17 December 2022

Review: Dark Skies by Lonely Planet

I've always loved stargazing, and Dark Skies - A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet was given to me by my husband for Christmas in 2020. Given some of the celestial events have dates attached (lunar and solar eclipses for example), I thought I'd better read this before another Christmas passes me by and it's still on the shelf.

Dark Skies is very much a Lonely Planet guide to astrotourism; a new term for me.
Dark Skies - A Practical Guide to Astrotourism by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet book cover

It's broken down into the following chapters:
Dark Places
Astronomy in Action
Meteor Showers
Space Tourism

I was most interested in the Dark Places, Meteor Showers and Eclipses chapters, but they're all very interesting and comprehensive given what's on offer.

Another new-to-me word is archaeoastronomy and I enjoyed learning about it in the chapter on Dark Places:
"Archaeoastronomy, the so-called 'science of stars and stones,' is the interdisciplinary study of how ancient cultures used the night sky as part of culture and society - including in construction. Sites like Stonehenge in England and Chichen Itza in Mexico are among the locations of interest to archaeoastronomers, since they seem to be aligned with celestial events such as equinoxes and solstices. Archaeoastronomers use material remains to examine how ancient cultures related to phenomena in the sky." Page 95
What a fascinating area of science!

It was also interesting to read that the next total solar eclipse visible from Australia and New Zealand takes place on 22 July 2028, with Sydney being in the path of totality. The entire eclipse will take 2.5 hours and totality in Sydney will last a maximum of 3 minutes and 58 seconds. To enjoy the maximum 5 minutes and 10 seconds, enthusiasts will need to travel to rural Australia.

Light pollution - and seeking locations free of it - was a continual theme in Dark Skies, and that's to be expected. I also noticed an optimism that an increase in astrotourism will inevitably result in a greater appreciation and respect for the environment and a subsequent shift in thinking towards how we treat the planet. There's much we can do to reduce night time light pollution (for which our native habitats will be grateful), and I enjoyed that the book closed with:
"If astrotourism helps more people protect our amazing home planet, the future will be bright.... and the night skies will be dark and full of stars." Page 283
It definitely reminded me of the alternate phrase from Game of Thrones, "The night is dark and full of terrors."

Dark Skies very much feels like a Lonely Planet guide, and while I've only read two (Kenya and Hawaii) this was a familiar format. As in those two books, you need to break up the reading of a Lonely Planet guide within your regular reading schedule. Some of the content is dry and after a while, the consistent format can become repetitive and dull. Thankfully some amazing photographs remind the reader of the power and wonder of the night sky and the universe beyond.

Dark Skies is a valuable resource that will quickly date; as with all Lonely Planet books.

My Rating:

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