Protecting the Dark Sky 2019

We have been quiet for the last few months, but that does not mean that we have given up or backed down on the need to protect our dark sky.

Laura Griffin from the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area has created a video that is worthy of your time. Join The Dark Night Nocturnal Preserve tells the story of How the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area became a Nocturnal Preserve with its many partners and the importance of stopping light pollution.

This year is a pivotal year for making a difference. With a provincial political election slated to happen and a federal election coming up, now is the time for you to get involved and make a difference.

You can make change and protect the dark sky in several ways:

1) Learn how and make the changes in your own back yard to reduce light pollution. Leading by example is the best method of inspiring change.

1) Talk to your friends, neighbors and family (including your children) about the issues of light pollution and protecting the dark sky. Share information and ideas on how everyone is able to reduce the light pollution in the area and take steps to make real change and implement what you can.

2) When political canvassers come to your door, bring up the importance of protecting our dark sky and stopping light pollution. Ask what the party plan is as well as the candidates opinion is and what they are going to do on the topic.

3) Contact the riding offices in your area and express that this topic is one of importance to you. Again ask what the party and candidates plan is and what they are going to do if elected on the subject. If possible, ask for an e-mail transcript of their comments and if elected, hold them to what they said.

The elected body works for you. If it is important to you, make sure that they are doing the work you want to see happen.

4) Get your community and family actively involved. This can be something as simple as gathering some friends to go out one night and look at the stars, the aurora or even a meteor event (maybe with luck you can hit all three).

There are many fantastic solar events taking place in 2019 that you can watch. A little planning and some good luck with clear sky can set you out on an adventure that will be a life time memory.

For places to experience the Dark Sky outside your own area, i have a few suggestions:

Check out the Dark Sky Preserve at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. Go for a walk on the many paths and see the natural habitat that requires a stable circadian rhythm for function. See what the light pollution from the city of Calgary looks like first hand and what that threat is.

Another means of involvement is to check out the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory and attend one of their very informative and cool events. See the stars through a telescope, talk to astrophysicists and meet people that have a love and passion for our universe. These events are fantastic for people of all ages and are both fun and educational.

Stay tuned for more events that we are going to put together this year as well! Come be a part of it all and meet others interested in the world around us!

Thank you again for being a part of Protecting The Dark Sky!

We can make change and protect our world together!

Banded Peak School Dark Sky Festival

I spent the afternoon of Thursday May 31 at the Dark Sky Festival held at the Banded Peak School in Bragg Creek.

I honestly wish that you could have all been there to take it all in and that I was able to capture the students giving out the information to put out for everyone to see.

The Grade 5 and 6 students took a broad concept of light pollution, studied it for facts and understanding that in the end led them to be able to express the issues in a variety of ways.

From poetry and song, interactive displays, computer based test of knowledge, artwork, imagery, video presentations, an astrodome and dance, the means and ways that these young adults expressed themselves and the information was spectacular.

The topics ranged from a historical view of light pollution through to impacts on the natural world, human health and safety and resolution to the pollution problems.

 

The faculty of the school explained that they gave the students full control on the Dark Sky Festival on every level. What was presented, how it was going to be presented, layout of timelines and even the design of the space being used was all under the control of the students.

As a result, they hit it out of the park!

I am so very impressed and proud of these young people and their ability to understand the issues, research the problems, find resolutions. They were able to explain all of it to anyone at any age level.

There is a real power behind what I saw and experienced. These future voters and decision makers showed me that they want a better world for not just them, but for future generations and understand that the world we live in is borrowed from the future.

The magnitude of this event left me humbled, amazed and so very positive of our future with these young adults being the leaders of tomorrow.

These are the citizens I want for our future; rational, intelligent, forward thinking, free thinking, responsible and honest.

Thank you to everyone (Faculty and Students) at the Banded Peak School for letting me attend and witness your Dark Sky Festival!

You all deserve an A+ for your Dark Sky Festival!

I took some pictures at the event and the ones I can share I have posted in the Image Gallery.

Banded Peak School Dark Sky Festival

I had the great opportunity to meet and video some outstanding young adults for a project I am assisting with for the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. The grade 5 and 6 students from Banded Creek School in Bragg Creek Alberta Canada are sure to be game changers in the future for protecting our dark sky and the world around us!

The Banded Peak School is hosting a Dark Sky Festival that is open to the public on Thursday May 31, 2018 from 1:30 – 5:30 pm.

Don’t let me invite you however, let the fantastic Grade 5 and 6 students do that!

I for one will be doing my very best to attend and cheer on these awesome students and support the role they are taking as future leaders!

I hope that you will attend too!

Long Waits And Slow Action, Time For A Public Push!

It has been a while since I last did a post for Protecting The Dark Sky and I apologize for the time lag. I had hopes that I was holding off on an update because I would have some encouraging news from the Alberta Government.

The sad answer is that there is no such encouraging news.

I received a reply to my direct inquiry to the Alberta Government about the Dark Sky Petition on March 19, 2018.

The reply:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding lighting on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (SWCRR). I apologize for the delayed response. As the Ministerial Assistant to Honourable Brian Mason, Minister of Alberta Transportation, I am able to provide the following information.

I appreciate your concerns about light pollution and potential harm to nocturnal wildlife. Alberta Transportation’s standard practice is to minimize light pollution and use as little energy for lighting as possible. Environmental sustainability and ecosystem protection are also key considerations in all projects. As a steward of the environment, the department is committed to preserving and protecting wildlife and their habitat during ring road construction.

The SWCRR project contains specific measures to limit any impact lighting might have on the environment while still lighting the road effectively and efficiently. For example, no high-mast lighting is planned along Highway 22X. In addition, the department will use low‑temperature LED lights to minimize blue light, as well as cut-off fixtures to minimize the spread and glare of the lights. The SWCRR project also uses asphalt roads, which reduce the amount of light reflected from the highway. It is unlikely that lighting from the SWCRR will affect the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area or the Rothney Observatory, given they are seven and 11 kilometres away, respectively, from the SWCRR.

Should you have further questions, I encourage you to contact Mr. Rizwan Hussain, Urban Construction Manager – Calgary, at 403-297-5500 or rizwan.hussain@gov.ab.ca.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Danielle Monroe
Ministerial Assistant

I contacted Mr. Hussain and had a short conversation with him in which he told me that there is no issue with the lighting and that the lighting that is being implemented is well within the guidelines of Alberta Transportation. He also advised me that there will be no impact to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area or the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory due to the lighting being implemented.

I started asking questions and was advised that I needed to submit my questions in writing and he would have the appropriate people respond to me in a short term and also set up a meeting with me and the impacted parties to address any issues in person.

My question submissions:

It is great that the Alberta Government is concerned about wildlife and habitat protection “during construction”, but what about the long-term implications after construction is completed?

Exactly what lighting is going to be implemented on the Ring Road and the roads providing access to the Ring Road?
(Model of lights, reflectors and LEDs?)

There are many recent engineering studies out that show LED lighting is actually producing more light pollution than less, going against what was forecast. There are many new technologies available now than what there was even 5 years ago that studies show lower the light pollution effectively.

Why is the Alberta Government holding on to old and outdated lighting technology?

Why is the Alberta Government unwilling to attempt to achieve the best possible lighting for this already protected area?

Why is the Government of Alberta unwilling to commit to inclusion of flexibility to ensure the area is protected as new lighting technology which is safer for both human and animal health?

Why is the Alberta Government not willing to look at dimmable lighting technology (which has been found to be a cost savings that recoups on implementation) and much “cooler” (lower than 2200 Kelvin) lighting?

It has been suggested that part of the limitations of the Alberta Government changing the methods of lighting is due to a long-term contract in play where the light fixture purchases have been compiled with a value add of poles and mounting equipment.

Is such a contract in play?

If it is in play, when is the end of this contract?

Will you provide us with a copy of the contract so we do not have to make an application under Freedom Of Information?

It is funny that the Alberta Government is saying that “it is unlikely” to impact to the AASCA and the ROA when both groups are saying that the existing lighting is already harmful and that the Ring Road will increase that impact.

Who is the public supposed to believe, Alberta Transportation who has a history of pushing through projects in spite of opposition and concerns or educational facilities that are dependent on the area not being impacted?

With the statement being that any impact is “unlikely”, will the Alberta Government be willing to change the lighting if there is an impact on either location?

Are there going to be long term protections put in place for any future developments that would impact the AASCA and the RAO?

As the RAO and AASCA are educational facilities that can be impacted in the ability of being able to educate after the lighting is implemented which can have a direct impact on the financial abilities of the organizations, are financial recoveries available for issues of both locations in the event that there are problems due to the lighting?

Seeing as both the RAO and the AASCA are educational facilities, will the Alberta Government and Alberta Transportation be compensating tuition for future impact on the ability to educate?

Will the Government of Alberta commit to paying for a third party study of the impacts of the lighting on the CSWRR including how it relates to the AASCA, RAO and the Municipal District of Foothills Number 31?

Will the Alberta Government be further willing to commit to recommendations and resolutions in whole by the third party if suggested?

What of the Municipal District of Foothills Number 31 and the council adoption of the Dark Sky Bylaws, adopted in 2009 and their concerns about the light pollution impact?

Will the Alberta Government be compensating the people of the district for breaking the bylaws and implementing the lighting?

With the lighting there will be other problems like animals being drawn to the roadways which will have an impact on migration of “pest” species as well as potentials of collisions and human / predator encounters.

Will the Alberta Government be picking up the extra expense of mitigating and paying for damages as well as the capture and movement of animals caused by this lighting implementation?

Why was there no real public consultation prior to the construction on the proposed lighting for the area and the people of the City of Calgary?

We currently have over 2500 signatures on a petition for protecting the Dark Sky around Calgary on Change.org. This petition is falling on deaf ears it seems, so what is needed to get through to the Government that this is not what constituents want and get the government to listen?

In my attempts to make contact and garner information, including from the City of Calgary, I was repeatedly sent to Alberta Transportation and Brian Mason in particular with the statements that The Calgary Ring Road is their project and they are the decision makers.

If that is the case, why is Alberta Transportation sending me to someone in the City of Calgary who has no authority or ability to change any of the policy in place?

I look forward to the reply and subsequent meeting.

As of this point I have yet to receive any reply back other than read receipts.

I have been advised that the Alberta Government as a standard practice ignores petitions from Change.org.

The justification is that there is no data to them from Change.org to identify the validity of the submission of support nor the location of where that submission is coming from. As a result, the notifications from Change.org are simply sent to a “spam” box, ignored and deleted.

E-mail submissions from the general public (although unable to be tracked from our side to show numbers of participants) are read and replied to at some point. Over that the individual e-mail addresses are unable to be put into a spam filter to just be ignored.

As a result I am requesting everyone copy and paste (edit as you see fit or even create your own) an e-mail petition submission to the Alberta Government.

Address the e-mails to
Shannon Philips,  Minister of Environment – eap.minister@gov.ab.ca
Brian Mason, Transportation Minister – transportation.minister.gov.ab.ca

Dear Minister Shannon Philips and Minister Brian Mason,

I am asking that you reconsider the street lighting plans on the Calgary Southwest Ring Road (which wasn’t chosen using the best possible science or most recent internationally recognized protocols and will cause the dramatic loss of the night sky and consequent harm to wildlife and an inability to observe the stars) for a better option suggested by the Illuminating Engineering Society, the International Dark Sky Association and the Intelligent Road and Street Lighting in Europe research paper.

I understand that the intended lighting is somewhat better than the standard guidelines to lighting for Alberta Transportation in that does lower some of the light pollution compared to past lighting solutions by using a moderately lower temperature LED and they also minimize blue light, but they still fall well short of best practices.

The lighting being implemented will have a dramatic effect on the area that needs to be protected.

The proposed lighting is not making the roads safer. It has long been known that non-directional lighting causes spillage and glare for the users of the roadway. This glare has a significant impact on drivers by making eyes feel more strained and causing mental and physical fatigue. This fatigue creates a breakdown in the reaction time of drivers and thereby creates a more dangerous roadway than a roadway that is unlit.

The lighting choice is not cheaper to implement or maintain than the suggested options for the highway. In fact, the poor choice comes at a higher cost has and has long-term ramifications for all citizens that the Alberta Government seems to be ignoring.

The suggested lighting by the Alberta Government goes against the Municipal District of Foothills Number 31 Council adoption of the Dark Sky Bylaws adopted in 2009. (Although the Alberta Government can supersede bylaws imposed by the Municipal District it is outlandish that the implementation of the proposed lighting would go against the community adopted ordinance on light pollution without at least a full public consultation and vote on the issue.)

There are also two established non-profits that will be highly impacted by the choices made. The Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area and the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, located on the outskirts of Calgary on Highway 22X are both currently in a designated Dark Sky location, and are both a part of the International Dark Sky Association. These Dark Sky designations at both non-profit organizations are currently under threat from the poor lighting choice suggested by Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Government and seem to be without protection from the Minister of Environment.

Without the dark sky, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory will lose the ability to discern objects in the night sky, impacting the educational facility and rendering down its abilities and the financial investments made in it over the years.

The Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area is one of only five Habitat Conservation Areas designated under Alberta’s Wildlife Act, one of five Dark Sky Preserves and the first to be designated as a Nocturnal Preserve. This Nocturnal Preserve designation is one of only two in Canada and the only one in Alberta.

It needs to be understood that this is not an Alberta Transportation only issue and it is time for the Environment Minister to step in and voice a public opinion on the subject. The protection of the conservation area and the Dark Sky should fall well within the mandate and jurisdiction of the Environment Ministers agenda and that needs to have precedence, with sober thought over status quo Alberta Transportation lighting implementation.

It should be noted that much work and financial investment has been made to establish the Nocturnal Preserve and Dark Sky designation at both locations and the Dark Sky designation may be lost for both areas if the planned lighting for the Calgary Southwest Ring Road goes ahead without modification.

Having the Alberta Government, the Ministers of Environment and Alberta Transportation being a cause of educational facilities and the conservation preserves losing their effectiveness after all of the investments made over the years when it could be avoided for a cheaper and better choice seems highly counter-intuitive and wasteful.

The governing decision-makers have the not only the opportunity, but the responsibility to be leaders in conservation of the night sky, offering a better and safer roadway and communities, ensuring natural habitat for wildlife and saving money with a rework of the lighting suggested for the Southwest Ring Road.

Is the lighting to be a boondoggle to be leverage from in years to come when the lighting is re-implemented for the cheaper, better and more logical solution that is available now, or is it to be leveraged from now as a cost savings that protects wild life, public health, dark sky, safer highways, conservation areas, educational infrastructure and citizens while living up to the campaigned Alberta NDP Governments values?

Please make the right decision and rethink the proposed lighting on the Calgary South West Ring Road and protect our Dark Sky.

Sincerely,

I have hopes that individual e-mails sent on the subject will have an impact on the Alberta Government and stimulate change for the better for all.

Thank you for your help!

The Power of the Dark Side:

If Darth Vader was to weigh in on the Calgary SW Ring Road, this may be his thought: “Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends.”

I never thought I would be quoting one of the most notorious villains in the unknown galaxies, albeit a far, far away galaxy, but I must say when it comes to future street lighting, Darth Vader has a point.

If we consider our friends to be our wildlife neighbours, or the astronomers at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO), or even our neighbour down the road, then darker is better. Why? Because circadian rhythms depend on the natural dark and light ratios of day and night, and all those friends need regular circadian rhythms to be healthy individuals. I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of recommendations that I would like to think Darth Vader would approve of to achieve his goals of spreading the Dark Side across the galaxies including the future Calgary SW Ring Road.

  1. Use the right amount of light-  A luminaire Backlight, Uplight and Glare value of zero should be used. Shorter lamp posts also ensure the light only goes where it is needed.
  2. Use efficient and environmentally friendly lamps and bulbs– Of course the Empire cares about cutting costs. For those of you unfamiliar with the Death Star, let us just say it was really big, labour intensive, and an expensive project. Efficient environmentally friendly bulbs mean less energy used which turns into money saved for you, the taxpayer.
  3. Using flat lens cobra head fixtures- ensures all your light goes downwards where it is needed preventing Uplight. Less Uplight means more stars are visible which is great for migrating birds, astronomers and the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace jumps.
  4. Consider adopting those nice red hues often seen in Sith lightsabers. Warm yellows are also acceptable. Lights with warm colours have a longer wavelength and appear to be less disruptive to our circadian rhythms and night vision.
  5. Follow the MD Foothills Dark Skies Bylaw*.
  6. Dimming capabilities. Having highway lights that can be dimmed during low traffic times can reduce energy costs by at least 30%. Recent technology has even made motion-sensor highway lighting available, which in addition to saving energy also helps to track movement of Rebel Alliance that may be passing through the area.

Darth Vader was a presence. When he walked on screen you took notice. However, he does not hold much sway in public policy. If we are to embrace the power of the Dark Side then it is up to us to contact our MLAs and Alberta Transportation to let them know that Canada’s first Nocturnal Preserve, the ASCCA, and one of Canada’s largest Astrophysical Observatories, the RAO, should be kept dark; and that they are worthy of a Special Geographical Area designation that would require lighting designs to be designed to minimize light pollution as outlined in IESNA RP-33 in the Alberta Transportation Highway Lighting Guide. And may the Force be with us.

*For more information go to the MD of Foothills MD 31 Website.

By: Laura Griffin

Star Night With The RASC

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Roll out the red carpet because the ASCCA is preparing for another star-studded evening. And who better to invite to such an evening than an organizaation celebrating its sesquicentennial, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC)?

Please join Stellar Steve Donaldson and his enthusiastic volunteer astronomers from the RASC for an evening dedicated to the real stars of the galaxy. Steve will guide us through what is in our current night skies from deep sky objects, the moon and everything in between. Afterwards, telescope viewing will be done outside Belvedere house with the volunteers. Although this is not an official 150th year RASC celebration, it still helps us support their endeavours to educate the public about all things astronomy related. If you are interested in other RASC 150th year celebrations, please go to https://www.rasc.ca/2018 .

Happy birthday RASC!

We will also be dedicating part of this evening to learning about the impacts of light pollution on the ASCCA and the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory.

Gord Hayes from Protect the Dark Sky will be joining us to share thoughts on the incoming Calgary SW Ring Road development and how to improve its planned lighting.

The evening will run in and outside of Belvedere House (the education building) at the top of 160 St. just south of 22x. Refreshments will be provided.

Time: Saturday April 7 from 7pm-10:45pm
Admission: FREE.

We will be accepting donations at the door. Any money raised at this event goes towards our conservation education programs. These award winning programs help us to continue to fulfill Ann & Sandy Cross’ wishes to promote conservation and help inspire the next generations of stewards in Alberta.

Please RSVP if you are interested in attending. (See picture above for RSVP details)

Local Calgary Link In Meeting Steve

The Aurora Borealis, or more commonly known as the northern lights occur when particles from the sun travel along the solar wind and interact with Earth’s magnetic field causing a natural lighting spectacle that can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

These ribbons of light dance and shine across our northern sky and have been the source of legends, myths and mystical luck that have been sought out and seen by millions of people over the years.

In Alberta we have a Facebook Group called the Alberta Aurora Chasers that seek out, take pictures of and discuss this astronomical event (and others).

In 2014 one of these Chasers, Chris Ratzlaff, happened to look up to see something strange, a dim purple arch of light.

This was reported on the Facebook group and soon had a number of people from even outside of Alberta confirming what was seen, but there was a question about what exactly it was.

Two years later, in 2016, a group of chasers gathered in the Calgary area.

During this gathering a conversation about the strange event was struck with a dark sky photographer, Neil Zeller and a professor of astronomy at the University of Calgary, Eric Donovan. The two concluded that the picture that Donovan had taken was not a proton arc, which would not be visible to the naked eye but did not know what exactly it was.

Pictures from the Meeting night where Steve was named

Pictures from the Meeting night where Steve was named

Having no name for the event and not knowing what it was, Chris Ratzlaff suggested it be called “Steve”.

The conversations of the chasers opened up into larger discussions and an Inquiry by Zeller to see if anyone else had witnessed or captured the event.

Sure enough, there were other sighting, including that of the European Space Agency satellite Swarm which just happened to be flying through Steve at and was able to collect data on what was going on in the atmosphere. The European Space Agency satellite Swarm  has another local tie in to the Alberta area due to using an electric field instrument from the University of Calgary that assisted in the data collection.

What this data relieved is something very interesting and new.

The name “Steve” stuck and is now used by scientist to describe the event as Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (S.T.E.V.E.).

Steve travels differently from that of a normal Aurora on a different magnetic field which allows it to be seen farther south and releases very hot particles  called a sub auroral ion drift (SAID).

You can see the article that was co-authored by Eric Donovan and Liz McDonald based on the research in Science Advances.

As a result of the observations in the Calgary area and the Alberta dark sky,  scientists now hope to better understand how the lower and upper parts can influence one another and the interconnectivity of Earth’s atmosphere.

This is big science from our small local back yard, and none of this would be possible if it were not for the Dark Sky and the ability to observe the unique phenomenon.

This is just one of the reasons we need to keep protecting the Dark Sky and stop the light pollution.

 

2500 Dark Sky Supporters On The Petition!

I am very happy to announce that we have hit 2500 supporters on the Protecting the Dark Sky Petition.

Everyone who has signed and supported has my gratitude.

We are a long way from making the change we want though, so please continue sharing and keep the conversation going. The more support we have the more power we hold in the eyes of the decision makers!

I am happy to announce that we now have a website as central hub for communications.

WWW.PTDS.CA  is the new home of Protect the Dark Sky.

We have also created an Instagram account and a Twitter Account. These are over the Facebook Group Page and the Petition on Change.org.

The intent is to broaden the means of communication and resolve the limitations of a single social media conduit while giving more people who are invested in the initiative a means to get their take on the situation out.

Please throw us some thumbs up, likes, retweets, conversation pushes, pictures and shares!

There is a lot going on behind the scene for Protecting The Dark Sky, and I will get you the updates and information as soon as I can.

Lots of GREAT things to come!