Environment SA News

New reserve is gateway to the stars

There’s a new reserve in the Mid-Murray region, but you’ll have to look up to get the best view of it.

New reserve is gateway to the stars
The River Murray under the night sky. Photo credit: Fraser Bock Photography

The International Dark-Sky Association has named the newly accredited River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve as one of the best places on Earth to see the night sky.

The 3200 square kilometre reserve is the first of its kind in Australia and one of only 15 in the world. The accreditation has been likened to world heritage listing for the stars.

The reserve’s core site is in the Swan Reach Conservation Park and incorporates a number of towns, including Big Bend.

With darkness measured on a scale of 0 to 22, with 22 being total darkness, the reserve’s measurements were just below 22. That makes it one of the darkest places on the planet.

Around the world, dark sky reserves are known as the most remarkable places to visit at night for astronomers, astro-photographers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The new dark sky reserve is now formally protected from urban light pollution. This is partly thanks to shielding from the nearby Mt Lofty Ranges, but local government policies will minimise artificial light in the district.

The accreditation process involved a partnership between Mid Murray Landcare, Mid Murray Council, Murray River Lakes and Coorong Tourism Alliance, Astronomical Society of South Australia and the Department for Environment and Water.

South Australian astronomer Andrew Cool said the designation of the reserve would be a boost for science, environmental conservation and eco-tourism.

“Light pollution is a major problem worldwide, which is why reserves like this are so incredibly unique and important,’’ he said.

“Less than 100 years ago everyone could look up at night and see the spectacular starry nights. Now, millions of people across the globe will never experience the Milky Way, thanks to the growing use of artificial light.”