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|Is it time the City of Light embraced our dark side?




Is it time the City of Light embraced our dark side?

Is it time the City of Light embraced our dark side?

Light put Perth on the map 60 years ago when the city lit up during a historic spaceflight. Now, our world-class dark skies are guiding us towards a new global reputation.

Is it time the City of Light embraced our dark side?

On 20 February 1962, NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

Yes, the same John Glenn who was depicted alongside ‘human supercomputer’ Katherine Johnson in the movie Hidden Figures.
. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo | 20th Century Fox
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Alamy Stock Photo | 20th Century Fox

Yes, the same John Glenn who was depicted alongside ‘human supercomputer’ Katherine Johnson in the movie Hidden Figures.
Yes, the same John Glenn who made history again in 1998 when he became the oldest human to travel in space at the age of 77.
. Credit: NASA | STS-95 Discovery
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NASA | STS-95 Discovery

Yes, the same John Glenn who made history again in 1998 when he became the oldest human to travel in space at the age of 77.

During both missions, Perth residents created a brilliant light show in support. Glenn, who died in 2016 at the age of 95, took note of the dazzling display as he flew over WA.

John Glenn never actually called Perth ‘The City of Lights’. John Glenn: “Just to my right I can see a big pattern of lights, apparently right on the coast. I can see the outline of a town and a very bright light just to the south of it.” Muchea Station: “Perth and Rockingham you’re seeing there.” John Glenn: “The lights show up very well and thank everybody for turning them on, will you?”

Perth had earned itself the nickname City of Light and it stuck. Since then, city buildings have been illuminated in a nod to the honour. The City of Perth even launched a new brand and logo to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the famed event.

Embracing our dark side

WA’s landscape has changed dramatically since the 1960s.

Our state is at the world forefront in the field of astronomy, and dark sky tourism is becoming increasingly popular. Even State Daddy, Premier Mark McGowan, has vowed to protect our dark night skies.

Carol Redford is the CEO and Founder of Astrotourism WA and International Dark Sky Association delegate. (She’s known as Galaxy Girl in astronomy circles.)

Carol Redford, CEO and Founder of Astrotourism WA and International Dark-Sky Association delegate. She's known as Galaxy Girl in astronomy circles.
Image|Carol Redford
Carol Redford: known as Galaxy Girl in astronomy circles.
Carol says Perth and WA are in a unique position to become the stargazing and astronomy capital of the world.

“Our dark night skies are a hidden jewel of our environment,” says Carol.

She says what sets us apart is our vast, open landscape connected by small country towns with low light pollution.

“Perth is a fantastic city but we’re not like Sydney, Paris or New York, where there’s these really stunning iconic structures like the Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower,” says Carol.

“Even when people are travelling to a dark sky area, they may be unaware of the hundreds of billions of stars above them, and the Milky Way in its full, beautiful glory stretching from horizon to horizon.”

“By the year 2030, I think Western Australia will become the place you go to see the Milky Way.”

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Image|Nils Hay
The Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon in Mingenew, WA.

Perth: City of Starlight?

Carol says the WA Government’s Dark sky and astrotourism position statement released last month is vital for protecting our special dark night skies.

“We’ve had the tag the City of Light for so long.”

“I think we’re in this transition time where Perth can go from the City of Light to the ‘City of Starlight’.”

By embracing our ‘dark side’, Perth and WA could gain big economic and environmental benefits.

Light: it’s darker than you think

It’s not just scientists and stargazing tourists who could see the benefits (so to speak) from our dark night skies.

Light pollution disrupts wildlife ecosystems and migration patterns. It can throw our natural sleep cycle out of whack, while increasing the risks of obesity, depression, diabetes and other health issues.

Blue light can ruin our view of the night sky, but we could reduce its impact by using LED bulbs in streetlights.

“We have this opportunity because we’re changing to this new lighting technology,” says Carol.

“So why not spend the right money now? It means we can get the right lighting in place right now rather than in 10 years’ time,” she adds.

“[Our night sky] is an amazing asset for Western Australia to hang on to.”


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