The Universities of Namibia and Oxford delivered a brand new online course over the summer: introduction to astronomy and astrotourism. The course was aimed at tourism professionals – local guides – operating across southern Africa as well as the general public and attracted several hundred participants.
Astrotourism on the increase
With light pollution on the rise, tourists are keen to travel to remote areas to experience dark, starry skies – so-called astrotourism. A growing market, astrotourism is sustainable and low-cost to implement and includes activities such as stargazing, sharing indigenous star lore, visiting observatories and other astronomy-related sites as well as doing astrophotography.
The aim of the course was to make astrotourism more accessible in the region and researchers from both universities carefully developed the course content to cover: an introduction to astronomy; astronomy facilities and research in Southern Africa; astronomy and astrotourism for development; stargazing and indigenous astronomy; and light pollution and dark sky conservation.
Excellent engagement and plenty of potential
‘We are delighted with the level of engagement the course received and we are discussing how else to use the material to reach an even wider audience,’ comments Professor Garret Cotter from the University of Oxford and one of the project leaders. ‘There is huge potential as the course content could easily be adapted to work in different geographies.’
The course was facilitated by Dr Hannah Dalgleish (University of Namibia and University of Oxford) and Dr Meghan Hughes (University of Oxford); the project is funded by an award to Professor Cotter along with Professor Michael Backes and Dr Eli Kasai at UNAM from the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (ST/S002952/1).
The course material can be found online at: https://darkskytourism.com/aaa/