Space tourism in south Kerry
A group of 25 members of the International Space University, from 18 different countries have visited the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve to tour the area and be briefed at first hand on the Dark Sky Reserve and plans to enhance it for locals and visitors alike.
The group visited Bray Head with Dr John Sheehan from UCC, received a guided tour of the Skelligs Experience with Centre Manager, John O'Sullivan, and visited Ballinskelligs where they were welcomed at the Community Centre by Micheal Ó Leidhin and given a briefing on the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve and future plans to develop, so called, astro-tourism by Steve Lynott.
The International Space University, based in Strasbourg, develops the future leaders of the world space community by providing educational programs to students and space professionals in an international, inter cultural environment.
The Space University group are visiting Ireland for the first time this year. The Cork Institute of Technology, and CIT's Blackrock Castle Observatory are playing host to the ISU's 17th International Space Studies Program (SSP) until August 25.
The Kerry Dark Sky Reserve - which stretches roughly from Glenbeigh to Castlecove - is the only gold standard reserve in the northern hemisphere offering unparalleled views of the night sky with little or no light pollution.
Developing tourism in the reserve zone has been identified as a key economic priority by Failte Ireland as part of its Skellig Coast initiative effort which seeks to highlight specific attractions between Kells and Caherdaniel on the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Dark Sky Reserve is seen as key to this effort and astro-tourism could potentially be worth millions to the local economy.
Increasing astro-tourism is especially attractive given that it would not only boost visitor numbers in the summer season but also in the off peak winter months which, with their longer nights, are more conducive to star gazing.