City dwellers can’t hope to see many stars even on a clear night, no thanks to all the light pollution around. We can up our chances by getting out of the city, but if we are serious about wanting to see more than just a few twinklers and shooters, we need to go the right places.

Great Barrier Island, located 90 kilometres from Auckland in New Zealand, has just become the first island in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The third to achieve the  status after Cosmic Campground in Glenwood, New Mexico, USA, and the Gabriela Mistral Aura Observatory in Chile.

The rare status was awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), which established the International Dark Sky Places conservation programme in 2001 to recognise ‘excellent stewardship of the night sky’. Designations are based on scientifically measured darkness of sky as well as stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Sanctuary status is reserved for the most isolated, and dark locations in the world and this designation is specifically designed to increase awareness of fragile sites and promote their long-term conservation.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says Great Barrier Island is home to a community focused on protecting and preserving its stunning natural beauty, which makes it the ideal location to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary status. “Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness, and is one of the most tranquil and unspoilt places in the wider Auckland region,” he says.

Already Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is working to help the island develop its astro-tourism offerings, so keep a look out for events. Or just put on Archive’s ‘Nothing Else’ and start planning your trip in time for the Star Party on 16 July or to go see the Perseid Meteor Shower on 13 August.

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