World astronomers meeting in Beijing have announced a new Web portal dedicated to protecting astronomical heritage sites around the globe.
The site, www.astronomicalheritage.net, is a collaboration between the International Astronomical Union, currently meeting in China, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The portal will serve as a publicly accessible database, discussion forum and document repository on astronomical heritage sites in all parts of the world, said Clive Ruggles, chairman of the IAU's Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group.
"Approximately 40 sites have been included in the site," Ruggles said, "some are already on the UNESCO's World Heritage List, not usually for their astronomical significance, some are on national tentative lists and some are not at all on any list. It's a mixture."
The portal will not only feature sites and monuments, but also other types of astronomical heritage such as portable instruments, intangible cultural practices as well as dark-sky places, he said.
"A lot of our most precious astronomical heritage -- both ancient and modern -- is under threat," Ruggles said. "If we don't act to try to protect and preserve it, we run the risk of losing it."