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Taiwan launches first dark sky park in Hehuanshan

Hehuan Mountain Dark Sky Park to serve as sanctuary for stargazers in Taiwan

Taiwan's Hehuan Mountain Dark Sky Park now open to public. (Nantou County Government photo)

Taiwan's Hehuan Mountain Dark Sky Park now open to public. (Nantou County Government photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's first international dark sky park was officially launched on central Taiwan's Hehuanshan (合歡山) Saturday (Sept. 19), setting a milestone for astronomy communities in the country.

The Hehuan Mountain Dark Sky Park (HMDSP) is the first certified international dark sky park in Taiwan and the third in Asia, following Iriomote Ishigaki in Okinawa, Japan, and the Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park in South Korea. Situated at 2,750 meters above sea level, it will serve as a sanctuary for stargazers with its low atmospheric disturbance and well-preserved nocturnal environment.

During the opening ceremony, Nantou County Secretary-General Hung Jui-chi (洪瑞智) expressed gratitude to those who have helped create the necessary conditions for the dark sky park bid. He said the Qingjing Farm and its environs are important tourist attractions in the county and he hopes the HMDSP will bring larger crowds and boost local tourism, reported Liberty Times.

Taiwanese amateur astronomer Lu Chi-Jen (呂其潤), who has been a star enthusiast for 40 years, said the HMDSP is a wonderful environment for Taiwanese to enjoy the breathtaking nightscape. He added that the dark sky park can also protect nocturnal animals and be used to educate people about how to co-exist with nature.

Meanwhile, the Nantou Tourism Department revealed a video to highlight the importance of environmental sustainability and light pollution reduction. It promised to turn the Qingjing area into a "starry mountain town" and continue to improve stargazing facilities on Hehuanshan, reported CNA.

Hehuanshan was designated as a dark sky park in August 2019 after a joint four-year effort between the Nantou County government, Taroko National Park, the Taiwan Dark Sky Protection Alliance (台灣星空守護聯盟), the Qingjing Tourism Association, and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. It was described by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as "a model case of cooperation between the local civilian community and governmental entities."

Taiwan launches first dark sky park in Hehuanshan
Hehuanshan a perfect spot for stargazing. (Nantou County Government photo)