When partying under the stars gets real! The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) recently organised a unique event at the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve in eastern Ladakh. The event known as the Star Party brought together approximately 30 amateur astronomers from various regions of India to observe and photograph the pristine night sky, far away from the disruptions of light pollution.
Hanle Dark Sky Reserve
IIA's Indian Astronomical Observatory Hanle Dark Sky Reserve, situated in Ladkah, sits beside the tranquil Hanle River. It's located about 14,108 feet above sea level, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
The dark skies and dry weather conditions make it an ideal location for both astronomical research and astrophotography. Covering an area of about 1,073 square kilometers, the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve (HDSR) received its designation from the Union Territory of Ladakh to combat human-made light pollution and protect the area's natural darkness.
The Stargazing party
The Star Party also served as an educational opportunity for local astronomy ambassadors, individuals trained by the IIA to guide astro-tourists. Attending the event provided these ambassadors with the chance to learn from leading amateur astronomers in the country and expand their knowledge of the night sky.
Despite the challenges posed by high altitudes, frigid temperatures, and low oxygen levels, the astronomers were exhilarated by their experience. Participants arrived with their personal telescopes and cameras, capturing celestial wonders such as the False Dawn or the Zodiacal Light, phenomena that are only visible from exceptionally dark locations like Hanle.
The inaugural success of the Star Party has led to plans by the UT Ladakh administration to establish it as an annual event, further kindling interest in astrophotography and research in India, as per an India Today report.
Last month, the Indian government opened up an overnight stay rule for international tourists at Hanle and a few other tourist destinations in Ladakh. Earlier, these destinations were only open to Indian visitors for overnight stays.