Situated in Central West slopes, northwest of New South Wales, Australia’s first and only Dark Sky Park is on the cusp of opening. The publically-accessible 24 hectare Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park holds a specially protected nocturnal environment which also provides superior star-gazing conditions for astronomers.
Minister for Planning and Environment Anthony Roberts said the park is on the doorstep of Australia’s premier optical and infrared astronomical observatory, Siding Spring, about 30 kilometres from Coonabarabran.
“The Siding Spring Observatory will be playing host to the annual Dark Sky Conference from September 26 to 28, bringing together leading industry experts with professional and amateur astronomers to discuss the effects of light pollution on the local environment, tourism, crime and safety, and health and wellbeing,” the Planning Minister said.
New guidelines have been implemented by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to protect the Coonamble, Dubbo, Gilgandra and Warrumbungle regions from light pollution, backing the Siding Spring Observatory with $100,000 in funding to promote the new guidelines.
The Observatory will host StarFest this October long weekend, giving visitors the chance to explore the Siding Spring Observatory and participate in a free lecture hosted by Professor Chris Lidman, Director of Siding Spring Observatory. The Department of Planning and Environment’s Director Regions, Western, Damien Pfeiffer, said the event attracts over 24,000 visitors each year, injecting $5 million into the local economy.
“Coonabarabran’s observatory is a key tourism drawcard for our region and is one of the few places in the world where astronomers can observe the entire southern hemisphere sky,” Mr Pfeiffer commented.
“It is recognised by the International Dark Sky Association for its exceptional quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, cultural heritage and public enjoyment,” he said.
Australia’s largest optical telescope is also within the park boundary and shares the title of the Astronomy capital of Australia with several privately owned public observatories. This and the National Heritage listing will make the Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park the optimal destination for stargazers, bushwalkers, nature lovers and those looking for a unique experience.
More information on the park can be found here.