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«Excursion to Dark Sky Preserves in Canada 2015 Report Dark Sky Preserves in Canada On the occasion of the participation at the LPTMM (Light Pollution ...»

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Excursion to Dark Sky Preserves in Canada 2015

Report Dark Sky Preserves in Canada

On the occasion of the participation at the LPTMM (Light Pollution Theory Measurement and

Modelling) conference in Jouvance (Canada) and the ALAN (Artificial Light at Night) 2015 conference

in Sherbrooke/Canada a visit to the dark sky preserves of the RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of

Canada) was planned. These are national Canadian designations for parks, regions or communities

which have a dark sky and try to protect this.

The aim was to study the management and state of some of these dark sky areas.

The observing methods were like those during my USA trip in 2004 (A. Hänel, An Exploration of Dark Sky Places in the USA 2014). Most pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 550 D, some astronomy pictures (especially with the HII regions) with a modified Canon 700D.

The trip through Canada in May 2015 on Bing maps Date CET Place Long. Lat. Alt. SQM-L remarks 2015-05-20 8:00 Gravenhurst, Oakwood Inn -79.36983 44.91131 253 20.70 3:00 local time 2015-05-20 8:30 Torrence Barrens -79.51362 44.94149 244 21.70 3:30 local, 21.95 with clouds 2015-05-21 4:15 Singing Sand, Bruce Peninsula -81.57749 45.19155 186 21.75 23:15 local, coverd 2015-05-22 5:30 Singing Sand, Bruce Peninsula -81.57749 45.19155 186 21.75 00:30 some clouds 2015-05-23 5:30 Gordon's Park, Manitoulin -81.96277 45.66547 235 21.65 00:30 local 2015-05-23 6:30 südl. Mindamoya, Manitoulin -82.16669 45.71670 225 21.55 01:30 local 2015-05-27 7:30 Jouvance -72.22688 45.39439 284 20.90 2:30 local Observations of the sky brightness taken with the SQM-LU (#2536). A comparison with the maps derived by Berry (1976, Light Pollution in Southern Ontario, Journ. RASC 70, 97) shows no significant change at the dark places.

The travel was partly financed by a grant of the Astronomische Gesellschaft and the ALAN conference (as invited speaker).

Comments are welcome!

Andreas Hänel, Fachgruppe Dark Sky Museum am Schölerberg Klaus Strick-Weg 10 D-49082 Osnabrück ahaenel@uos.de A. Hänel, ahaenel@uos.de, 8/2015 Torrence Barrens 2015-05-19/20 Torrence Barrens Conservation Reserve consists of 1990 ha of crown land and is administered by the Province of Ontario. It was protected in 1997 for its geology of Precambrian bedrock with wetlands and its fauna like the protected Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake or the Five Lined Skink.

In 1999 Ontario government acknowledged the dark skies at the site and the designation as Dark Sky Preserve by the RASC was initiated by the director of the Muskoka Heritage Foundation (now Muskoka Conservancy), Peter Goering, the Township of Muskoka Lakes and the Township of Muskoka Lakes Ratepayers Association. Therefore it was the first officially recognized Dark Sky place on Earth.

The Reserve belongs partly to the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Township of Gravenhurst. The trails are maintained by the Township of Muskoka Lakes, as a worker from the township reported on the site.

The site is accessible from highway 169 (near Torrance general store) over Southwood Road, after 7 km is a natural (rocks) parking lot besides the road. Panels inform about the dark sky preserve and the trails.

–  –  –

About 100 m along a rough way within the wood there is a free area of rocky ground, which is designated as an observing place. Further information panels and a dump toilet are installed and the Torrance Barrens trails start there.

Sometimes there might be bears and people even seem to forget their telescope there… The observing place with facilities, explanation signs and the start of the trails Other parts of the observing places in Torrance Barrens Main larger settlements around the preserve are Gravenhurst (10 km, 12000 inhabitants), Bala (10km, 500 inh.) in the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Bracebridge (20 km, 15600 inh.). Farther away are Orillia (38 km, 40 700 inh.) and Huntsville (50 km, 19 000 inh.). In the direct surroundings are some isolated houses.

Many of the townships (Huntsville 2009, Gravenhurst 2012, Lake of Bays 2013, Muskoka Lakes

2014) have adopted Dark Sky By-Laws which mainly ask for full cut-off lighting.

Gravenhurst is the next larger town situated about 10 km from the preserve. Since 2012 a Dark Sky By-Law prescribes full cut-off lighting in the town, the effectiveness is however under discussion (newspaper “What’s up Muskoka”, March 13, 2013). Many luminaires are indeed full cut-off (see exemples).

In 2015 replacement of the public lighting using LED started. The aim is to reduce energy consumption by 60%. The installed LED lighting on the main roads seems to be of neutral white (4000

K) color. An improvement against the not well shielded sodium lights is visible, but a warmer color temperature would have been better for environmental reasons.

Lighting at the business district south of Gravenhurst is not yet very well shielded Full cut-off LED lighting in the city Different types of full cut-off luminaires in use.

–  –  –

Cloud-free Milky Way in the South and the light dome of Gravenhurst in the East Especially with the cloud cover a brightening towards the south can be seen. Also, the sky was regularly flashing, which seems to be generated by the security lighting of a mobile phone tower.

Huntsville is the largest city (19 000 inh.) in the Muskoka region and situated about 50 km away from Torrance Barrens. They also promised to support dark sky friendly lighting.

Some luminaires are switched off and many are full cut-off

–  –  –


03:00 EST Gravenhurst opposite of Oakwood Inn 20.7 mag/arcsec² 03:30 EST Torrence Barrens: 21.7 mag/arcsec² without clouds

21.95 mag/arcsec² with clouds


The sky is still relatively dark, as far as it can be judged during a cloudy night.

Though consciousness and ordinances regulate lighting in the region, the light dome of Gravenhurst is well visible due to the high number of inhabitants, which are much higher in the region during summer. A blinking white light (mobile phone tower?) was very disturbing.

Are they also night active?

–  –  –

http://www.doitinmuskoka.com/Experience/Natural-Attractions/Conservation-and-Preservation-Areas/Details/TorranceBarrens-Conservation-and-Night-Sky-Preserve/ http://muskokatrailscouncil.com/trailguides/muskokalakes http://files.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/parks-and-protected-areas/mnr00_bcr0225.pdf https://www.facebook.com/pages/Torrance-Barrens-Dark-Sky-Preserve/321424621297768 http://www.whatsupmuskoka.com/sitepages/?aid=7355&cn=ARCHIVED%20NEWS%202013&an=Time%20to%20get%20to ugh%20on%20light%20pollution Bruce Peninsula National Park 2015-05-20/21 Bruce peninsula is an about 100 km long peninsula that separates the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. It has large forests with the oldest trees of eastern North America and natural habitats with clear lakes. It is protected for its wildlife and is an important flyway for migrating bird. It is part of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve.

Through the efforts of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group in 2004 the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula was proclaimed as a “Dark Sky Community” (no official status) with the aim to promote dark skies by retrofitting the municipal lighting. In 2009 Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park, which both lie in the northern parts, were designated officially as Dark Sky Preserves by the Royal Astronomical Society.

Quetican Observatory, a large observatory with 2 domes, is located in the higher parts of Lion’s Head and run by Doug Cunningham, who also supports the dark sky preserve.

In the harbor of Lion’s Head the Bayside viewing platform for astronomical observations was installed and the luminaires are shielded in order to not disturb astronomical observations. In summer public observing sessions are offered to the many tourists that come during this time into the region.

Lion’s Head: Quetican Observatory and Bayside viewing platform

Illumination in the harbor of Lion’s Head

Activities for dark skies are organized by the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association (BPBA) which has a Dark Sky Committee, headed by Elizabeth Thorn, and the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group.

This committee published a list of Dark Sky Friendly lighting that is also available at local suppliers.

Through a residential light assessment program inhabitants were able to receive up to $100 financial support for the installation of dark sky friendly illumination.

Due to the initiative of Rod Steinacher, the Owen Sound Transportation Company changed the fixtures to reduce light towards the sky at the ferry terminal in Tobermory.

The lighting in Tobermory ferry terminal has been retrofitted to full cut-off lighting.

In summer astronomical observing programs are offered during night trips on board of the ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun.

In April 2011 the Sources of Knowledge Forum was held in Tobermory “Dark Skies – bright Minds”, the various presentations about the influence of light pollution were published in the conference proceedings.

Some private (accommodations) and public lighting in Tobermory still are not very well cut-off Modern installations mainly have full cut-off lighting.

Observing Place Parking Singing Sands Several parkings in Bruce Peninsula National Park might be good observing sites. Singing Sands in Dorcas Bay is easily reachable from Tobermory and no direct disturbing lights were visible. Horizon view was only a bit obstructed.

Views of Singing Sand beach and parking during day… … and during night with some private lighting from some houses.

During the first night (May 20/21) the sky was totally covered, some stars were occasionally visible for some time. Light domes were dominant from Tobermory towards the NW (10 km, estimated 1000 inhabitants) and much fainter towards the S from Owen Sound (85 km, 32 000 inh.).

The SQM-L measurement at 23:15 EST (3:15 UT) was 21.75 mag/arcsec².

All skies during the night May 20/21 (white light from setting moon) and May 21/22 Clear sky in the second night (May 21/22). The clouds in the NW are illuminated from Tobermory.

Southern sky towards the city Owen Sound though the light dome cannot be distinguished from the Milky Way.

HII regions in Cygnus towards the dark eastern horizon During the second night (May 21/22) the weather was better with several clouds, the moon disturbed

at the beginning. SQM-L measurements of the sky brightness were:

23:00 EST with clouds and moon 21.35 mag/arcsec² 00:30 EST some clouds 21.75 mag/arcsec² The measured sky brightness values are darker than the values of about 21.3 mag/arcsec² observed by BPBA in Nov. 2010 with a SQM, but consistent with these due to the bright Milky Way that is up high in the sky in November. (Report #1 Sky Quality Meter Readings for the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula - a Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association Project, November 2010).

http://www.northbrucepeninsula.ca/content/dark-sky http://www.bpba.ca/ http://www.sourcesofknowledge.ca/past-conferences/2011-proceedings/ http://www.bpba.ca/images/Report_1_SQM_Readings_MNBP_Nov24_2010.pdf Advertising Astronomy events on manitoulin Island on the ferry Manitoulin Island - Gordon’s Park 2015-05-22/23 Manitoulin Island is with an area of 2766 km² the largest freshwater island of the Earth in Lake Huron.

About 13 000 people live on the island which is accessible over a one-lane bridge in the Northeast and the ferry Chi-Cheemaun from Bruce Peninsula. Due to the remoteness and the low population density the night sky should be very dark.

In the South-East of the island, Rita and Terry Gordon set up an eco park with accommodations (B&B, Tipi tents, camping, cabins), and providing an interpretive center and nature trails. In the back of the park the first commercial Dark Sky Preserve was designated in 2009.

Entrance to Gordon’s Park and the main house with 2 b&b rooms.

The astronomy corner in the interpretive center and the recognitions as Dark Sky Preserve There is camping possible and a stargazing cabin can be rented. The place is accessible only after registering at the office. Several star parties during summer attract many people.

Entrance to the Dark Sky Preserve and the observing area with relatively unobstructed horizon.

The observing area in the Dark Sky Preserve and the stargazing cabin.

–  –  –

I was allowed to observe at Gordon’ s Dark Sky Reserve that night and took measurements near the entrance of the park. Due to the moon observation was only possible after 1:00 EST at this night.

At this place no artificial lights could be seen, certainly partly due to the high trees around.

Nevertheless the place was very dark which was confirmed by a SQM-LU measurement of

21.65 mag/arcsec². A cited value of 21.96 could not be confirmed despite the fact that the quality of the night was excellent.

Later observations were taken from Yonge Street just 200 m south of the village of Mindemoya (estimated 1000 inhabitants) near an open area with a lake. This place offered a clear view towards the South, the light dome of the village was visible at the North. The zenithal sky brightness was about 0.1 mag/arcsec² (21.55) brighter than at Gordon’s Park.

Remarkable is the extremely high transparency of the atmosphere down to very low altitudes above the horizon, that even red HII regions in the Milky Way are visible low above the horizon. Temperature went down to -3°C.

Allsky photos taken at Manitoulin Island from Gordons Park (left) and south of Mindamoya, same exposure values (1:2.8, ISO 800, 3 min, guided) and same image processing. Airglow in the south.

The southern horizon at Mindamoya Comparing a part of the picture with one taken a year before (left) shows Nova Sgr 2015 No.

2 at a magnitude of about 6.3 m.

The remoteness of the Manitoulin Island delivers a very dark sky, near the small settlements it gets a bit brighter.

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