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Oman mulls establishing starlight reserve; two areas identified – Oman

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A Starlight Reserve or Dark Sky Reserve is an area where natural night sky light conditions are kept intact. MECA has identified two areas – Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar – based on a study by a technical team, said Dr Thuraiya al Sariri, assistant director general of Nature Conservation in MECA.

“The study findings will be submitted to the government for approval. Once approved MECA will issue guidelines on how to use outdoor lights and minimise light pollution to enjoy the night sky in these two areas. The reserve will help in increasing awareness and education regarding the importance of dark sky and how to use lights without affecting the environment. It will also conduct educational programmes on astronomy for people in Oman and abroad,” Dr Thuraiya said.

Once established the reserve will be the first in the Gulf region, said Dr Saleh Said Hamed al Shidhani, chairman of the Board of Directors, Oman Astronomical Society. “How many stars can you spot while gazing night sky in Muscat? Maybe 20 or 30. If you go to places like Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar, you can spot over a thousand stars.”

He added, “Due to rapid growth of cities and road infrastructure, we have been witnessing increasing instances of light pollution across the world. The excess use of artificial light is affecting the flora and fauna and human beings.”

Excess light and pollution are hindrances to watching celestial bodies, said Dr Shidhani. “There is so much light in the city that when you gaze at the sky it is difficult to identify celestial bodies.

“You can only see few stars whereas there are thousands there. Light pollution is causing extinction of several species of insects too who get attracted to lights. Their lifestyle gets disturbed and they die.”

He said light pollution is a bane for astronomical activities including stargazing.

“The Global Light Pollution Map shows that Oman has very few areas affected by light pollution unlike big cities in other countries. This is a big advantage for us,” said Dr Shidhani.

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