The Starlight Foundation is a legal entity created by the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) and with the majority contribution in the equity capital of the consulting Corporación 5, whose primary purpose is the dissemination of astronomy and the promotion, coordination and management of the Starlight movement. It organises activities and provides various related products and services.
It is a non-profit organization that, under the name Starlight, encompasses, coordinates and manages ideas, projects, people, thoughts and activities and invites society to rethink the way it values the starry sky. It also fights to protect the night sky and is aware that, in doing so, it is helping to care for a scientific and cultural heritage that belongs to everyone, while safeguarding the habitat of many species that need the dark of the night for their survival.
Origins of Starlight: IAC
One of the keys for understanding the birth of the Foundation are the aims of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. It is a Spanish public research institution that, since its foundation in 1982, has become an international benchmark. In a single place, it concerns itself with astrophysics, advanced scientific instrumentation, university education and the cultural dissemination of science.
In fact, the IAC observatories in Tenerife (Teide Observatory) and La Palma (Roque de los Muchachos Observatory) are the European Northern Observatory (ENO) and have installed telescopes and instruments from over sixty scientific institutions from nineteen countries. The Roque de los Muchachos Observatory has the largest and most advanced optical-infrared telescope in the world, the Gran Telescopio Canarias, designed and built by the IAC.
IAC Strategic Challenges
The IAC, since its establishment, has had three concerns that later led to the birth of Starlight:
The Scientific Dimension
To value and protect the quality of the starry sky as conditio sine qua non for astrophysical observation with telescopes while pursuing the best, highest quality science.
The Cultural Dimension
To spread public interest in astronomy, drawing attention to the value of the night sky, not only for astrophysical research, but also as a scientific, cultural and environmental heritage to be protected and passed on to future generations.
The Economic Dimension
To boost the economy through the contemplation and interpretation of the starry sky, promoting infrastructure, products and activities in the field of sustainable tourism which we call “star tourism”.
The IAC’s fight against light pollution in the night sky has been a constant, logical worry to the point that a national law was promoted, the “law of the sky” (Act 31/1988), a pioneering law in the protection of the sky in the islands of La Palma and Tenerife. It became the precedent for similar regulations in other areas of the planet. In addition, the Technical Office for the Protection of the Skies (OTPC) was also created, specializing in monitoring and advice in the field.
The International Starlight Conference
In 2007, with the participation of other organizations and national and international institutions, the IAC promoted the “First International Starlight Conference” which, under the slogan “Starlight, a Common Heritage”, explored the need to protect the night sky on our planet from different perspectives and find ways for its enjoyment by society.
The objective of this meeting was to spread the idea of the defense of the night sky among the population, considering it an outstanding, universal cultural value and a vital condition to promote and develop “astronomical tourism”, and not only a necessary condition for scientific researchers who observe and study the universe.
Starlight principles and recommendations emerged from the International Conference and they are brought together in the “Declaration in Defense of the Quality of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight” (“La Palma Declaration.” 2007), in which, in addition to the IAC, representatives of UNESCO, UNWTO, IAU, UNEP-CMS, CE, SCBD, COE, MAB and the Ramsar Convention all participated and launched Starlight as an international movement in defense of the Night Skies and the Right to Starlight.
The Starlight Foundation was created in 2009, following the “First International Starlight Conference”. Since then, it has been a legal entity whose main objective is the dissemination of astronomy and the coordination, management and promotion of the principles and philosophy of the Starlight movement, developing all its possible dimensions in order to extend them worldwide through activities, products and services in these areas.
Therefore, as already indicated in the introduction, the Starlight Foundation is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to develop programs and actions to provide a different way of protecting and defending the sky and of valuing it as a resource necessary for life and the intangible heritage of humanity.