Martina McAuley

KERRY International Dark Sky Reserve (I.D.S.R.) will be receiving an unexpected gift from the other side of the world. The format and style of this gift is still unknown but all will be revealed at an opening ceremony in Waterville in a few weeks time.

There are eight dark sky reserves in the world. Just three of these are gold level, among them Kerry I.D.S.R .was designated a dark sky reserve by the International Dark Sky Association in January.

Aoraki Mackenzie of International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand also received gold level recognition in June 2012. Earth and Sky Observatory, home of the New Zealand reserve, now plan to congratulate the people of Kerry on their success and build a connection between both locations.

"It will be extremely worthwhile to establish a link between both locations because the two areas can work together to promote astronomy as a hobby, as a science and as an exciting dimension we all have in our lives that's fading away because of light pollution," said Julie Ormonde, Project Manager of Kerry Dark Sky Reserve.

"If we lose the darkness in these last bastions of the dark skies, we lose ourselves: the connection of who we are and where we came from" she added.

"The whole theme of this is the protection of our dark skies", said Denis O'Connor, Chairperson of Heritage Iveragh. "We can stop light pollution before it starts. Others are trying to reverse it, which is a lot more difficult to do".

Denis said seeing spéirtha réaltógacha na Ríochta (the starry skies of the Kingdom), as our ancestors saw them, is absolutely brilliant for them because they don't have the light pollution. New Zealand's first residents, the Maori, used the night skies, amongst other environmental factors, to navigate their way to New Zealand. Like the Maori, the neolithic inhabitants of the Iveragh Peninsula used the night skies in their own way and built standing stones to map and measure the alignments of the solar and lunar cycles.

"We wish the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve all the best for its success and hope that it gets the global recognition that Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve did when it became one," said Margaret Munro, General Manager of Earth and Sky Observatory.