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16 March 2013

What is the Starlight foundation? Interview with Director Luis Martínez Sáez


President of the Starlight Foundation
Mr. Luis Martínez Sáez
Credit: Astronomy Club Toutatis
Follow our Astronomy Club Toutatis through our visit to the Canarian astronomy in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

I visited Mr. Luis Martínez Sáez Director of the Starlight Foundation at his office at the Institute of Astrophysics of Canary Islands (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, IAC) in San Cristóbal de La Laguna. As he invited me in his office, we started the interview and I asked him what is this Starlight foundation all about?
Laughing, he asked me what is this Astronomy Club Toutatis all about? I replied with an honest and simple answer that it is our astronomy club in Finland and we are curious about all that is related to space and astronomy. He liked my answer and we continued the interview.



Here is what Mr. Luis Martínez Sáez Director of Starlight Foundation told me.



What is the Starlight Foundation?
The Starlight Foundation is the body in charge of the operational management of the Starlight Initiative, providing human resources and means for its development and promotion.
The Starlight Initiative was launched in 2007 from a proposal of the IAC supported by UNESCO - MaB Programme, UNWTO, IAU, and other international conventions such as UNEP-CMS, SCBD, and Ramsar Convention, and is designed as an international action in defense of the values associated with the night sky and the general right to observe the stars.
The final aim of this Initiative is to promote the importance of clear skies for the humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, and tourism.
 
Silhouette of Teide Observatory, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Credit: Astronomy Club Toutatis
What does the Starlight initiative do?
The initiative is designed as an international action in defence of the values associated with the night sky and the general right to observe the stars. It is open to the participation of all scientific, cultural, environmental, citizens, organizations or associations, as well as public institutions and other public and private bodies willing to effectively cooperate in the conservation of clear skies and the dissemination of the knowledge related with their observation. The final aim of the initiative is to strengthen the importance of clear skies for humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, tourism.
Read more on the initiative HERE
 
The objectives of the Starlight initiative are? 
·         Promote the World Declaration on the Right to the Starlight as a common heritage of mankind.
·         Promote international action in defence of the quality of the night sky and the observation of the stars, reinforcing the right to their enjoyment and use as a scientific, cultural and environmental resource and a vector of technological development to the benefit of mankind. 
·         Help to spread the culture of valuing starlight, guaranteeing access to it for present and future generations. 
Read more on the objectives HERE

What are Starlight Tourist Destinations? 
Starlight Tourist Destinations are places you can visit that have excellent dark skies for stargazing.
The Starlight Tourism Certification System was created with the aim of encouraging, at world-wide level, the improvement of the quality of tourist experiences and the protection of the night skies in Starlight Destinations. The Starlight Certification seeks to guarantee the capacity to enjoy the view of the stars and to discover the associated scientific, cultural, natural and scenic values.
The Starlight Certification makes it possible for the first time to bring science and tourism together, it aims to ensure the quality of tourism experiences involving the nightscapes, the view of stars and the cosmos and the related scientific, cultural and environmental knowledge.
Read more on the Starlight Tourist Destinations HERE



Where are these Starlight Tourist Destinations and how to apply for a Starlight Dark sky site certificate? 

In December 2011, Alqueva, Portugal is the first site in the world to receive the 'Starlight Tourist Destination' certificate. This certification, awarded by the Starlight Foundation, recognizes the quality of the night sky in Alqueva and tourist activities related to the starry sky.

Starlight Certification can be requested by all institutions, entities and associations, public or private, with competence for managing a Starlight Destination or who are responsible for related tourist and/or scientific activities that are organised within the destination.

Read more on Alqueva, Portugal HERE

Read more on Starlight certification HERE



Mr. Luis Martínez Sáez is confident that this initiative will go on further into the future and that the people involved with tourism and astronomy will see that this certification of their dark sky sites will improve their region both in tourism and conservation of dark skies for stargazing and scientific purposes. 

He urges associations/organisations such as UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to see the benefits of conserving dark skies sites. He wishes that conserving dark skies would be as important as conserving the places on Earth that are already on the lists of these associations and organisations. He would like to start with the Canary Islands as World Heritage Sites (UNESCO) where the initiative is already in progress with national laws protecting the night skies in Tenerife and La Palma. We tend to forget that starry skies are our heritage and responsibility and we should not take this lightly or deny ourselves the privilege of the Universe and its wonders.


READ NEXT POST HERE on our trip through Canarian Astronomy on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands.


Starlight Foundation website
WIKI: San Cristóbal de La Laguna 
Alqueva, Portugal first Starlight certified dark sky site 
IAU International Astronomy Union
UNESCO