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Far from the city’s light pollution, a Brazilian park is becoming a hub for stargazing enthusiasts. Astro tourism is proving popular, with packages including dinner and star observation led by an astronomer.
“In the early 20th century, people could view the Milky Way and the Magellanic clouds from the center of Rio de Janeiro,” says astronomer Daniel Mello. This is now impossible because of light pollution, especially in the city center.
Mello leads the “Astro-tourism in Brazilian Parks project,” a partnership between his university and the State Environmental Institute, which runs the state parks. It aims to make astronomy more accessible to the public and fight against light pollution.
All major cities are submerged in light pollution. But there is one spot in the state of Rio that has been spared so far: the Desengano State Park. Two hundred kilometers (125 miles) north of Rio, the skies in the municipality of Santa Maria Madalena are the darkest in the state.
“Astro tourism is a tourism niche which is beginning to surge, mainly after the pandemic period when people perceived they are missing contact with nature and their lives become more significant when they are linked to nature and to preserving the environment,” says Anna Mostovic, who welcomes guests who come for the stars, but also her Polish dishes.
Astronomer Igor Borgo sets up his telescopes through which tourists can watch the spectacle of stars. Mostovic’s and Borgo’s stargazing dinner experience has proven a popular hit.
Madalena has been dubbed the City of Stars, a title it hopes will help increase the tourism industry here.
But there is a problem: widespread use of LED lighting, as in most public spaces, threatens the night sky’s darkness. If nothing is done, Desengano Park could lose its title as Brazil’s first Dark Sky park, issued by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Ideally, all public lights should be pointing down to minimize light pollution. Only then will Madalena be able to secure its title as City of Stars, from where you can still see the wonders of the night sky.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.