IN THE WAR AGAINST STARS: QUÉBEC STRIKES BACK !

Will the province of Quebec lose its reputation of being one of the place most affected by light pollution on Earth? Almost everywhere in Quebec, actions are taken to protect the night sky. From the establishment of a dark sky preservation park at the mont Mégantic Observatory, to the firm will to reduce the light pollution produced by the cities of Sherbrooke, Montréal and Québec, thing are changing in Quebec. From last of the class, the image of Quebec is changing rapidly into one of leader in the fight against light pollution. Details of the plan are presented by astrophysicist Yvan Dutil at the Canadian Astronomical Society annual meeting held at Université de Montréal from 14 to 17 May 2005.

The province of Quebec is one of the places where light pollution causes the worst damage. Satellites observations taken durng the winter of 1997 demonstrate than Montréal was sending as much light in space as New York; Quebec City as much as Paris. Even after taking into account the reflection of light on snow, this means than each resident of the province emits two to three time as much light as the average American or European.

With these figures, the creation of a dark sky preserve at Mont Mégantic national park represents a decisive step. The goal of this project, promoted by the Astrolab, the Mont Mégantic Park, the SÉPAQ et the Mount Mégantic Observatory, is to reduce the light pollution by a factor two before the end of 2006. The idea came to Yvan Dutil, twelve years ago. “At that time, I was just coming back from Hawaii, where the night sky is pristine. Upset by the situation in Quebec, I proposed the creation of a dark sky preservation park around the mont Mégantic Observatory”, remember the researcher now working for ABB, in Quebec City. The birth of this project, after so many years, rejoices the astrophysicist.

To reduce the growth of light pollution, in the MRC du Granit, du Haut Saint-François and the city of Sherbrooke a bylaw will enforced to rule the nightime lighting systems. However, the real objective is much more ambitious: financing the replacement of all lighting system within 25 km of the observatory. The replacement will allow a reduction of 40% of the energy consumption and 80% of the light pollution. This is one of the most aggressive actions ever taken to reduce light pollution.

It should be noted than the evolution of light pollution will be monitored by an instrument developed by the Groupe de Recherche et d'Applications en Physique au Collège de Sherbrooke (GRAPHYCS). This instrument and the mathematical model used to analyse the data are among the most advanced in the world. This will allow to document in detail, the impact of the restrictions put in place.

Elsewhere in Quebec, the situation progresses rapidly. Following the efforts of Comité Ciel Noir de la Fédération des Astronomes amateurs de Québec, the reduction of light pollution is now a preoccupation for the cities of Montreal and Quebec. In addition to light pollution, it is the energy efficiency, road safety and improvement of the nocturnal ambiance that motivate those municipalities. Soon, Quebec City will experiment an adaptive lighting system, which will allow a dynamic modulation of the lighting level in function of needs and time of the day.

Already, Quebec’s successes generate some jealousy elsewhere in the world. With some effort, within a few years, all Quebec residents will enjoy more economic and safer lighting with stars added in bonus.

To know more about the light pollution in Quebec, contact:

Yvan Dutil
Phone : (418) 877-2944 ext 226
Email: Yvan.Dutil@sympatico.ca

For specific information about the Mount Mégantic Dark sky preserve, please contact:

Chloé Legris
Astrolab du mont Mégantic
Projet engineer
Phone: (819) 888-2941 #228
Email: pollution.lumineuse@astrolab.qc.ca