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Empowering the Local Dark Sky Agenda: Exploring Opportunities when Linking Scientific Research, Sky Survey Data Gathering and Cultural Heritage

Unit(s) of assessment: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Research theme: Global Heritage

School: School of Science and Technology


Our project links scientific research on contemporary light pollution surveys with cultural astronomy of prehistoric societies. This work will be embedded within local communities of the Mondego Valley in central Portugal and support their Dark Sky agenda.

Addressing the Challenge

The project builds upon already developed research by both D Brown and F Silva on passage graves and their ability to support watching the first appearance of stars in the early morning skies by neolithic people 6000 years ago. This has recently led to the development of portable sky sensors to survey the light pollution. It also incorporates long standing light pollution education projects D Brown carried out within the Peak District National Park with the park authority, local astronomy groups and village communities.

Connecting these projects in the Mondego valley to the dark sky agenda will unlock an innovative approach. Given the involvement of councils, archaeologists, and astronomy groups in the field work, offers opportunities to research how cultural heritage together with scientific research operate. Such research can then support Dark Sky development in communities by tapping into their cultural heritage and drawing on a grass roots approach.


The research team led by Daniel Brown combines a multidisciplinary group of researchers ranging from automation physics (Rob Morris, SST NTU) over phenomenology and public engagement research (Ana Souto, ADBE NTU) to archaeology and archaeoastronomy (Fabio Silva, IPHES Tarragon, Spain).

Making a Difference

Ultimately the project aims at making a strong case for a £200k interdisciplinary Leverhulme Trust Research Project proposal to explore human interaction with sky at these location in the past (cultural astronomy) and current times (Dark Skies & Astro Tourism). During the project supporting evidence will be gathered as well as promoting our innovative approach to key stakeholders in the subject area for example at the International Astronomical Union meeting and its heritage stream.

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