A dark sky park is an area that restricts the use of artificial light to reduce artificial light pollution. The main aim of a dark sky park is to create a nocturnal environment that is suitable for astronomy. Dark sky parks are also used for scientific, educational, or natural purposes as well as for cultural heritage. Different organizations have their own programs on how to create dark sky parks and use different names to describe the areas. A dark sky reserve is an area that consists of a dark zone surrounded by communities that adopt a regulated outdoor lighting program to preserve the dark sky. A dark sky community is a legally recognized town or city that adopts the use of regulated outdoor lighting systems. A dark sky sanctuary is the darkest remote place in the world where conservation is fragile. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada sets the standard for dark sky preserves in the country including the amount of light in an area to be considered. There are 19 dark sky parks in Canada.
Canada's Dark Sky Parks
The First Dark Sky Reserve
Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve in Ontario was the first dark sky preserve in Canada. It was designated in 1999. It was first designated as a conservation reserve in 1997 before researchers realized that the dark environment could be used for astronomical research. The park is covered by rugged rocky and barren scenery, with rare wildlife and plants species. Camping is allowed within the park, but campers are advised to keep the use of artificial light to the minimum.
First IDA Dark Sky Reserve
Mont Mégantic Observatory was the first dark sky reserve to be recognized by the International Dark-sky Association. It was designated in 1996. The park covers an area of 2,123 square miles. It features a modernized Ritchey-Chrétien telescope that is used for imaging, polarimetry, and spectroscopy. It is the only dark sky reserve in Quebec and is jointly owned by McGill University, the Université Laval, and the Université de Montréal.
First Urban Star Park
The Irving Nature Park in Saint John, New Brunswick was designated in 2011 as the first urban star park in Canada. It is one of the two urban star parks in the country the other being Cattle Point in British Columbia. The park is located in a 600-acre piece of land that is close to an uptown area. It is owned by JD Irving.
Newest Dark Sky Park
Terra Nova National Park was designated in February 2018 as the newest dark sky park in Canada and the only one in Newfoundland. The park, which includes secluded coastlines and dense forests, is protected from artificial light as part of a conservation program. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada seeks to protect the nocturnal environment and reduce the consumption of energy in the region as well as promoting astronomical studies.
The Bortle Scale
The Bortle scale is used to measure the brightness of the night sky In a specified location. The nine-level scale quantifies the visibility of celestial objects and the distraction caused by artificial light. The darkest sky is classified as Class 1 while those within inner cities are classified as Class 9.