A bylaw limiting excess light resulted in the small Alberta town being named Canada’s first *Dark Sky Cummunity* The town now holds an annual *Equinox Festival* to celebrate the equinox and night sky.

A bylaw limiting excess light resulted in the small Alberta town being named Canada’s first *Dark Sky Cummunity* The town now holds an annual *Equinox Festival* to celebrate the equinox and night sky.
Photo Credit: Town of Bon Accord

Canada’s first “Dark Sky community”

A small town in western Canada has become the country’s first official “dark sky community”.  Named last year, the town celebrated this month during its annual Equinox festival with a number of nighttime activities. These included special guest speaker, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station.

A dark sky area is one where there is little or no artificial light, or light pollution, which reduces the ability to see the night sky

The town of Bon Accord in central Alberta is now one of only 11 such designated communities in the world.

Montreal Feb 2015: It’s very hard to see the stars in an urban environment at any time due the vast amount of ambient light, or light pollution
Montreal Feb 2015: It’s very hard to see the stars in an urban environment at any time due the vast amount of ambient light, or light pollution © Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The town of some 1500 souls is located about 40 kilometres north of the major urban centre of Edmonton.

The designation came from the International Dark Sky Association based in Arizona. “We are pleased to honour the efforts of Bon Accord in setting a laudable example for other cities in the  Canadian West,” IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend said. “We hope other municipalities throughout Canada will follow the town’s lead.”

Three telescopes are set up in Bon Accord waiting fro nighttime as the town celebrates its Equinox festival and being Canada’s first Dark Sky community
Three telescopes are set up in Bon Accord waiting fro nighttime as the town celebrates its Equinox festival and being Canada’s first Dark Sky community © CBC

To achieve the designation, the town passed a bylaw called the “Light Efficiency Community Standards” which will require a transition for all outdoor residential lighting to be shielded with limits on the amount of light. All commercial signs will also have to transition from white light to red. The transition will take place over the next eight years.

Wood Buffalo National Park straddles the Alberta- N.W.T. boundary and in 2013 became the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve
Wood Buffalo National Park straddles the Alberta-N.W.T. boundary and in 2013 became the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve © (Parks Canada)

Vicki Zinyk, Bon Accord’s chief administrative officer, quoted in the CBC said, “With less light, it keeps you asleep longer with a deeper sleep. It’s better for nocturnal animals who need the dark as well”.

The Milky Way is shown in the night sky over Plevna, Ont. at the Dark Sky Viewing Pad in North Frontenac in a Sept., 2013 handout photo
The Milky Way is shown in the night sky over Plevna, Ont. at the Dark Sky Viewing Pad in North Frontenac in a Sept., 2013 handout photo © Terry Dickinson/The Canadian Press

Both the American-based International Dark Sky Association and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada have several designations for dark sky areas. Although slightly differing in nomenclature between the two, the designations include categories like; dark sky communities, dark sky parks-urban sky parks, dark sky preserves, and nocturnal preserves.

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