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 .

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

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!

Welcome To Protect The Dark Sky

Alberta Transportation plans on using the standard guidelines on lighting for provincial highways for the Calgary Southwest Ring Road. Alberta Transportation claims that these standard guidelines (that were created in 2003) for lighting do lower some of the light pollution compared to past lighting solutions by using low temperature LEDs and they also minimize blue light, but they still fall well short of best practices.

The lighting proposed will cause a dramatic level of spillage (light pollution) that has a massive impact on the area surrounding it. This light pollution does nothing for making the roads safer, offer a better lighting solution for drivers, or even cost less to implement and maintain, it does however create several problems for the area.

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.

The proposed lighting is not as cost effective as better alternatives in highway lighting like those suggested by the Illuminating Engineering Society, the International Dark Sky Association and the Intelligent Road and Street Lighting in Europe research paper.

Implementation of a poor choice at a higher cost has long-term ramifications for all citizens. Using best practices now at the inception of the Calgary Southwest Ring Road lighting is far cheaper than having to re-implement later, and offers up cost savings over time in electrical use, saving the province and thereby the taxpayer even more money.

There are other factors to look at though, beyond upfront cash costs.

By polluting the night sky, the wildlife will be impacted by a change to the basic circadian rhythm, in rates of predation, altering foraging habits, changing mating abilities, reduction of safe migration paths and pushing some species from the natural habitat altogether. This migration of species from natural habitat could entail pushing predators and problem species farther into the city, impacting the safety and well-being of pets, children and property.

The suggested lighting by the Alberta Government also seems to go against the Municipal District of Foothills Number 31 Council adoption of the Dark Sky Bylaws adopted in 2011. 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 public consultation 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.

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 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 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. Our governing decision-makers have the opportunity 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.