By Cole Sinanian •
Updated: 08 Dec 2023 • 12:52
Space: the final frontier. Image: Kirschner/Shutterstock.com
Though visible throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Geminid meteor shower – which is the only annual meteor shower produced by an asteroid instead of a comet – is easily drowned out by city light pollution. But with shining trails of white, yellow, and green, and a maximum possible frequency of 150 shooting stars per hour, braving the December chill for a trip to the country to watch the Geminids is well worth it.
A starlight reserve, as described on the Starlight Foundation’s website, is a “protected natural area where a commitment to protecting the quality of the night sky and access to starlight is established.” Starlight reserves began with the international “Declaration in Defense of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight,” written in 2007 by representatives from a number of organisations, the goal being to promote astronomy as an accessible form of tourism.
Andalucía, being the region of continental Europe closest to the equator, is perhaps one of the continent’s best stargazing zones, with many celestial bodies visible only from this region. Nowhere better to take advantage of these conditions than Sierra de Monte, extending along the northern portions of the provinces of Jaén, Córdoba, Seville, and Huelva. It’s one of the largest Starlight Reserves in the world, stretching more than 400 kilometres and spreading across more than 400 thousand hectares. The reserve’s certificate, endorsed by UNESCO, states that there is almost no light pollution, with more than 60 per cent of nights clear and the level of darkness comparable to that of the world’s best observatories.
“Among the mountains and ravines of the Sierra Sur Starlight Reserve, the stars dazzle like lighthouses in the darkness, the clean and transparent air allows observing the sky to be a unique experience,” states this reserve’s official government website. Located in the rugged mountains of the Jaén province, Sierra Sur counts 10 municipalities designated as official world starlight destinations. These towns include Alcalá la Real, Alcaudete, Castillo de Locubín, Frailes, Fuensanta de Martos, Martos, Valdepeñas de Jaén, Jamilena, Torredelcampo, and Los Villare. Local organisations like the Hubble Astronomical Association of Martos coordinate community activities and public observations to help residents and visitors get the most out of this unique landscape’s dark skies.
The newest of Spain’s starlight reserves, having been inaugurated in 2016, Los Pedroches is located in Córdoba and counts among its municipalities Cardeña, Santa Eufemia, Torrecampo, Pedroche, and Belalcázar. Scattered throughout the reserve are numerous parks and open spaces for visitors to safely enjoy the stars. Additionally, the Starlight Foundation offers pre-set astro-tourism routes for stargazers to follow to enhance their experience. Learn more on the foundation’s website.
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