Welcome 2017! We usher in the new year with two dark sky alerts for those willing to bundle up and head outside early on a cold January morning.
The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks during the first week of January but you’re going to have to get up well before the sun for a glimpse. Forecasters predict that those who look up at the right moment during the wee hours of January 3 could see as many as 100 meteors per hour radiating from a point very near the North Star.
While you’re up, look to the east just before dawn during the first two weeks of January and you may be rewarded with a view of Comet U1 NEOWISE. Discovered just as 2016 was drawing to a close, the comet is expected to reach maximum brightness mid-January and even then, it will likely be best viewed with a pair of binoculars.
One of the most beautiful views available to anyone in rural Alberta comes from stepping outside on a dark sky night and looking up at thousands of stars and the arc of the Milky Way. In cities and towns across Alberta, light pollution and trespass make a dark sky experience more and more rare. By becoming more mindful of the effect of light trespass* on our neighbours’ houses and cabins and taking three simple steps to reduce it, we can contribute to a better night sky viewing opportunity for everyone at James River Retreat.
- When outdoors after dark, keep the use of artificial lights to a minimum. Do your exterior lights need to be on or is it just habit? They may interfere with your neighbour’s enjoyment of time away from the hustle and lights of the city and the glow of your campfire may be all that’s needed for your friends and family to enjoy the evening.
- When exterior lights are needed, choose fixtures that limit light trespass as a courtesy to your neighbours. Use the lowest watt bulbs that will get the job done and covered fixtures that direct the light precisely where it needs to go be effective. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and it’s a requirement of our James River Retreat Design Guidelines (see below). Check out Good Neighbour Outdoor Lighting, a great reference for choosing appropriate outdoor fixtures.
- When tucked inside your house or cabin for the night, turn off exterior lights and unnecessary interior lights. Maybe even consider drawing curtains on windows that spill particularly bright light in the direction of your neighbours.
Some of you may be wondering by now if all of this really necessary. Well, we all know what it’s like to step outside in the dark, switch off a flashlight and let our eyes adjust, gradually taking in more and more detail of our surroundings and the sky above us. Now imagine your neighbours doing the same but your bright cabin lights are a giant flashlight they just can’t turn off. It only takes a little bit of thinking and tinkering to preserve the dark sky experience over the James River Retreat. Tone down the lights wherever reasonable then step outside, look up and enjoy that infinite view.
*insufficient control of outdoor lighting to the extent that it crosses over to your neighbours’ property and affects their quality of life.
**From the James River Retreat Design Guidelines:
Outdoor lighting should provide subtle illumination for safety and highlighting of special architectural or landscape elements. In a natural setting without streetlamps even a 50-watt light source seen from an adjacent lot can become an irritating distraction.
- Exterior fixtures must not have bright light sources.
- Care must be taken to minimize the visibility of exterior light fixtures to neighbors; preferably choose fixtures that are opaque and shine primarily downward.