light pollution and protecting its dark skies in a context of sprawling urban growth and an ever-expanding mining industry that shares the same territory with astronomical observatories.
The Chilean Astronomical Society (Sociedad Chilena de Astronomia, SOCHIAS) plays an active role in protecting dark skies through a series of initiatives involving educational programmes, aiding in the development and enforcement of public policy and regulation, and seeking the declaration of Chile’s best astronomical sites as protected heritage areas, both at the national and international levels. Whilst describing our experiences, I highlight the importance of approaching the problem of light pollution from all sides, involving all the relevant actors (communities, national and local governments, lighting industry, environmentalists, astronomers and others). I also discuss how communication and timely coordination with potential problematic actors (like industries, cities and some government agencies) can be an effective tool to transform potential enemies into allies in the fight for the protection of the night sky.
Thu, 16 Mar 17
Comments: 9 pages, 3 figures. Published as par of the proceedings of the “The Right to Dark Skies” conference, organized by UNESCO, Mexico City, January 2016