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15th February 2021 Rosa Chalfen (2019, English)

Exeter-funded research project helps promote sustainable tourism in rural Namibia

A research project funded by the Exeter College Fellows’ and Lecturers’ Research Fund is helping to develop ‘dark sky tourism’ in rural Namibian communities.

Dr Hannah Dalgleish, a postdoctoral researcher in astrophysics working with Professor Garret Cotter (Fellow in Physics), is leading a project for the University of Oxford and University of Namibia in Windhoek to use astronomy in developing the sustainable tourism industry of the area.

Dark sky tourism is based around stargazing in areas where, unlike the light polluted cities that many of us are used to, unpolluted night skies provide the opportunity to reconnect with nature and for indigenous communities to share long held knowledge about astronomy with tourists. Compared to traditional types of tourism, which can have a huge carbon footprint and exploit local communities, dark sky tourism is a cheap and eco-friendly alternative that draws on and protects natural resources.

The project aims to draw on the appeal of existing telescopes and observatories, such as the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS), a gamma-ray telescope array located near the Gamsberg mountain, to entice tourists to come to Namibia. Exeter College’s funding will help to set up a web-based training project for tour guides in introductory astronomy, creating employment and opportunities for upskilling in local communities.

Dr Dalgleish has published an article detailing the sustainable possibilities of her work in the Royal Astronomical Society’s inhouse magazine Astronomy & Geophysics. In it, she reminds the reader that ‘astronomy is international, transcending borders and cultural barriers, reminding us that we are one people, living beneath one sky’ (6.21). She also spoke at the virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society last month explaining her vision for the project.

The HESS gamma-ray telescope in Namibia

The HESS telescope in Namibia

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