Croatian astronomy enthusiasts have a new reason for celebration following the establishment of Croatia’s first ever Dark-Sky Park in the Petrova gora and Bilje area. The Beskraj Astronomical Society has been working toward the goal of establishing the park since 2007, and the Park has now been recognized as being in compliance with all of the necessary criteria established by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Recognition as a Dark Sky Park is awarded to natural protected dark night time skies with exceptionally good visibility of the stars and which also offer organized programs for the purpose of popularizing and promoting astronomy, public education on issues related to light pollution, and actively promote programs for the preservation of dark night skies for present and future generations. Currently there are 15 other international dark-sky parks in Europe: Hungary, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, Denmark, Spain, Ireland and Wales.
It is estimated that more than 80% of Europe’s population can no longer see the Milky Way from their home, and Croatia has experienced significant increases in light pollution over the recent past. In fact, according to recent measurements, despite its relatively smaller population, the sky over Zagreb at night is three times brighter than in Vienna, and is even brighter than Hong Kong’s night sky. Uncontrolled placement of public lighting and excessive light intensity that scatters light in the sky and the environment has proven negative effects on human health. City light pollution has a tendency to spill more than a hundred kilometers into the surrounding environment, causing extensive ecological damage and harming biodiversity.
Nevertheless, in its less densely populated rural areas, such as Lastovo, Lika and Velebit, and some islands like Cres, Vis, Mljet and Kornati, there are still many very dark nighttime locations in Croatia. Unfortunately, they are not as readily accessible to star gazers in continental Croatia as Petrova gora, which is conveniently close to Zagreb, but at enough of a distance away that the impact of light pollution is reduced. Thus, it provides convenient opportunity for locals and tourists alike to make educational excursions that allow them to gain first-hand knowledge of astronomy – the world’s oldest science.
In northern Croatia, Petrov vrh (near the city of Daruvar) could become the next dark-sky park – thanks to the efforts of members of the “Kumova slama” astronomical society.
(Source: AD Beskraj)