© Pierre Meyer
Observation of the Milky Way in Gavarnie - Gèdre
Starry nights in the Pyrenees

International Reserve
of Starry Sky

  • Wilderness
  • Responsible travelling

    At sunset, light gives way to darkness, the stars slowly appear. Then comes the time to observe the sky like you've never seen it before. Wherever you are in the Gavarnie Valleys, the spectacle before you is striking, almost hypnotic! Letting your gaze wander over the constellations and their mythology becomes child's play as the sky is pure, in the International Starry Sky Reserve.  

    International Dark Sky Reserve  

    The Pic du Midi and all the villages of the Gavarnie Valleys are labeled International Starry Sky Reserve (RICE). RICE preserves the night through public education and the establishment of a responsible lighting. Thanks to this label, the night sky is protected and recognized as exceptionally pure.  

    Melanie Mengarduque
    Pic du Midi Astronomical Observatory

    An exceptional label

    to preserve the night sky 

    The International Starry Sky Reserve (RICE) label is awarded by the International Dark Sky Association, based in the United States. Protected from the scourge of light pollution, there are 20 starry reserves in the world, including 4 in France. That of the Pic du Midi was the first to be labeled in 2013. This label rewards a sky quality exceptional night time and commits the territories to carry out actions to reduce light pollution. This unique territory brings together 247 municipalities involved and covers 65% of the Hautes-Pyrénées, i.e. 3 km². 

    Goals

    for today…and for tomorrow 

    Since the birth of the project, RICE has worked to protect the quality of the Pyrenean night. To do this, it targets its actions according to five goals :

    • Set up a responsible lighting, economical and durable.
    • Encourage residents and visitors to become Star Guardians by carrying out steps of the sky quality via the Sky in Peril mobile application.

    • To be an innovative territory for research on biodiversity night time with regard to light pollution.
    • To be a driver of territorial development through, in particular, the awareness public.
    • Do know the RICE label at the national level. 

    Manon Vallin
    Moonset over the mountains

    The starry sky

    a unique heritage to safeguard 

    The RICE testifies to the purity of the Pyrenean night and the commitment of local stakeholders to preserve it by reducing light pollution for sustainable development of mountain ranges. The reserve includes a core zone which is characterized by the total absence of public lighting, and a peripheral zone which includes the 247 municipalities committed to reducing their light impact. And it works ! Just look up to gaze at the sky. And thus understand the importance of safeguarding this unique heritage.  

    observe the stars

    at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre

    To hope to discover the rings of Saturn or count the craters on the Moon, two conditions are essential: a clear sky, and a well-chosen spot. Then, with a telescope or with the naked eye, the objective remains the same: to take in the sights and take pictures of the comet...

    Camped at an altitude of 2 m, it is nicknamed the Ship of the Stars. Summer and winter alike, climbing to its summit is a fabulous adventure. On board of cable car which leads to its summit in fifteen minutes, we remember these pioneers who built the observatory here. It was at the end of the XNUMXth century. Today, a museum space tells the human epic that allowed the construction of the site and reveals some secrets about the moon, the sun and the planets... Because much more than a natural site, the Pic du Midi is a high place for observation. It was here that the lunar cartography for NASA in 1969, and here the sun is studied. Just that. What better place to admire the stars after dark? 

    Pierre Meyer
    Dome of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre for stargazing
    The Pic du Midi de Bigorre The Starship
    Pierre Meyer
    Observe the stars at Pic du Midi
    © Anthony Bonal
    Alternative text (SEO) Observing the stars through a telescope in the Pyrenees

    The Gavarnie Valleys benefit from perfect conditions for (re)discovering the night. Summer and winter alike, the area has no shortage of spots where you can lie down in the grass to contemplate shooting stars, planets and constellations.

    Find the perfect spot

     

    © Anthony Bonal
    Astronomy event to observe the stars in Hautacam
      Spotlight on...

    light pollution

     

    Light pollution refers to a excess of light in a nocturnal environment which can constitute a nuisance for organisms living at night.

    Scattered light can cause the appearance of luminous halos above urban areas, in particular because of its reverberation by dust and molecules present in the atmosphere.

    The most notable effect of these halos is the illumination of the night sky, notably causing a significant decrease in the number of stars observable. 

    © Pierre Meyer
    Alternative text (SEO) Pic du Midi de Bigorre Observatory

    Activities to try

    under the stars

    The day fades, the stars light up, the nocturnal fauna awakens... So many sensations that we sometimes forget to savor! Take time to explore at night, guided by specialists

    All night experiences

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