2023 / 10 / 09
The 385th Symposium of the International Astronomical Union, entitled "Astronomy and satellite constellations: the way forward", was held in La Palma, Canary Islands (Spain), from 2 to 6 October.
At this symposium, international astronomers, industry and other interested parties were able to share the current state of their work on large satellite constellations and their impact on astronomy and the night sky.
Antonia Varela, director of the Starlight Foundation, researcher at the IAC and member of the IAU, chaired the local organising committee, which included the Cabildo de La Palma and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.
The island of La Palma hosted this international forum, where important and decisive decisions were taken to protect the sky. An island where, as Varela explained in his opening speech, the first governmental law in the world to protect its skies was born, the 1988 Sky Law, which has been a source of inspiration for other Spanish municipalities and countries; An island that hosted the first international Starlight Conference in 2007, where representatives of institutions such as UNESCO, the World Tourism Organisation and the International Astronomical Union, among others, drafted and signed the first Declaration in Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight, or the La Palma Declaration, in an action promoted by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, thus creating the Starlight Initiative.
The XXVII General Assembly of the IAU, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August 2009, unanimously adopted Resolution B5 in Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight, recognising the principles expressed in the Starlight Declaration. Since then, the IAU has significantly stepped up its work in this area, in particular through Division C (Education, Outreach and Heritage) or with the creation of Commissions and Working Groups (WGs) such as Commission C4 (World Heritage and Astronomy), the WG on the Protection of the Dark and Silent Sky, the WG on Astronomical Heritage in Danger and the WG on Achieving Sustainable Development in a Framework of Quality Lighting.
La Palma, the first Starlight Reserve in the world, was also chosen to host the two workshops on "Dark and Silent Skies for Science and Society" in 2020 and 2021, organised by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Spain, together with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), with the aim of drawing up recommendations to avoid the impact of human activities on the visibility of the starry sky and on the progress of astronomical science.
Unfortunately, both events had to be held online, one because of COVID and the other because of the volcano that devastated part of the island. For this reason, the local organisers did not hesitate when they had the opportunity to host the IAU 385 Symposium, an important event in which important decisions were once again taken to ensure that the skies of La Palma remain a source of inspiration and knowledge, an engine for sustainable development and progress for all peoples.
From the Circo de Marte Theatre in Santa Cruz de La Palma and for a week, personalities of the international astronomy have explored the current status of studies, observations and mitigation of the impact of satellite constellations.
In addition to a few intense days of debate and work, the participants of IAUS385 had a broad agenda to get to know the island, its volcanoes, its history, its culture, its gastronomy, its scientific infrastructures, but above all its skies and its people.
A hundred people involved in astronomy were able to visit the new Tajogaite volcano in Cumbre Vieja, the observatory of Roque de los Muchachos, Apagón and Star Party with music festival and night observations, tasting of Palmeros products in the also starlit town of Fuencaliente, exhibitions, a public lecture by Professor Piero Benvenuti.
Finally, the Starlight Foundation, as co-organiser, would like to thank the International Astronomical Union and the IAU Sky Protection Centre for accepting the proposal of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, as well as the Cabildo de la Palma, the City Council of Santa Cruz de la Palma, the municipalities of Fuencaliente and Garafia and the whole island for welcoming the event with open arms.