Between 5th-12th April, International Dark Sky Week events are being organized around the world to raise awareness of the harmful effects of light pollution on wildlife and the landscape, and to showcase the values of the starry sky as our common cultural heritage.
Hortobágy is one of the least polluted areas in Hungary . The absence of disturbing lights is also synonymous with naturalness, and it is also an essential condition for the undisturbedness of the living world. The Hortobágy National Park was one of the first announced as a Silver Tier International Dark Sky Park in 2011.
The brighter stars and constellations were well known to the shepherds of Hortobágy. While grazing, and around the shepherd’s fires, story tellers passed on this ancient knowledge to their sons, and so it survived for centuries.
Today, when visiting Hortobágy we can also see the stars of the shepherds in the Dark Sky park, which is free from light pollution.
For visitors to the national park, the night offers several attractions . Perhaps most important is the number of stars visible to the naked eye. While only one or two dozen stars can be observed from the center of large cities, a few hundred from the average settlements, in the sky of Hortobágy we can see almost 2000. For those who have not yet encountered this spectacle, the star-studded heaven is the first surprise. As summer approaches, the Milky Way appears earlier in the sky and appears as a spectacular silver ribbon over areas free of disturbing lights. The constellation Sagittarius and its surroundings, in the direction of the center of the Milky Way, this is particularly spectacular, standing out from the horizon. But the evenings of the spring-early summer period are also interesting because this is when the zodiac light – the sunlight scattered from the interplanetary dust – is most noticeable in the westerly direction after sunset . Few are aware of this phenomenon today due to light pollution, but it is easy to observe in clear weather from Dark Sky parks.
All this is just a taste of the sights. Several spectacular groups of stars can be seen with the naked eye, and even with smaller telescopes we can look for dozens of nebulae and constellations.
The Hortobágy National Park regularly announces programs in which the professional staff of the National Park introduces the sights of the Night sky to the participants. In the absence of these, it is now possible to study the starry sky of Hortobágy online . You can find more information about the spring starry sky in Hortobágy here, and here and here.
You can read the publication “Light Pollution Clearly” published in 2020 , which presents the causes and consequences of light pollution and gives advice on “Night Sky-friendly” solutions.