The STARLIGHT Webinars

The three webinars of the STARLIGHT project were held respectively on 4th April, 8th May, and 22nd May 2023. During these three-hour video conferences, a team of international professionals discussed multiple topics related to light pollution, dark skies, and audience engagement, focussing each time on a specific aspect of astrotourism, i.e. scientific popularisation on astronomy and biodiversity, experiential tourism, entrepreneurship, territorial and digital marketing. After each webinar, the STARLIGHT participants were then asked to complete an assignment through means of a group workshop activity or other creative outputs.

Firstly, after Greti Manfreda (RDA)’s brief presentation of the agendas of the STARLIGHT webinars, Stefanie Suchy (TyEO) illustrated the importance of the nighttime from a scientific, philosophical, and cultural point of view, as well as the causes and effects of ALAN, i.e. artificial light at night.

Secondly, Sandra Jiménez (FCL) broadened the topic from a biological point of view. Indeed, she focused on the importance of the day-night cycle for different species and the effects of changes in the biorhythms of both animals and human beings due to artificial lighting.

Thirdly, Daniele Gardiol (INAF) showed, by means of the Stellarium software, how to plan a naked-eye observation of the night sky according to space and time constraints, the horizon, and the seasonality of constellations. Furthermore, he highlighted how the storytelling of myths and legends through stargazing can be the perfect medium to engage the audience.

Finally, Enrico Di Nola provided a thorough analysis of the theory and practice of storytelling. By providing accurate definitions and examples across multiple media, such as literature, cinema and politics, he demonstrated the innate curiosity of human beings for stories. Moreover, he drew a clear distinction between telling a story and building an effective narrative in order to enable communication through narration.

The first STARLIGHT webinar ended with a group workshop activity and Carlos Fernández Martínez (FCL)’s presentation of the Picos de Europa National Park in Spain, where one of the three schools of the STARLIGHT project will be held.

After a short recap of the first STARLIGHT webinar, the second one, designed in the form of a round-table discussion, began with the introduction of both the speakers and the organisers, i.e. Monique Hayek (TyEO), Stefanie Pontasch (TyEO), Stefanie Suchy (TyEO), Verena Ringler (TyEO), Karin Drda Kuehn (KuA), and with a thorough presentation of the Kaunertal Valley, in Austria.

In fact, the second webinar of the STARLIGHT project was dedicated to the practice of experiential tourism and, in particular, to a specific case study, namely the tourist activities offered in the Kaunertal Valley. Indeed, thanks to its ski resorts, nature parks and stargazing activities, the Kaunertal Valley can rightly be considered a primary location for territorial marketing and astrotourism.

Therefore, during the round-table discussion, various professionals shared their personal experiences in the valley and presented the tourist packages that they currently provide and that are always crafted in respect of the surrounding natural environment. Suffice it to think, for instance, about the construction of the star bowl for stargazing, which was cohesively integrated with the topography of the chosen location and built exclusively using local materials.

Finally, after pointing out the current global spreading of astrotourism and all travel trends involving personal improvement and meaningful experiences, the second STARLIGHT webinar ended with the presentation of the summer school that will be held by the STARLIGHT project in Razlog, Bulgaria.

Firstly, after a warm welcome to the participants, Matteo Dispenza illustrated the concepts of territorial and digital marketing, focussing, in particular, on how to employ them in the context of astrotourism. Then, with a look at the future, he proposed different applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in tourism, communication, and advertisement.

Secondly, Marko Koščak presented the concept of innovative tourism and the entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports it, composed of numerous stakeholders. In particular, he illustrated the process for the creation of innovative tourism products, providing some examples of good practices in the field of experiential, sustainable and ethical tourism, such as, among many others, the Logar Valley and the Vineyard retreats in Dolenjska, Slovenia.

Thirdly, after a brief presentation of the history of astronomy, in order to highlight how ancient the human fascination with the celestial vault really is, Sonal Asgotraa, founder of Atrostays, underlined the recent worldwide rise of astrotourism, in the form of eclipse chasing, astrophotography and astrostays, and its consequent social and economic benefits for the local communities.

Finally, Tsvetan Tsvetkov further broadened the topic of good astrotourism practices by presenting the case study of the Rozhen National Astronomical Observatory, in Bulgaria. Indeed, the observatory offers daytime tours of the facility and night sky observations.

The third and last STARLIGHT webinar ended with Remy Baltieri (GAL EVV)’s presentation of the STARLIGHT school that will be held in Pragelato, Italy.