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Astrotourism Reaches for the Stars

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Over the last six months, local stargazing and astronomy enthusiast Carol Redford of Gingin, has initiated a project across the Wheatbelt and Mid West to increase visitor numbers to regional WA.

Her journey started a decade ago when she and business partner, Donna Vanzetti, owned and operated the observatory at Gingin. Since selling the business six years ago, Carol has continued working in the field running Stargazers Club WA for beginners.
She is now on a mission to bring the State’s attention to the dark night sky asset we have above our heads and how, with a few simple actions, WA will become a world-class destination for stargazing and astronomy related pursuits.

The ability to see pristine dark sky landscapes is becoming inaccessible for billions of people around the world. Light pollution has crept up on humanity. Recent studies reveal that light pollution is increasing in area by about 2% every year and, with the adoption of LED lighting, it’s also increasing by 2% in brightness every year. Carol likens this to losing the ability to see the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon Rainforest. The dark night sky is one of the world’s significant natural assets and artificial light is dimming it from view.

WA is unique in the world when it comes to dark night skies. Being in the Southern Hemisphere means that the band of the Milky Way Galaxy is directly overhead. In addition, Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world which makes it easy to escape bright city lights and access pristine dark night skies. With regional WA’s low population dispersed over the State, there’s a large land mass with naturally low levels of light pollution.
Carol believes that if Western Australians start to protect and promote the dark night sky now, we’ll have a very valuable asset in the future. “The dark night sky asset will attract visitors from around the world because you won’t be able to see it anywhere else,” Carol says.

To achieve this, Carol has started work to enlist communities across the Wheatbelt and Mid West regions to become Astrotourism Towns. The aim is to establish a network of towns on a stargazing trail across WA.

The eight towns signed up so far are Carnamah, Perenjori, Three Springs, Morawa, Wongan Hills, Mullewa, Cervantes and Mingenew.

Together, the communities and Carol are choosing locations for astrophotography hot spots and observing sites where visitors will be welcome to bring telescopes and binoculars to enjoy stargazing.

These locations are being added to the Astrotourism WA Map at www.astrotourismwa.com.au and will be promoted to local astrophotographers and stargazing enthusiasts in Perth and abroad.

Carol said, “There are thousands of locals and even more internationally who crave dark night skies for astrophotography and stargazing pursuits. I’m working with the Astrotourism Towns to roll out the welcome map and make it easy to find interesting and new destinations with dark skies above.”

“We’re also working to help protect the night sky from artificial light. This can be done quite easily by shielding street lights and choosing the right type of LED lightbulbs. I truly believe that with our pristine dark night sky, incredible international space science assets like the Square Kilometre Array and willing communities to embrace Astrotourism, WA will become an international icon for world-class stargazing and astronomy,” she said.