Dark Skies in Alberta November 7, 2018 15:01
With the unseasonably cool fall we have had, there was at least a few days to scrounge a list of all the things we did not get to during the nice summer weather. In addition these lists are compiled with a priority of tasks that need to be done before the ground freezes. Right near the top of this years list for the Carlyon Farm was installing a yard lamp. This is a priority mainly for calving season. There is limited daylight during our winter months and cows do not always calve when it’s convenient for us. So we had the hole dug, pole installed and then later the electrician came to install the light fixtures, but not just any fixtures, Dark Sky Lights.
Dark Sky Lights are a easy way to combat the light pollution that much of human-made infrastructure contributes to. Why are lights at night termed as "light pollution" ? Well any unnecessary light is pollution. Just like how unnecessary, loud noises are pollution. This is a problem because it interferes with the natural cycles of the sky. Many wildlife species use photo-periods (length of daylight) for such things as knowing when to grow winter hair, or to signal the time of year they need to migrate.
One of the better studied influences of light pollution is on seas turtles. Freshly hatched baby turtles use the moon's reflection on the ocean to direct them to the safety of the water. A baby turtle's odds of survival are very low with all of the natural predators such as seas birds, crabs and basically anything in the water that is bigger than a turtle. Now, add the confusion of lights from houses, those little fellows might go in the wrong direction, increasing the time spent on the sand where they are easy prey for aerial predators. The extra travel causes fatigue in addition to all the human obstacles like sand castles, roadside curbs, vehicles, drains and domestic pets to name a few.
Dark Sky preserves is method that Canada has invested in to help preserve some of our great night sky views. These places provide the darkest of dark environments. This can give viewers an absolutely unreal view of the stars, the milky way and of course if you're lucky the northern lights. My boyfriend and myself were able to schedule a weekend together during Jasper National Parks Dark Sky festival. With all of the poor fall weather we have had, I wasn't very optimistic that we would see a single star, never mind the constellations. As luck would have it we hiked in the clouds and snow in the morning but by the time we got to the Planetarium the sun was starting to come out! We saw the indoor presentation and then got to look at the sun through a solar telescope. It was pretty cool! The sky stayed clear into the evening and we were able to experience the brilliance of Alberta’s dark sky. If making a small change to outdoor lights to increase efficiency and decrease light pollution allows me and future generations to experience a taste of a truly dark sky and the ability to see all the skies wonder, I think it's worth it.