Warrumbungles declared Australia's first Dark Sky Park

The Milky Way stretching out above the AAT dome. Credit: Angel Lopez-Sanchez

Warrumbungles National Park in Central Western NSW has been left in the dark — but no-one's complaining.

The area, home to the Siding Spring Observatory, has been declared Australia's first Dark Sky Park, a move that recognises its pristine night sky.

Warrumbungle National Park has a reputation as an outstanding place to view the stars unfettered by the light pollution that affects Australia's cities.

The nearby Siding Spring Observatory takes advantage of these conditions to play a critical role in Australian astronomical research.

Now the park's dark sky qualities will be protected thanks to $100,000 in funding from the NSW Government to control light pollution. The State Government has enacted new planning legislation that requires the use of sky-friendly lighting in the area.

The Australian Astronomical Observatory's (AAO) Professor Fred Watson led the nomination for the park to be declared Australia's first Dark Sky Park. 

He was delighted with the decision, saying it would give central western NSW the chance to demonstrate the benefits of dark skies and the use of sky-friendly lighting.

"It's important we plan to protect the park's dark sky qualities from light pollution now and into the future," Professor Watson said. "And the recognition of the Dark Sky Park provides an opportunity to publicise the benefits of good lighting, not just for astronomers but for everyone."

Warrumbungle National Park joins other international parks such as Death Valley National Park in the United States and Galloway Forest Park in Scotland as officially designated Dark Sky Parks.