Star gazing

International conference on darkness in Chile’s Atacama Desert

Noche Zero which will be held from October 16 -18 in San Pedro de Atacama and draw leading astronomers, urban planners and other experts from around the world. 

Friday, October 12, 2012 Category: Education - Technology
The Milky Way cascades behind ESO’s Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert. Photo: S. Brunier co The Milky Way cascades behind ESO’s Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert. Photo: S. Brunier courtesy of ESO Astronomy / Facebook.

Lights will go out in San Pedro de Atacama on October 16 as the oasis town hosts an international celebration of darkness that will draw experts in astronomy, urban design and many other fields to the heart of Chile’s Atacama Desert.


The three day event, called Noche Zero, is a conference on the value of darkness in contemporary cities, and will cover areas as diverse as lighting design, medicine, urban cultural heritage and tourism.


It is timed to coincide with a new moon cycle, offering the clearest view possible of the firmament, in an area already considered the capital of international astronomy, that is home to the most sophisticated astronomical hardware on earth, such as the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope.


Paulina Villalobos, lighting specialist and director of Noche Zero, said “the objective is to connect design with science, to recreate darkness and to create a method to link light with urban design, and also preserve natural darkness.”


“We aim to raise awareness in those who work and make decisions in design and urban illumination, in culture, art, astronomy, neurobiology and biology in relation to darkness and the night sky,” Villalobos said.


The first evening of the event, next Tuesday, will include a seminar and film festival beneath the stars, while the second will see another seminar and closing ceremony. On October 18, organizers and invited guests will write the Atacama Manifesto, which will aim to draw up conclusions reached over the first two days of Noche Zero.


Speakers include Doctor George C. Brainard, a neurology professor and director of the Light Research Program of Jefferson Medical College in the Thomas Jefferson University, National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, who worked on “The Death of Night” article which appeared in the magazine in 2008, filmmaker Ian Cheney, director of feature documentary “The City Dark,” Chilean environmental engineer Alvaro Boehmwald, and the ESO’s Chile representative Massimo Tarenghi, among others.


The event is a collaborative effort between Chilean company DIAV,  the U.K.’s Light Collective and Universidad Católica del Norte.


For more information, head to the Noche Zero official website.

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