The Island of Niue Becomes the First Dark Sky Country

Light pollution makes it impossible to see the stars in many cities.

Mar 30, 2020

Looking at the night sky used to foretell the changing of the seasons and how we navigated the seas. Stars played a role in our ancient religious practices from South America, to Egypt and all the way to China. Today, even though the science of astronomy knows all about the stars we see, there is nothing more exciting than watching shooting stars.

But in many places, people cannot even see the constellations or the milky way. That’s because of light pollution. There are just too many artificial lights according to International Dark-Sky Association that are impairing our view of the universe and adversely affecting our health. That’s why the tiny island nation of Niue decided to become the first dark sky country.

Niue is the world’s smallest independent country and is home to 1,600 people who according to New Atlas have a long history of being guided by the stars for navigation and the lunar cycles. This knowledge was handed down from generation to generation.

“Niue’s skies have been observed and appreciated for centuries," Misa Kalutea, a Niuean elder and cultural guardian told New Atlas. "The dark sky nation status adds new emphasis to the importance of our traditional knowledge, providing a reason for the retelling and sharing of this knowledge before it is lost."

The government of the island country began the application process to become formally approved as a Dark Sky place by the International Dark-Sky Association in mid-2018. The government had to show a strong community commitment and to upgrade streetlights and private lighting to ones that do not produce light pollution. The country was just approved in March 2020. Niue now joins 130 other certified dark sky places around the world.

The country hopes that this new formal accreditation will create Astro-tourism that will allow future visitors to view the night sky the way it looked even a hundred years ago before light pollution became so prevalent.

“Viewing sites which are currently used for whale-watching and accessing the sea are already established on the island," said Felicity Bollen, CEO of Niue Tourism.

"In addition, the dark interior provides spectacular views of the sky and the roads that cross the island make ideal viewing locations. Visitors will be able to enjoy guided Astro-tours led by trained Niuean community members. They will witness the wonder of a night sky illuminated by thousands of stars. The Milky Way with the large and small Magellanic Clouds and the Andromeda constellation are truly a sight to behold.”

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.