Dark-sky reserve at the Pic du Midi
I’ll never forget the first night I spent up there!
What is an IDSR?
Since 2013, the Pic du Midi has been the central area of the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe. OK, what does that mean? That you can see the stars much better at the Pic than anywhere else !
The IDSR label is attributed to regions with a natural night sky, but most importantly to regions committed to protecting it. In concrete terms, there are 246 municipalities in the Hautes-Pyrénées, i.e. 67% of the département, that are engaged in reducing the light emitted by streetlights. Renovating streetlights, thinking about the usefulness and use of a lamp, its operating time, etc. limits light pollution, making it possible to (re)discover the Night.
Where did the idea come from?
The International Dark Sky Reserve is the work of three organisations: the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, the Parc National des Pyrénées (Pyrenees National Park) and the Syndicat Départemental d’Energie (Départemental Energy Union). Together they decided to encourage the region to commit to this initiative because, on the one hand, the astronomers at the Pic were starting to lose the ability to see the stars, and, on the other hand, the nocturnal animals were seriously suffering as a result of the light intensity. That’s right; I too am discovering that we all need darkness to live: us, animals and plants!
When you look into it a little, you quickly see that too much light is harmful. It disorientates migratory birds, disrupts frogs’ reproduction, weakens trees, stresses us out and stops us from sleeping… all by masking the stars and preventing us from dreaming, looking up at the sky. And you can add to that the fact that managing lighting and avoiding excessive light means less energy is used, and so your wallet can take a breather.
An unforgettable experience
That is what I discovered by climbing the Pic du Midi and exploring the museum: An experience where I became aware of our smallness compared with the universe and of what we miss by being in towns, under all those lights.
I’ve never seen such a beautiful sky (the weather was on our side)! It was the first time that I had observed the sky through a telescope and that I had taken the time to look up to see what is above my head. I was utterly captivated by the activity leader’s explanations. An emotional experience enabling a whole host of discoveries.
In any case, I’m delighted that a region is taking action to protect the night and enable us to see such beautiful and magical skies again. I’m now determined to get my act together so that I too can manage my lights and, why not… let’s dream… maybe one day, see the Pic du Midi sky in my town.
©Roger Rovira Rius
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