Our Star Attraction
A global problem
Satellite image of global light pollution.
Source: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder)
© Royal Astronomical Society

The quality of the starry sky diminishes every day due to ever-increasing nocturnal illumination around the world. Several actions to sensitize politicians and the general public to the extent of the problem have been undertaken in the last four decades. The following is a brief history:

  • 1972: Tucson (Arizona) becomes the first city to adopt regulations for exterior lighting.

  • 1988: Representatives of several countries meet to establish the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Its mission is “to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting”. Today, the IDA consists of 10,000 members and 450 organizations across 70 countries.

  • 1988: Authorities pass strict regulations for nocturnal lighting in the region around Mauna Kea (on Big Island, Hawaii), where several famous observatories are situated. Today, the quality of the starry sky in the area attracts over 100,000 tourists a year.

  • 1991: In order to promote preservation of the starry sky in Canada, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) sets up a support program for organizations and municipalities that pledge to combat light pollution. Six Dark Sky Preserves were subsequently recognized by the RASC: Torrance Barrens (Ontario, 1997), Fraser Valley (British Columbia, 2000), Cypress Hills (Saskatchewan & Alberta, 2004), Point Pelee (Ontario, 2005), Beaver Hills (Alberta, 2006) and Mt. Megantic (Quebec, 2006). Because of a lack of precise criteria, the designation “Dark Sky Preserve” unfortunately does not guarantee an effectively dark sky nor protection at these sites. The designation does, however, increase public awareness of the importance of preserving the starry sky.

  • 1992: UNESCO officially recognizes the night sky as an integral part of the global heritage that deserves to be preserved for future generations.

  • 1992: The dark sky committee of the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ) publishes several articles on light pollution in the magazine Astronomie Québec. This magazine is published by Éditions Astronomiques, a peripheral organization of the FAAQ, and is widely read by amateur astronomers.

  • 2000: An organization to protect the quality of the starry sky (Oficina de Protección de la Calidad del Cielo – OPCC) is created in Chili, a country internationally recognized for its prestigious observatories.

  • 2003: the ASTROLab and the Mt. Megantic Observatory and provincial park launch the light pollution abatement project.

  • 2003: The FAAQ (a non-profit organization that brings together individual astronomers, amateur astronomy clubs and institutions that promote vulgarization of astronomy in Quebec) initiates proceedings to create a Quebec section of the IDA.

  • 2007: The International Conference in Defense of the Quality of the Night Sky and the Right to Observe Stars is held at La Palma (Canary Islands). UNESCO appeals to the international community and recommends that governments and other authorities adopt several principles and objectives to defend the night sky and the right to starlight. [La Palma Declaration]

  • 2007: the IDA declares The Mt. Megantic region the first International Dark Sky Reserve.
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the NASA Infrared Telescope (Hawaii)
Source : Richard Wainscoat
The Gemini South Observatory (Chili)
Source : Keith Raybould
Observatory at La Palma (Canary Islands)
Source : Chloé Legris
The City of La Palma (Canary Islands).
Source : Chloé Legris