Palm Beach to have world-first Urban Night Sky Park to view the stars


Source Manly Daily

A man sitting at West Head lookout looking up to the Milky Way with the Barrenjoey Headland in the background. Picture: Greg Barber

A man sitting at West Head lookout looking up to the Milky Way with the Barrenjoey Headland in the background. Picture: Greg Barber

Look up to the heavens tonight and count how many stars you can see?

One hundred? 50 maybe? perhaps just a dozen or even less?

Our ancestors would have been able to gaze into the darkness and see thousands of stars twinkling in the night’s sky.

The Milky Way with the Barrenjoey Lighthouse in the foreground. Picture: Greg Barber

But electricity, and our increasing dependence on it, has thrown a blanket over one of nature’s most beautiful sights.

All is not lost and one woman has made it her goal to do something about it — right here on the northern beaches.

Meet Marnie Ogg, from Terrey Hills, who is the driving force behind creating what will be the world’s first Urban Night Sky Park at Palm Beach.

As designated by the International Dark-Sky Association, the Urban Night Sky Parks are chosen for their exceptional clear skies for stargazing — despite their proximity to major cities.

Marnie Ogg is the driving force behind creating the world’s first Urban Night Sky Park at Palm Beach. Picture: AAP Image/Jane Dempster

The urban night sky at Palm Beach. Picture: Greg Barber

“Palm Beach is fantastic,” Ms Ogg said. “On a clear night at the Sydney Observatory you can see 127 stars by the naked eye. At Palm Beach you would be able to see more than a thousand.

“By getting the status we will hopefully be able to maintain that and possibly even improve it.”

To gain the status there are four requirements. Lights in the area must be night sky friendly. There must be a commitment to public outreach and education with at least four events annually, local government must be committed to night sky friendly lighting and there must be regular checks on the lights used in the area.

With Northern Beaches Council recently throwing their support behind the plan, Palm Beach is expected to formally get the status within the next two years.

So what makes Palm Beach so special?

With the Pacific Ocean on one side and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on the other there is an absence of light pollution.

The urban night sky showing the Milky Way. Picture: Greg Barber

The suburb also doesn’t have the excess of neon signs that can be found on restaurants, bars and hotels elsewhere in Sydney.

As a result the heavens look spectacular.

“The Milky Way is pretty special at Palm Beach,” Ms Ogg said. “That definition of the Milky Way is very rare.”

And as well as the thousand plus stars, the most northern tip of the peninsula offers views of our planets.

It’s expected the park will become official within the next two years. Picture: Greg Barber

“Between late August and October you can see five planets by the naked eye. There’s Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and sometimes Uranus.”

Ms Ogg, who runs a travel company called Dark Sky Traveller, said the application comes at the perfect time with stargazing enjoying a huge boost in popularity.

“It’s been massive,” she said. “I think part of it is down to people like Brian Cox (former popster and now TV physicist). He is being called the next David Attenborough in terms of science communication.

“There is certainly a charm about him.

Palm Beach is known for its clear skies to view stars. Picture: Greg Barber

“But I think there is also something just a little more primeval. There is just a basic human need to be linked to the night sky.

“Up until 200 years ago a night’s entertainment would be looking at the sky. We don’t have that anymore.”

The status will ensure light pollution on the peninsula is limited.

But it is not just our connection to the stars we are protecting. It is also about what is happening back here on earth

Light pollution impacts pollination levels with the likes of moths unable to do their natural job as they are attracted to artificial light.

Doctors have also found links to light pollution and poor health.

“For millions of years earth has known 12 hours of light and then 12 hours of dark,” Ms Ogg said. “All of a sudden that has changed and it is having an impact on our health.

“So projects like this are really important.”


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