International Year of Light

A spectacular green aurora is intersected by the LIDAR (light detection and ranging) laser beam at Davis station
A spectacular green aurora is intersected by the LIDAR (light detection and ranging) laser beam at Davis station (Photo: Nick Roden)

The United Nations’ International Year of Light was launched in Paris – the City of Lights – in January, kicking off a year celebrating light science and its applications.

The goal of the International Year of Light is to raise global awareness of how light and light-based technologies – such as lasers, UV and X-ray sources, and photonic electronics – promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.

Scientists and expeditioners in Antarctica are reliant on light and light-based technologies. Just some examples include:

  • The dramatic seasonal changes in day length that affect daily life on station;
  • The use of solar power to run VHF radio repeaters, remote radio installations, and automatic weather stations;
  • Remote sensing technologies such as LIDAR (light detection and ranging) instruments to measure sea ice thickness, snow cover and atmospheric properties;
  • Communication systems such as the internet, video conferencing and telemedicine, which connect Antarctic stations to the rest of the world.

In Australia, a range of activities will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries – from the first studies of optics 1000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the internet today.

Wendy Pyper
Australian Antarctic Division