Researcher promotes building Dark Sky Community

Writer: Han Ximin  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-04-12

At the plaque awarding ceremony site of the Xichong International Dark Sky Community on Monday night, Mei Lin, head of the Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory’s Astronomy Department, launched its astronomical observation signals, an astronomic forecast that will be publicized to stargazers, astronomy fans and professionals via the Shenzhen Meteorological Observatory’s website and WeChat accounts.

Mei Lin, head of the Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory’s Astronomy Department, at the plaque-awarding ceremony of the Xichong International Dark Sky Community on Monday. Photos by Liu Xudong

Mei, a researcher who has been working at the Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory since it began operation in 2010, is in charge of proposing the building of the Dark Sky Community, which centers around the observatory.

“Xichong has unique conditions for tourism and stargazing. However, urban development, artificial light use at the beach, outdoor advertising billboards and fishing lights have worsened the light pollution in the area. The number of stars that are visible has been reduced compared to the number when the observatory was established,” Mei said.

A bird’s-eye view of the Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory and its surrounding areas. 

In April 2021, Mei proposed building the Dark Sky Community, which aims to protect wildlife habitat by reducing light pollution, while fully satisfying the life and well-being of the local neighborhoods.

The idea received wide support from the Shenzhen Municipal Meteorological Bureau, Shenzhen Municipal Urban Management and Law Enforcement Bureau and Dapeng New District CPC Party Working Committee, which jointly started renovation of lighting facilities at business venues, beaches and camping sites.

“I initially put forward the idea for scientific research purposes, but in the following discussions, we found out that the program is the way for Xichong’s high-quality development. Stargazing tourism around the observatory could be one of Xichong’s tourism’s new growth points,” Mei said.

In the beginning, the proposal received doubts and objections from the villagers.

“We often worked during weekends, visiting local families and handing out questionnaires to let the neighborhood know more about the program’s benefits,” Mei said.

The stargazing programs have been developed in two years.

In 2021, the number of tourists remained high during the off-peak season after the National Day holiday, with most coming in for dark sky activities such as stargazing and astrophotography.

“Wildlife habitat also improved through the dark sky program,” Mei said, citing the appearance of swarms of fireflies in summer last year. “The building of the Dark Sky Community marks a new milestone for Xichong and Dapeng’s dark sky economy, as it strikes a balance between economic development and ecological protection,” Mei added.