AstroPontiac

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

AstroPontiac was founded by Stephan Paape, a keen astronomer. Here’s my interview with Paape concerning the astro-park to be opened at the base of Luskville Falls this summer.
KF: Stephan, what’s AstroPontiac?

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

AstroPontiac was founded by Stephan Paape, a keen astronomer. Here’s my interview with Paape concerning the astro-park to be opened at the base of Luskville Falls this summer.
KF: Stephan, what’s AstroPontiac?
SP: Ten years ago, my goal was to offer organized public astronomy outings in the Pontiac. AstroPontiac became a non-profit corporation in August 2011.
KF: You now have support for an astronomy park near Luskville Falls. Where did funding come from?
SP: Individual contributors gave $7,500; Caisse Populaire des Collines-de-l’Outaouais pledged $8,500. Municipality of Pontiac provided $5,000. Then we received $34,500 from the Fonds de développement des territoires: it’s a transfer from the government of Québec to the MRC des-Collines-de-l’Outaouais, administered through their Centre local de développement (CLD).
KF: What will the park look like?
SP: Astronomy presentations will be held in our inflatable digital planetarium at the Luskville community centre. At the observation site, there’ll be a small SkyShed cabin housing two telescopes, plus a flagstone observation pad for more telescopes.
KF: Will astronomers teach us about celestial phenomena?
SP: We will offer interpretations about celestial phenomena, and reference stories from various cultures such as classical Greek, Islamic and First Nations beliefs.
KF: Is observation of the heavens a good thing for us to do?
SP: Understanding our universe brings a huge appreciation of our own very special, finite Earth. Also, studying the cosmos can lead to further
scientific, cultural and personal discoveries.
KF: Dark Sky Preserve (DSPs) are protected areas with low or no ambient light.
Is that what this park will be?
SP: Light pollution is a growing challenge. While LED street lighting is cheaper and more energy efficient than traditional approaches, if the level of blue in the light is not correctly balanced, it can dilute starlight. Incorrectly balanced LEDs also negatively affect human sleep and wildlife. DSPs mitigate this by limiting stray light and promoting good practices for effectively managing lighting, ensuring safety while reducing its negative impact. AstroPontiac is not part of a DSP. However, we build light-pollution awareness into our outreach activities.
KF: There is a planned subdivision along chemin Hotel de ville leading to the Luskville Falls. Won’t it flood the night sky with artificial light?
SP: The Luskville Falls location is optimal because it is convenient for clients from around the region and it offers reasonably dark skies.  AstroPontiac has worked with Municipality of Pontiac officials to ensure effective light pollution management is a consideration when building permits are issued for the planned subdivision.
KF: Won’t the elevation of the Eardley Escarpment obscure views of the northern horizon?
SP: The ridge limits our view to the north, but considering our latitude, this isn’t too detrimental. Stars rotate around the North Star (which is easily seen despite the escarpment), so much of the northern sky eventually becomes visible. We also have a beautiful, sweeping view of the Ecliptic – the path of the Sun, Moon and planets travelling from east to west across the sky. The southern sky, which changes with the seasons, is also unobstructed. Both amateur astronomers and members of the public have been very pleased with the panorama the site offers.
KF: What events are planned this year?
SP: By early May, we should have a more concrete timeline. However, we could begin offering planetarium shows at the community centre in July. By August, the SkyShed cabin and the flagstone pad should be available for activities. As our facilities become available, they’ll add to an ongoing “soft launch” throughout summer. Come September, we hope to have a more formal launch party.