The effect of the natural landscape by night derives from the presence of deep shadows. The scenery is formed by landscape structures such as mountain ranges or forest silhouettes, which stand out against the night sky, and bodies of water that reflect the stars.
An unrestricted view of such phenomena as the full moon, shooting stars or the Milky Way also enhances one's perceptions through the senses of hearing and smell, making the night landscape a very special – and increasingly rare – experience.
The night landscape is mysterious; its character is unique and also a source of identity.
Light glare hides the stars in the sky, and artificial light draws attention to itself. Both phenomena reduce the experience of the nocturnal landscape.
Restlessness and habituation to a sea of light are fostered. The recreational value of the landscape is reduced as a result.
With the loss of the starry sky, our relationship to the environment and nature is impoverished.
Tourist attractions in the form of star parks, light protection areas, theme trails and observatories raise awareness for the protection of the nocturnal habitat and public enjoyment of the starry sky without the restrictions imposed by artificial light.
In economically disadvantaged regions especially, towns and Alpine valleys promote their beautiful night landscapes and impressive starry skies. They benefit from nature tourism just like the health tourism industry, which has recognised the importance of an intact day-night rhythm.
Organisations dedicated to the protection of the nocturnal sky:
Organisation like the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in the USA and also the UNESCO Starlight Reserve on the Canary Islands have established programmes and awards for the protection for the night sky and the natural nocturnal landscape. In many countries, such as Germany, Great Britain and Hungary, there are areas where the night sky has been specially protected for some years now.
Grossmugl on the Milky Way:
In the Weinviertel district, not far from Vienna, there is an innovative tourist attraction in the form of a star trail called Grossmugl on the Milky Way. The theme trail was created in 2014 in the context of the Nightflight project in close cooperation with the market town of Grossmugl. An application is pending for recognition as a UNESCO Starlight Oasis.