STAR LIGHT: Rural South Okanagan residents prize and want to protect their dark skies | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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STAR LIGHT: Rural South Okanagan residents prize and want to protect their dark skies

The headlights of a travelling vehicle left streaks along Fairview Whitetail Lake Road near Willowbrook as it drove underneath the Milky Way.
September 11, 2021 - 7:30 AM

While the beauty of the Milky Way can be appreciated from most parts of the Okanagan on a clear night, the night sky has even more to offer in the rural areas.

And they're letting the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen know, they want to keep them away from light pollution, particularly on the subject of street lights.

Area G director Tim Roberts represents the constituents of rural Keremeos, who collectively only pay for three street lights. Part of his choice to live there is so that he can appreciate the cosmos.

“That’s why we live in that kind of environment, that sense of awe, that ability to see what’s greater than us,” he said. “Staring into the heavens is an inspiring and humbling experience. It offers a sense for where we fit into it all.”

Even the southern stretch of Highway 97 is isolated enough to get a good view of the night sky, Roberts said.

Roberts, whose other job is a paramedic, can also appreciate the need for well-lit streets while driving an ambulance, particularly at intersections. Furthermore, stronger lighting can offer a sense of security in public. But he likes to see lighting concentrated in areas with more activity.

“Its greatest benefit is in the congested areas where you have pedestrians and traffic.”

In places where public lighting is necessary, Roberts said there are ways to reduce less light pollution, as newer LEDs can target specific spaces, timers can be set, and motion sensors can be installed.

“I like to minimize the amount of lighting (except) where you need it,” he said.

To find out how to install lighting that creates minimal pollution, visit the International Dark-Sky Association’s website.

READ MORE: A patch of Kelowna may be kept in the dark so you can still see the stars

Area D Director Ron Obirek, who represents OK Falls, said the vast majority of his constituents love the dark skies.

“On an average summer night, you look up and the sky is spectacular,” he said. “The Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, the planets – they all jump at you, it’s so breathtakingly beautiful. The air is so clean and sky is so dark. Most people love that.”

Some residents have expressed concern over the lack of lighting in OK Falls, however.

“They want the street lights because they came from Calgary and they’re very concerned about safety.”

Residents who want to see more lighting in the rural community are usually people who recently moved into town, Obirek said.

But when the issue has come up, he said most constituents have said they don’t want their taxes to increase to pay for street lights that will ruin the ambiance.

READ MORE: iN PHOTOS: Kamloops outdoor light exhibit brightens up dark nights

With summer winding down, longer and darker nights bring about more opportunities for astronomers and star gazers. And with a clearer window into space, local astronomers are inviting the public to look through one of their telescopes – the SkyLine 8-inch Dobsonian Reflector – today, Sept. 11. The public will have the chance to get a deeper look into the cosmos at Skaha Lake Park starting at 8 p.m.

“It will be just a few days past New Moon, which means the moon sets early,” said Trey V. Wenger, research associate at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. “This makes it a great time to stargaze because the bright moon makes it difficult to see faint objects in the sky. On Saturday we will definitely look at Saturn and Jupiter, and depending on attendance we might view the Pegasus Cluster, which is a close-packed group of hundreds of thousands of stars about 30 thousand light-years away.”

The event was planned by local astronomers, the City of Penticton and the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen with support from the Neighbourhood Small Grants.

“Their aim with this is to really engage the next generation of astronomers and star gazers,” said Adam Goodwin, social development specialist with the City of Penticton.

“There will be some pretty cool opportunities to see stars and hopefully some planets that the general public might not otherwise be able to see with the naked eye.”

The Town of Oliver.
The Town of Oliver.


Stars were shining through on a clear night in Keremeos.
Stars were shining through on a clear night in Keremeos.

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