Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society – II

Implementing the recommendations

The Conference “Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society”, jointly organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Government of Spain and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), should have taken place in October 2020, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been postponed and is now scheduled in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, from 3 to 7 October 2021.

However, because of the urgency to protect the right of humankind to access an uncontaminated night sky, both for its intrinsic cultural value and for the progress of science, the organizers decided to hold an on-line Workshop, on the same theme as the originally planned Conference.

The rationale for the Workshop and Conference relates to exponential deployments of technological developments, like urban illumination by LED, the large constellations of satellites in low Earth orbit and the high power radio transmission, which are creating unprecedented threats to the visibility of the pristine night sky and call for effective and prompt mitigating measures before the damage may become irreversible.

The on-line Workshop in 2020 was a huge success, with more than 950 registered participants who actively contributed to reviewing a comprehensive Report, prepared in draft form by 85 international experts and distributed in advance to all participants. The Report addresses 5 topics: dark sky oases, optical astronomy, impact of artificial light on the bio-environment, satellite constellations and radio astronomy. For each topic, a number of recommendations have been proposed aimed at mitigating the impact of the various causes of interference.

Starting from the thorough analysis of the Report, the current Conference will now focus on the implementation of its recommendations, in particular identifying both the technical and political actions needed for their effective realization, as well as which stakeholders and partners would need to collaborate to implement a satisfactory solution for the preservation of a dark and quiet skies.The programme of the Conference includes invited talks as well as contributed papers selected through a call for abstracts. Following the very positive experience of the on-line Workshop, three Working Groups on the main sources of interference (Artificial Light At Night, Satellite Constellations and Radio Transmission) will prepare critical analyses of the various implementation processes that will be presented at the Conference. Information about the possibility of participating in the activity of the Working Groups will be published on this page by the end of June 2021. Registering for the conference (no fee) is available here.

Please note that attendance physically in La Palma will be limited and a webcast will be available for anyone unable to travel. For presenters who are unable to fund their travel costs, limited subsidies can be applied for through the registration form.

Background information on the Organising Entities

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is the United Nations office responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. UNOOSA serves as the secretariat for the General Assembly's only committee dealing exclusively with international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space: the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

The  International Astronomical Union (IAU), founded in 1919, is the world’s largest professional organization for astronomers, bringing together 14 000 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide.  Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. Structured into Divisions, Commissions, and Working Groups, the IAU has as one of its priority goals, the reduction and prevention of artificial sky glow and radio interference. As such Commission B7 was established to address these critical issues.

The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias is a Public Research Center belonging to the Spanish State and the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands with the participation of the University of la Laguna and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). The IAC manages two of the best international observatories in Tenerife and La Palma respectively and is interested in preserving "Dark and Quiet Skies" for the benefit of society and of the astronomical community. The IAC is recognized by the Spanish government as a "Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence".