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M.D. of Foothills preparing a dark skies initiative
Stephane Massinon, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, July 28, 2008
The Municipal District of Foothills wants to keep the local observatory in the dark -- just the way astronomers like it. The rural area that adjoins southern Calgary is considering a first-in-Alberta bylaw aimed at reducing light pollution: the Dark Sky Initiative. Measures being considered are a light curfew, fixtures added onto street lights to direct light down, regulating the types of light bulbs that can be used and where, and an information campaign about the benefits of dark skies.
"We're trying to mitigate nighttime light pollution and basically keep the skies as dark as possible," said planner Spencer Croil. There bylaw wasn't sparked by a complaint from the University of Calgary's Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, Croil said. It was initiated as a proactive step as development creeps closer to the observatory near Priddis. Two years ago, plans for a development near the observatory were quashed, partly because of concerns it would create too much light, he said.
Observatory director Phil Langill said it's important to be able to see the "interesting dots of light in the sky," but the brighter the sky gets because of ambient light, the harder it becomes to see those dots. "From a person who likes to drive out into the country and see the stars at night, I think it's a great thing," Langill said. "As a city dweller, you lose sight of the fact the nighttime sky is disappearing right in front of your eyes."
Municipal district Coun. Barbara Castell, who lives two minutes from the observatory, says she and her neighbours are all in favour. "I haven't heard anybody say, 'What are you trying to do here?' " said Castell. She said the real focus should be on educating people about the benefits of dark skies and not bringing in more heavy-handed measures -- which she said could be hard to enforce. "I just think it's a good thing for light pollution and saving energy," Castell said.
Langill is grateful the observatory is in the district's thoughts and said the real work of convincing people to do their part has just begun. "The M.D. recognizes that it's got this fantastic thing, a nice, beautiful, pristine sky, and they're doing some positive things to make sure that stays around for a long time," said Langill.
The proposed bylaw is to come to council in the fall.
© The Calgary Herald 2008
Dark Skies over the RAO
Light pollution is a serious problem for the RAO. Our world-class telescopes, and hyper-sensitive detectors, need the darkest possible skies to be able to observe the faintest points of light from the most distant galaxies, or from the smallest bits of solar system debris.The increasing sky glow over the RAO is a growing concern for our teaching and research programs.We are actively working with the MD of Foothills No. 31 to develop a light pollution bylaw which will address the problems of light pollution from existing sources, and from impending future developments close to the RAO, and throughout the MD. Light pollution abatement is also important to the neighbours of the RAO, who believe a dark night time sky is the signature of a quiet, rural life style. Special services such as Stars Air Ambulance and Calgary Police Service HAWKS helicopter also require dark skies for their safe night time operations.Light Pollution is light that shines where it is not needed or wanted. It has several forms: glare, light trespass, over-lighting and uplighting Light Pollution causes energy waste and sky glow Light pollution is easily recognized as: light that shines onto your property or into your home; glaring light from poorly aimed fixtures or that is too bright for its surroundings; and light that shines up into the sky.” (From the RASC Light Pollution Abatement website) According to The International Dark Sky Association, Light Pollution causes:
The Light Pollution bylaw, now being drafted, will address these issues. Watch this website for new information on the light pollution issue. If you have comments, concerns, or ideas, please send them via email to email@example.com or fax them to the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary at 289-3331.
For further information on light pollution and its effects please check out the following websites: