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Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

24th-26th November 2023

Uniting Stakeholders for the Preservation of Dark Skies and Astro-Tourism

The International Dark Sky Preservation and Astro-Tourism Conference represented a groundbreaking event in India, shedding light on the critical importance of preserving Dark Skies and harnessing the immense potential of Astro-Tourism.

The conference was held from 24th to 27th November 2023, encompassing a diverse range of plenary and independent talks delivered by students, young researchers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Additionally, the conference facilitated interactive round table discussions, workshops, and working groups to encourage meaningful engagement and collaboration.

The inception of this conference can be traced back to the transformative experience of Ms. Shweta Kulkarni, the esteemed founder and Director of AstronEra, during her visit to the Exmoor National Park in the United Kingdom in 2016. Subsequently, her visionary ideas and insights were meticulously distilled into a comprehensive proposal which in 2023 was accepted and funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and supported by the International Astronomical Union and its Office of Astronomy Development.

The International Dark Sky Preservation and Astro-Tourism Conference served as a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to raise awareness, foster scientific research, and promote sustainable practices in preserving the pristine darkness of our skies. By bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders, the conference provided a platform for exchanging knowledge, sharing best practices, and cultivating innovative solutions.

It is hoped that the outcomes of this conference will serve as a catalyst for future endeavours in safeguarding our dark skies and harnessing the potential of Astro-Tourism for the benefit of present and future generations.

Shweta Kulkarni talking to an audience about astronomy

Key Themes

  • Satellite constellations and space debris impact on observations
  • Astronomy in everyday life: bridging science and culture
  • Controlling light pollution for enhanced astronomical visibility
  • Advancing astronomy research and outreach initiatives
  • Art and astronomy: unveiling creative cosmos connections

Conference Summary

The conference effectively laid the groundwork for substantive discussions concerning the preservation of dark skies and the promotion of astro-tourism in India, successfully achieving its stated goals and objectives. In light of the insights garnered from this conference, the subsequent steps entail the organization of an in-person workshop spanning 2-3 days, aimed at convening stakeholders, government officials, engineers, architects, and space policy representatives.

This workshop will be instrumental in addressing the issue of light pollution and formulating actionable solutions, thereby taking a significant stride toward preserving dark and tranquil skies.

Additionally, plans are underway to convene an online summit to synthesize the discussions held and distill key themes for consideration in future in-person conferences.

Moreover, a collaborative endeavor is ongoing to host a dedicated in-person conference focusing on "Preserving the Night Sky for Astronomy and Sustainable Development," which will bring together government officials and industry experts to engage in substantive discussions and collectively devise pragmatic solutions. Subsequent initiatives will include the dissemination of research findings through the publication of articles, reports, and papers across various platforms, including the CAP conference, IAU publications, and esteemed scientific journals.

Manu Allaya resort at night with the milky way in the background

Thank you to everyone who made this possible! ❤️

Conference Venue, Manu Allaya

Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

Nestled in the heart of Himachal Pradesh in India, ManuAllaya served as a celestial gateway, offering guests an enchanting experience under the vast expanse of the night sky adorned with a myriad of stars. Manu Allaya not only provided a luxurious setting but also embraced the rich history, art, and culture of the region, seamlessly blending it with modern elegance. Overall, the choice of ManuAllaya as the conference venue and the thoughtful selection of presentation themes contributed to creating an immersive and intellectually stimulating environment, enabling participants to engage deeply with the subject matter and further the objectives of the conference.

Manu Allaya resort at night with the milky way in the background

Conference Schedule

Time UTC
03:30 - 05:30
Registration at Manu Allaya
03:30 - 04:30
Complimentary Breakfast
05:30 - 05:50 Ruchira Huchgol
Opening Ceremony / Inauguration
06:00 - 06:30
Dr. Anita Gupta
Climate Change & Clean Energy (C3E) Division, Department of Science and Technolohgy, Government of India
06:30 - 07:00
Dr. Constance (Connie) Walker
Astronomy and Satellite Constellations: Pathways Forward for Light Pollution from Space
07:00 - 08:00
Complimentary Lunch + Check In
08:00 - 08:30
Samyukta Manikumar
Harnessing Dark Skies for Socioeconomic Development in Rural Areas
08:30 - 09:00 Ruchira Huchgol
Round Table Activity
09:00 - 09:30 Upasana Dasgupta
Intruders in the Dark Sky: The Megaconstellation Crisiss
09:30 - 10:00 Ruchira Huchgol
Round Table Activity
10:00 - 10:30
María Alejandra Díaz Teodori
Astronomy's Impact on Sustainability
10:30 - 11:00
Complimentary Tea
11:00 - 11:30 Aishwarya Khade
Mental Health, Arts and Astronomy
11:30 - 12:30 Aishwarya Khade
12:30 - 12:40 Ruchira Huchgol
Closing remarks
12:40 - 13:30
Free Time
13:30 - 16:00
Stargazing (Optional)
13:30 - 16:00
AstronEra 5 Year Celebration
15:00 - 16:30
Complimentary Dinner

Meet The IDSPC2023 Group

offline / online Chairperson

Ruchira is the chairperson at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Ruchira Huchgol

Organising Committee, Chairman, IDSPAC23 & Operations Manager, AstronEra.

Ruchira Huchgol an analog astronaut with background of aerospace engineering has a keen intersted in human space exploration and also works to bring in new opportunities in space sector for the Indian student community

Atharva is the chairperson at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Atharva Joshi (Jhey)

Organising Committee, Online Chairman, IDSPAC23 & Project Co-ordinator, AstronEra.

Atharva Joshi is a dedicated architect with extensive experience ranging from the Southern coast to the Himalayas. His profound interest in astronomy brings a unique perspective to the innovative projects at AstronEra.

Conference Speakers

Sonam will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Sonam Wangchuk

Engineer, Innovator and Education Reformist

Recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Sonam Wangchuk, an engineer and educator, is lauded for his sustainable development efforts via SECMOL ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL. His innovative approach to environmental and educational challenges showcases a profound commitment to fostering sustainable communities.

Constance (Connie) will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Dr. Constance (Connie) Walker

Head of Office of Site Protection, NSF's NOIRLab, USA and Co-Director, IAU CPS

Astronomer Dr. Connie E. Walker is celebrated for her dark skies education advocacy. With a journey sparked by celestial fascinations, she's devoted two decades at NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Lab, crafting global innovative programs. Her academic trail from Physics to a Ph.D. in Astronomy underscores a lifelong dedication to astronomical education.

Anita will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Dr. Anita Gupta

Adviser/Scientist G at DST, Govt. of India

Dr. Anita Gupta, an Adviser/Scientist G at India's DST, has over 25 years of experience in innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-ups. As Associate Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, she leads initiatives like Startup India, fostering over 150 technology business incubators across premier institutes and engaging in Public-Private Partnerships with major MNCs to enhance India's innovation landscape.

Priya will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Dr. Priya Hasan

Dr. of Astrophysics and Physics

Dr. Priya Hasan, from Moscow State and Osmania University, is an acclaimed astrophysicist. Awarded as Women Scientist by the Department of Science & Technology, she's lectured at CalTech and Harvard. Currently at Maulana Azad University, she co-chairs the IAU's Women in Astronomy and champions science outreac

Samyukta will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Samyukta Manikumar

Astrotourism Consultant

Samyukta, director of Noctia Institute, champions dark sky conservation through astrotourism. Blending science with cultural preservation, she's a fellow at the International Astronomical Union, focusing on rural astrotourism resources via the 'Socio-economic development through Astronomy Flagship'.

Kiran will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Dr. Kiran Kulkarni

Indian Administrative Service Officer

Dr. Kulkarni has significantly contributed to tribal development, notably as Tribal Development Commissioner. While his work doesn't directly involve astronomy, his extensive outreach in education and governance innovations hints at a potential for fostering astronomy-related initiatives within tribal communities. His campaigns like Dream Melghat showcase his commitment to community upliftment, possibly providing a platform for intertwining traditional tribal knowledge with astronomical insights.

Shweta will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Shweta Kulkarni

Founder/Director of AstronEra

Astropreneur Shweta Kulkarni, listed among top 100 women entrepreneurs, spearheads Astronera, marrying business acumen with astronomy for innovative solutions. As a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of England, her venture reflects a novel approach to integrating astronomy with enterprise.

Aishwarya will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Aishwarya Khade

Mental Health Practitioner / Expressive Arts

A seasoned Psychologist and Mental Health Professional, Aishwarya Khade employs art and movement-based facilitation in educational and corporate settings. Specialized in corporate wellness, her drive is to enhance mental health and well-being through innovative methodologies.

Albert will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Albert Kuntu Forson

PhD Research Student

Albert, an engineer specializing in Radio Astronomy Instrumentation and radio interferometer designs at the University of Mauritius, holds the esteemed role of IAU-OAD National Astronomy Education Coordinator for Ghana. Additionally, he serves as the President for PRAGSAC and is highly enthusiastic about science communication.

Amshu will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Amshu CR

Entrepreneur, Thapasu foods LLP

Forest value chains, Land degradation, Biodynamic Agriculture, Tribal produce supply chains, Food security, knowledge preservation, Sustainablity

Bhakti will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Bhakti Mithagri

MSc Astrophysics

Curious learner and astronomy enthusiast. Graduated with a Master's degree in Astrophysics from St. Xavier's College in Mumbai and currently preparing for Ph.D.

David will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

David Ault

Director of Education For Immersive Experiences

David is the Director of Education for Immersive Experiences, a UK planetarium and interactives company with a global footprint. With an astrophysics degree from Cambridge University, he entered the planetarium space in 2006, organising science festivals and starting a number of astronomy podcasts.

Dinesh will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Dinesh Nisang

Science Communicator

Dinesh founded Sunday Science School and is passionate about science communication. An astronomer, he views astronomy as a unifier for humanity. He enjoys astrophotography, exploring nature, and is an aspiring writer with articles and a book on scientific innovation. Focus: ISAAC.

Exodus will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Exodus Chun-Long Sit

Transmedia Astronomy Educator

Exodus CL Sit from Hong Kong is a transmedia astronomy educator and science author. He holds roles in IAU as the National Astronomy Education Coordinator for Hong Kong and Co-Outreach Coordinator. A member of the Dark Sky International Committee, he champions dark-sky protection, STEAM education, and interdisciplinary science approaches.

Hosein will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Hosein Khezri

Associate of Commission C1 WG Astronomy Education Research & Methods

Affiliated with multiple astronomical unions including the IAU, Hosein Khezri is dedicated to elevating astronomy education and its cultural integration. His association with the Iranian Teachers Astronomy Union and various International Astronomical Union commissions reflects a broad engagement in promoting astronomy in diverse cultural landscapes.

Maria will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Maria Alejandra Díaz


Alejandra, with a Physics degree from UAM, Spain, has worked at the European Space Agency and is pursuing a PhD in Turku. Passionate about astronomy's societal impact, she's contributed to IAU's OAD projects and operates a telescope in La Palma alongside her thesis.

Nadia Makhijani will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Nadia Makhijani & Udish Sharma

BSc. Physics Students

We are pursuing BSc Physics hons from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi and have mainly worked in radio astronomy, its applications and Cosmology. Nadia Makhijani and Udish Sharma are students in their final year at St. Stephen's College pursuing a course in physics. They work in the fields of Astronomy and Cosmology and are currently involved in setting up a Radio Astronomy Laboratory in their institution. They are also currently in the student led physics and astronomy society.

Neethu will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Neethu Susan George

MSLL ( Member Society of Light & Lighting ) as well as Dark Sky Advocate

Neethu Susan George, MSLL, WELL AP™, LEED® Green Associate™. Designation - Specification Manager Middle East North Africa and India - Lamp Worktitude for Light (Spain) and Griven (Italy) MSLL (Member Society of Light and Lighting), DarkSky Advocate, WELL AP™, LEED® Green Associate™. Graduate in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University, and MSc. Energy with dissertation on Light Pollution and Circularity in Lighting from Heriot-Watt University

Upasana will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Upasana Dasgupta

Postdoctoral Researcher at Canada Research Chair in International Political Economy of Université Laval

Upasana Dasgupta researches space policies at Université Laval and is on ACES Worldwide's board. With a Doctorate from McGill, she's an expert in space law, associated with global space entities, and emphasizes on space collision prevention and dark sky conservation.

Vedvrat will be presenting at the Dark Sky Conservation India Conference

Vedvrat Vinayak Bedekar

BE IT Student

An amateur astronomer running an astronomy club in college. Frequent stargazer and host of stargazing events.