Alqueva: Some of the Darkest, Clearest Skies on Earth

by Nancy Atkinson on April 10, 2012

Megoliths and star trails in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

It’s a place with dark skies, clear nights and ancient astronomical megaliths. What more could you want in an astro-destination? The Great Lake Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal is the first site in the world to receive the “Starlight Tourism Destination” certification and has good atmospheric conditions for stargazing for more than 250 nights of the year, as well as having special lodging just for astro-tourists. The services for guests include late night meals and meals to go for stargazers, available telescopes and binoculars, and classes on astronomy and observing.

Astrophotographer Miguel Claro was tasked with having just two nights to take images of one part of this Dark Sky Reserve to help promote the region, and he has sent Universe Today his stunning images. “They are representative of the Monsaraz region, one of the locations covered by the Dark Sky Reserve area and that had the best dark sky measures in the process of Starlight validation,” Claro told UT. “Even being so dark, and without the presence of the Moon to light up the landscape – at this time of the year without the major presence Milky Way – I had to use very high ISO´s, so there were some differences between heaven and Earth elements, avoiding overly dark images. But the sky was so dark, that we could find M33 with unaided eye.”

Enjoy several of Claro’s images below, as well as finding out more about this dark sky destination.

Nearby Monsaraz Castle, with the Moon and Venus at the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

Lago Alqueva and star trails in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

Lodging at the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

A monolith in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

Venus and the Moon in February 2012 at the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal. Credit: © Miguel Claro

The Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve is coordinated by Genuineland in partnership with the Tourism Lands of the Great Lake Alqueva, the Alentejo Coordination and Regional Development Commission and EDIA, SA and with the collaboration of APAA – Portuguese Association of Amateurs Astronomers- through Dr. Guilherme de Almeida and Eng. Vitor Quinta, as well with external participation of Dr. Raul Lima, for the sky measurements that were made during the certification process.

For more information about the Lake Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve see this website. Enjoy more of Miguel Claro’s images at his website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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