In the Milky Way near us – News – Université de Sherbrooke

A simulation of what the view of the Milky Way over Sherbrooke might look like, from an original photograph by Johanne Roby and Rémi Boucher.
Photo: Supplied

Majestic, showers of shooting stars illuminate beautiful August nights every year. And soon it looks like he won’t be asking the moon to catch a show right in town. Observing the Milky Way and its splendors in the heart of Sherbrooke at night is now a task made possible by a multidisciplinary college and university research team by launching one of the very first nocturnal oases in the world in Mont-Bellevue Park, the star city.

In addition to allowing city dwellers to be at the forefront of the starry sky, the project aims to reduce light pollution in urban areas, thus protecting biodiversity and human health from its harmful effects.

The initiative is part of the project of the future university nature reserve in Mont-Bellevue Park, which wants to obtain a certificate City night sky locations of the International Dark Sky Association, and thus shine as an urban starry night spot.

Parc du Mont-Bellevue is home to a remarkable ecosystem and biodiversity that we want to protect by designating it a nature reserve and also by establishing a nocturnal integrity zone to combat the harmful effects of light pollution.

Professor Denyse Rémillard, assistant to the rector and vice-rector for administration and sustainable development at UdeS

Commissioned by the University of Sherbrooke and the City of Sherbrooke, owners of the Parc du Mont-Bellevue, the Cégep de Sherbrooke Light Pollution Research Group has been conducting interdisciplinary research since 2019 to obtain this accreditation.

An original research collaboration between a college and a university

The Milky Way, photographed from Mount Hood, Oregon.
The Milky Way, photographed from Mount Hood, Oregon.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

Students from the Cégep and the Université de Sherbrooke are at the heart of the light pollution research group’s projects related to the creation of the starry night oasis of Mont-Bellevue.

Field data collection, light mapping, ambient lighting control, development of lighting retrofit plans, establishment of a black corridor, awareness of businesses and residences around environmentally friendly lighting practices at night… all were involved in phases of various projects.

At the head of the light pollution research group, Martin Aubé and Johanne Roby, a physics teacher and a chemistry teacher, also working at UdeS as a docent and docent in the departments of applied geomatics and electrical engineering and computer technology, supervised the activities being carried out. out by students.

The two specialists, who are recognized for their expertise in the field of light pollution, but also in terms of innovation in education, have opted for formulas such as mentoring and project-based learning as part of this original approach.

This project is multidisciplinary and cross-level educational. Teams of undergraduates collaborate with undergraduates whom they act as mentors. Acquiring knowledge and skills requires contacts and exchange. It’s stimulating, on both sides.

Professor Jean-Pierre Perreault, vice-rector for research and postgraduate studies at UdeS

Alexandre Simoneau, a PhD student in remote sensing at UdeS, carried out work on mapping light pollution and modeling the impact of protective measures on sky quality.

In collaboration with university students, our research has made it possible to identify the areas of the city that contribute the most to light pollution on Mont Bellevue and therefore need to take priority measures to maximize the impact of the actions taken.

Alexandre Simoneau, doctoral student in the field of remote sensing of the Earth at UdeS

Nocturnal integrity, beneficial for biodiversity…

Light pollution is harmful to various species of wildlife that need darkness to move around. In this perspective, the research group wanted to create a black wildlife corridor between Mount Bellevue and the Magog River.

Artificial light at night affects biodiversity.  It has a negative effect mainly on the movements of many nocturnal or partial species.
Artificial light at night affects biodiversity. It has a negative effect mainly on the movements of many nocturnal or partial species.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

The aim of the black frame is to mitigate the effects of artificial light at night, which fragments natural habitats and prevents some nocturnal species from moving in search of food.

Johanne Roby, researcher at the Light Pollution Research Group

In order to ensure the movement of nocturnal animals from one territory to another, students in the integrative project course in the master’s study of the environment at UdeS put into practice their respective skills for the development of a terrestrial ecological corridor. In particular, the teams carried out a characterization of the wildlife species and their lifestyles, then based on the analysis of the territory, they proposed a corridor of darkness to be protected.

In addition to affecting the biological cycle of sensitive species, the presence of artificial light can compromise reproduction, seasonal migration and protection from predators. Certain lights containing different proportions of blue, green and red will affect certain species in particular, others less so. The ideal artificial light is one that does not exist.

Vincent Thériault, an environmental student who participated in the project

…and for human health!

In addition to having a harmful effect on biodiversity, exposure to artificial light at night can lead to disruption of the circadian cycle of living organisms and the risk of hormonal cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.

Using images from the International Space Station, Martin Aubé, together with students of applied geomatics and the university from UdeS, developed tools that make it possible to map the biological effects of artificial light on humans.

International Space Station photographs of light emitted into the sky provide an interesting starting point for assessing the melatonin suppression index that results from exposure to artificial light at night.

Martin Aubé, researcher of the light pollution research group

In light of the many harmful effects that light pollution has on living beings, we understand that with the new starry night oasis of Mont-Bellevue in Sherbrooke, there is much more to your eyes than just the stars. City dwellers, lovers of the night sky!

A launch event not to be missed

To mark the launch of Sherbrooke’s Mont-Bellevue Starry Night Oasis, an art, science and light pollution event for the university community will take place on September 2. In the Milky Way near you will offer a program combining science popularization activities and cultural tours. The host of the evening, Sherbrooke author Véronique Grenier, will also create an original literary work, as will the internationally recognized slammer LEM. Singer Vincent Vallières will also perform.

The event is organized by UdeS in collaboration with Cégep de Sherbrooke, Pôle régional en enseignement supérieur de l’Estrie (PRESE), Bishop’s University, the city of Sherbrooke and Signify (formerly known as Philips), a world leader in this field. lighting.

ABOUT project partners
The multidisciplinary project, Mont-Bellevue Starry Night Oasis, is led by Johanne Roby and Martin Aubé, physics teacher and chemistry teacher at Cégep de Sherbrooke, also affiliated to UdeS, as well as their students. Professor Norman T. O’Neill from the Department of Applied Geomatics of the UdeS Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Jean-François Comeau, then Deputy Director of the UdeS University Center for Environmental Education and Sustainable Development. The supervision of postgraduate students was also involved in the project. Professor Lorne Nelson from the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the Episcopal University and his students are also joining. Hydro-Sherbrooke, DH Éclairage and Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve are also involved in the starry night oasis of Mont-Bellevue. Signify also contributes to the project with its luminaires installed near Mont Bellevue in collaboration with Hydro-Sherbrooke and some real estate developers, especially in the Carré Belvédère, as well as the modernization of the light cross in 2021, including color, dimming and the level of illumination is regulated.

About the Regional Center for Higher Education in Estrie (PRESE)
The Mont-Bellevue Starry Night Oasis project relies on the support of the Estrie Regional Center for Higher Education (PRESE), which facilitates collaboration between the expertise of colleges and universities in the region. Université de Sherbrooke, Cégep de Sherbrooke and Bishop’s University joined forces and talents to make this project a success.

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