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International Initiative in Defence of the Quality of the Night Sky as Mankind’s Scientific, Cultural and Environmental Heritage

Astronomy and World Heritage workshop

24May 2012

Workshop held in New Zealand (Hermitage at Mount Cook) on 14–15 June 2012


The IAU Extended Case Studies and Dark Sky Issues.

Background to the meeting

Following a directive from the IAU in 2010, members of the WG have been developing 11 “extended case studies” in order to explore and clarify some of the key general issues that can arise in the particular case of astronomical heritage sites. Specific extended case studies might well facilitate the eventual preparation of a full nomination dossier should a State Party decide to prepare one, but this is not the aim of our work.

While dark sky areas cannot in themselves be recognized by UNESCO as specific types or categories of World Heritage cultural or natural property, the WG has a strong interest in how dark sky issues might best be represented within nomination dossiers for various types of astronomical heritage site. For this reason, more than half of the extended case studies relate in one way or another to such issues.


Purpose of the meeting

  1. To review the extended case studies produced during the past few months by WG members and to finalise them for presentation at the IAU GA and, if approved, for subsequent release via the AWHI web portal.
  2. To consider particularly how dark skies issues can best be represented within these case studies and any subsequent nomination dossier, in view of existing guidelines such as those developed by ICOMOS and the IAU in their Thematic Study.


Delegates discussed the various issues and length and redrafted five of the ECSs accordingly. It was decided to combine the three modern observatory sites (AURA, Mauna Kea and Canarian Observatories) into the form of a draft serial nomination entitled “ ‘Windows to the Universe’: exceptional observatory sites”.
The following resolution was adopted:
In order to advance the ‘Windows to the Universe’ concept within the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, the Workshop proposes:

  1. that the Extended Case Studies relating to ‘Windows to the Universe’ be revised by their authors with attention to individual agreed criteria and leading to a statement of OUV and sent to Clive Ruggles (or uploaded to the private area of the web portal) by 20 July 2012;
  2. that these Extended Case Studies be presented for approval to the IAU General Assembly in August 2012;
  3. that, subsequently, these Extended Case Studies be presented publicly on the UNESCO-approved AWHI web portal; and
  4. that, following these other steps, these Extended Case Studies be disseminated to States Parties and other relevant bodies.

This resolution was proposed by Margaret Austin, seconded by Malcolm Smith and adopted nem. con.

More information IAU WG

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