Preserving international dark skies at Quetico

Today’s post comes from Chris Stromberg, Acting Backcountry Operations Specialist at Quetico Provincial Park and Coordinator for the Heart of the Continent Partnership.

This past July, four teams of Ontario Parks and US Forest Service wilderness rangers / park wardens went into the woods to observe the nights of the new moon.

Along with their usual assignments of ensuring compliance, clearing portages, restoring campsites, and acting as park/forest ambassadors, they were out collecting sky quality metre (SQM) readings during the darkest hours of the evening.

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Do the skies need our protection?

Stars as seen in midnight’s gaze
Stars shining upon shoreline’s haze
Guiding us, teaching us with stories manifold
About ourselves, stars speak, from birth till old.
Their permanence ties us to days gone by
But to hide their secrets, they still do try
To gaze upon them brings dreams of futures bright
But to see them vanish, is to lose much delight.

~Bruce Waters

At Ontario Parks, we’re committed to the protection and preservation of our province’s biodiversity. The night skies in their natural splendour is an important part of that protection.

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The long road to Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Dark Sky Preserve

Today’s post comes from Charlotte Westcott, a Discovery Program staff member at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

As the sun sets, the stars begin to appear. Like old friends, their familiar glow brings us home no matter how far away our house may be. Our friendly acquaintances, the constellations, trace their way across the sky. The white glow of the Milky Way emerges slowly to drown out its fainter neighbours.

Far away from the light pollution of major cities, Lake Superior Provincial Park’s night sky is one of the darkest in North America.

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Zodiacal light and the gegenschein

The importance of having dark sky preserves cannot be understated.

In addition to the many benefits already described previously in our blog, you can see many things that others can’t from the light-polluted skies of our urban and, increasingly, our rural locations.

The zodiacal light and the gegenschein are two phenomena known for centuries, but only visible in dark skies with a good western or eastern horizon.

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Eyes on the skies – January

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This “space” will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

The cold, crisp days of the New Year often reward us with fantastically beautiful nights, rich with bright stars and interesting sights.

Of the 17 brightest stars seen from Ontario, nine of them are visible during winter nights and many interesting objects await the observer who is prepared to brave the cold.

Here are our astronomical highlights for January:

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