Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve 5th Anniversary!

» Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Press Release | 0 comments

Notre-Dame-des-Bois, September 21, 2012

Five years ago, the first International Dark Sky Reserve was created in the Eastern Townships. Officially designated by International Dark Sky Association (IDA), Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve (MMIDSR) covers a territory encompassing Granit and Haut-Saint-François RCMs as well as the City of Sherbrooke. It involves 35 municipalities and over 225,000 citizens. Lead by ASTROLab, this world premiere is the result of a concerted regional effort focused on lighting awareness, regulation and conversion. Besides succeeding to give back to the region a pure dark starry sky, creation of the Reserve has brought about in 5 years, about 9,500,000 kWh energy savings, which would be closed to $1,000,000.

A Dark Star Reserve is a territory where light pollution must stay low or nonexistent in order for astronomers, citizens and visitors to be able to admire the night sky without the artificial luminous halo that covers today most populated areas. Five years after having granting it for the first time, an International Dark Sky Reserve status was issued three more times: In England (Exmoor National Park – 2011), in Namibia (Rand Nature Reserve – 2012) and in New Zealand (Aoraki National Park and Mackenzie Basin – 2012). A fifth reserve is about to be created at Pic du Midi de Bigorre, in France, with which MMIDSR directors have entered into a strategic partnership this summer.

Sustainability to consolidate

However, despite the initial success of the reserve, ASTROLab had to relaunch its light pollution abatement project in 2011 in order to block the installation of non-compliant light fixtures, which downgraded the quality of the dark sky and posed a risk to sustainability of the reserve itself. Socio-economic stakeholders had to be remobilized to find practical solutions in order to have the regulation respected and to stop an increase of light pollution on the territory. Only concerted efforts from all partners and involvement of all citizens can ensure the long-term future of this unique collective resource.

The recent massive introduction of LED (Light-emitting diode) lighting, with all of its advantages and drawbacks, also represents a new major challenge for light pollution management.  MMIDSR directors are concerned and presently working on finding solutions to improve and support this type of lighting.

Light pollution impacts and solutions

Light pollution impacts go beyond the sphere of astronomy; energy inefficiency, glare, intrusive light, hormonal disruptions and environmental disturbances are other examples of consequences. Aside from benefits for starry skies, improvement of lighting practices will allow significant energy savings, enhancement of nocturnal environment friendliness and security as well as reduction of light pollution impacts on the health of human beings and ecosystems. Many solutions exist to contribute to this win-win cause. For more information, please visit ASTROLab website: astrolab.qc.ca

 

 

Sébastien Giguère | Education supervisor and scientific coordinator

Mont-Mégantic National Park and ASTROLab