Did you know the world celebrates an International Dark Sky week? The time is much sought after by astronomy amateurs as well as professionals who look up (quite literally) to the dark sky in the hope of spotting the new and old. Endorsed by the International Dark Sky Association, the goal of the event is to reduce light pollution, understanding its effects on the night sky as well as to promote the study of astronomy. If you’re an enthusiast and wish to appreciate the dark sky in all its glory, here are 7 destinations that you can visit in India for an exceptional dark sky experience:
Kibber and Kaza, Spiti Valley
Much has already been said about the barely polluted night sky of Spiti Valley. But it is one thing to read about the same and another to actually experience it. An altitude as high as the Spiti Valley ensures almost zero light and sound pollution for an unreal viewing experience. Apart from simply stargazing one can also spot the Milky Way and if you’re lucky, a couple of shooting stars too.
Neil Island, Andamans and Nicobar Islands
Otherwise known for its diverse marine life, white sand beaches and its unspoilt corals, Neil Island’s transformation from dawn to dusk is spell-binding. While the day offers a much needed respite from the cluttered city life, the evenings transform into a completely magical experience with thousands of stars glimmering over the pristine waters.
Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, Tamil Nadu
Owned and operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory is located nearly 4kms from the town and at the southern tip of the Palani Hills. While here one can take various astronomy tours, along with access to the astronomy library housing literature of archival value, and night time telescopic sky viewing — all of this guided by experts. Not only this one can also visit the astronomy museum which is open to visitors all seven days, including government holidays.
Indian Astronomical Observatory, Ladakh
The starry skies of Ladakh have travellers making the journey from distant lands. Currently, a hotspot for stargazing and the Milky Way, Ladak tops any astronomy lover’s list. However, if you wish to take up the task all the more seriously, then the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle is the ideal destination. Located 4500 metres above sea level, “Its cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths,” the observatory states.
What better place to stargaze than a town whose name literally means counting stars? Taregna in Bihar is situated a few kilometres from the capital in Patna, and is quite an offbeat spot to observe the night sky. It is here that Aryabhata spent most of his time and also set up an astronomical observatory in the Sun Temple in the 6th century. It is also believed that he proposed the Heliocentric model here.
While most travellers talk of travelling far east only a few make it to Katao and even fewer decide to spend the night here. That, however, translates to a fewer number of travellers, meaning lesser light and sound pollution and an altogether better dark sky experience. Nestled quietly in the Yumthang Valley, Katao is on the radar for a select few and provides an unparalleled night sky viewing experience with only the sounds of nature keeping you company.
The desert state is renowned for its culture, colour and fervour. But only a select few make their way here for a dark sky experience. Churu is also known as the gateway to the Thar Desert and a perfect place, far away from the bustling life, to explore the dark sky in all its entirety. One can opt to camp out in the desert or find a local homestay to stay the night. Look out for a meteor shower while here.