India's First 'Night Sky Sanctuary' To Be Set Up In Hanle, Ladakh

Dark Sky Reserve: In a unique and first-of-its-kind initiative, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) recently announced the setting up of India’s first Dark Sky Reserve Ladakh.

Key Points:

  • The proposed Dark Sky Reserve will be located at Hanle in Ladakh as a part of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It is expected to be completed within the next three months.
  • Hanle is about 4,500 metres above sea level.
  • It hosts telescopes and is regarded as one of the world’s most optimal sites for astronomical observations.
  • In addition, a visitor centre would also be set up to inform people about astronomy as well as wildlife and plant life in the adjoining Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.


  • It will boost Astro tourism in India and will be one of the world’s highest-located sites for optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes.
  • The site will have activities to help in boosting local tourism and economy through interventions of science and technology.
  • Villages around Hanle will not only be encouraged to promote homestays equipped with telescopes that visitors can use to view the night sky but will also be trained to help visitors with astronomical observations.

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

  • A dark-sky reserve is a designation given to a place that has policies in place to ensure that a tract of land or region has minimal artificial light interference.
  • The main objective of a dark sky reserve is to promote astronomy.

International Dark Sky Association:

The International Dark Sky Association is a U.S.-based non-profit that designates places as International Dark Sky Places, Parks, Sanctuaries and Reserves, depending on the criteria they meet.

There are several of these reserves in the world, but none so far in India.

Other Telescopes situated in Hanle Observatory:

Prominent telescopes located at the Hanle observatory are as follows:

  1. The Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT),
  2. High Energy Gamma Ray telescope (HAGAR),
  3. Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope (MACE) and
  4. GROWTH-India

MoU for Setting up Dark Reserve:

  • A tripartite MoU was signed recently among the UT administration, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council LAHDC Leh and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, IIA, for launching the Dark Space Reserve.

Why was Ladakh selected as the location for the Dark Reserve?

  • The Indian Astronomical Observatory, the high-altitude station of the IIA, is situated to the north of Western Himalayas, at an altitude of 4,500 metres above mean sea level.
  • Located atop Mt. Saraswati in the Nilamkhul Plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, it is a dry, cold desert with sparse human population.
  • The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths.


  • Ladakh is a region administered by India as a union territory, and constituting a part of the larger region of Kashmir, which has been the subject of dispute between India, Pakistan, and China since 1947.
  • Until 2019, Ladakh was a region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In August 2019, the Parliament of India passed an act by which Ladakh became a union territory on 31 October 2019.
  • The capital of Ladakh is Leh, Kargil.
  • The current Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh is Radha Krishna Mathur.

Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Changthang Plateau in the Leh district of Ladakh.
  • The sanctuary is situated at an altitude of 14,000–19000 feet.
  • It is spread over an area of ​​about 4000 sq km.
  • This sanctuary also houses the highest lake on earth, Lake Tso Moriri. 
  • It is considered to be the second largest nature reserve after Northeast Greenland National Park.  
  • With its picturesque landscape, this sanctuary has a huge variety of flora and fauna.