Last time I mentioned the wonderful news that Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park have now been designated as a Dark Sky Preserve.The pictures at left are proof that it is a great dark site. They were taken by accomplished astrophotographer Andreas Gada (e.g., see his very neat APOD picture) in the
area of the park, and sent by Doug Cunninham of the Quetican Observatory,via in-park education coordinator Melissa Prout.
The top picture is a lovely Milky Way vista, while the second picture is a longer exposure of the Galactic Centre.
It would be nice if all of us had access to such lovely, dark skies. However, light pollution is a serious problem. Not only does bad lighting make it hard to see anything in the sky, it’s also a waste of energy. But what to do? Enter Dark Skies Awareness, one of the IYA Global Cornerstone Projects. The goal of this project “is to raise the level of public knowledge about adverse impacts of excess artificial lighting on local environments and help more people appreciate the ongoing loss of a dark night sky for much of the world’spopulation.” Their website is a fantastic resource, with a large number of programs and resources to help darken our skies. You can learn more about light pollution and its impacts on people and wildlife, and examples of effective lighting. Dark Skies Awareness programs include International Dark Sky Week, and “Star Hunting Programs” to help people around the world measure how dark their skies are. This Oct 9-23, you can take part in The Great World Wide Star Count! You can also enter the International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, and win a prize—see the contest website for further details (the submission deadline is Sep 21, 2009
Another important part of Dark Skies Awareness is to establish and identify dark-sky communities, parks, and reserves. All of us can work towards the important goal of making our skies darker. This could include changing your outdoor lighting, asking a local business to improve their lighting, or working to establish dark-sky reserves in community, provincial and national parks. Let’s be inspired by the example of the Bruce and Fathom Five Dark Sky Preserve!
It has been a great week for space missions. First, the Space Shuttle astronauts did a fantastic job of refurbishing the Hubble Space Telescope. They replaced gyroscopes, computers, fixed the STIS and
instruments, and installed the new
and WF4 instruments. The HST should be good for several more years, until the James Webb Space Telescope goes up. You can see some nice pictures from the servicing mission here, and the picture below shows Astronaut Andrew Feustel perched on the end of the Canada Arm (yay!), working on the HST. So that was some very good news for astronomers. And on May 14, we saw the successful launch of the Planck and Herschel satellites. Herschel is the largest infrared telescope sent into space, and will give us the best view of the universe at far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths. Planck will carry out a detailed study of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and improve our understanding of how the universe formed and evolved. Both satellites are on their way to L2 (a stable gravitational point of the Sun-Earth system), and are doing well so far.
That’s it for today. Stay tuned next week for more Astronomy Day reports, and much more. Your project for this week: find a place where the skies are dark, and appreciate the beauty of the night sky.