Dark skies at night: Light pollution and what a park is doing about it – CBC.ca
Terra Nova National Park is home to one of Parks Canada’s Dark-Sky Preserves. (Submitted by Parks Canada)
St. John’s seems brighter these days, according to people who spend more time than most gazing at the night sky, and some popular energy-saving solutions may be making things worse.
On a foggy evening, for instance, the sky glows orange after dusk, as reflective light appears to bounce off the air itself.
The problem, though, is not the fog, but the lighting used to keep the city safe at night.
“We noticed, over the years, that the city seemed to glow brighter,” said Jerry Ennis, a St. John’s Royal Astronomical Society member and former federal fisheries research scientist who has advocated against light pollution for more than 15 years.
The society uses Butter Pot Provincial Park for stargazing. The park, which is near Holyrood, is well outside St. John’s and the thousands of street lights in the metro region.
Ennis is part of a growing community that is advocating for greater controls on the lights that illuminate our skies. Their target is light pollution, and the work is taking place not just in cities but in isolated areas, too.
For instance, one of the bright — or, rather, dark — spots is in Terra Nova National Park, a 250-kilometre drive west of St. John’s.
Parks Canada has been welcoming visitors to what are called Dark-Sky Preserves, a set of 13 places across the country where people can gaze at the stars with as little interference as possible from artificial lights.
“Becoming a Dark-Sky Preserve seemed like a natural fit for us,” said Karen Wolfrey, a visitor experience manager at Terra Nova National Park.
“We’re located in one of the darkest areas of the Island, and if you’re looking at a sky glow map of Eastern North America, you can see we’re actually in one of the darkest parts of Canada,” she said.
“It just made so much sense.”
Changes made at the park
Parks Canada has teamed up with the Royal Astronomical Society for the project, and the agency says it now offers more dark-sky protection than anywhere else in the world.
The preserve has been in place at Terra Nova since 2018.
An oasis with a view: Terra Nova National Park has ‘pods’ that visitors can book. At night time, they offer a wide view of the sky. (Terra Nova National Park/Facebook)
Wolfrey said the park made numerous changes to achieve that status.
“We had shades installed on our lights,” she said. We no longer have any upward-directed light, we reduced our blue light emissions, and we have our lights on timers.”
The relationship with the society, Wolfrey said, was critical.
“They helped us develop dark-sky and astronomical programs. We hope the programs help people learn about the benefits of managing light pollution and get people excited about the night sky,” she said.
The best time of year to go stargazing at the Dark-Sky Reserve? “The fall,” she said.
“It’s gorgeous in the autumn, and the night sky is so clear and expansive,” said Wolfrey.
Parks Canada offers kits that visitors can borrow, including binoculars and other tools. Wolfrey also recommended that visitors book what is called an oasis tent, or pod.
“It resembles a water droplet and has see-through roof …….