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The ASTROLab project
History
Because of the stakes riding on protection of the night sky, it became imperative to reduce light pollution in the region. The first steps in this area date back to the beginning of the 1990's. Researchers at the Observatory and the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ) then made their concerns known with respect to the ever-increasing pollution of the night sky. Unfortunately, these public statements had little effect.

It was not until the end of the 1990's that the combat against light pollution really began. The Observatory was then updating and renewing its equipment and wished to safeguard the accuracy of its observations. In 2002, the President of the ASTROLab and the Directors of the Observatory and the Mt. Megantic provincial park drew up some guidelines for a project that would significantly reduce light pollution in the region. Thanks to funding from the Lac Megantic Local Employment Centre (CLE), the provincial park, the Société des Établissements du Plein Air du Québec (SÉPAQ) and the Observatory, the project was launched. Cloé Legris was hired as the Project Manager and was directed to develop an action plan that could be completed over the next three to five years.


The action plan

The action plan included a multitude of elements that would ensure strong regional participation. The needs of all stakeholders were considered and a spirit of regional solidarity was thereby established. In 2003, the ASTROLab thus set the following objectives:

  1. to maintain scientific research at the Observatory;
  2. to preserve the recreational and tourist potential of both the ASTROLab and the Mt. Megantic provincial park;
  3. to reduce light pollution at the Observatory by 25%;
  4. to encourage the installation of appropriate lighting components that would reduce energy consumption and other inconveniences associated with poor lighting practices.

In order to achieve these goals, the ASTROLab proposed creation of a Dark Sky Reserve that would include the Haut St. François and Granit MRCs and the City of Sherbrooke. In addition, the light pollution abatement project was conceived as a comprehensive plan with three parts:

  1. sensitization - to make the public aware of the consequences of light pollution;
  2. regulations - to ensure the future; and
  3. lighting fixture conversion - to decrease light pollution.

The project is part of the sustainable development movement and all citizens on the territory covered have benefited. With time, positive effects have also been felt at the national and international levels.