Ottawa

Student studies light pollution in Ottawa skies

A Grade 8 student has spent months driving around Ottawa at night to measure levels of light pollution in the city.

A Grade 8 student has spent months driving around Ottawa at night to measure levels of light pollution in the city. 

Stacy Glasberg, 13, started to document light levels in the city as part of a science fair project at her school called "The Dark Side of Light." Each night she drives around Ottawa with her father, aiming a sky quality meter borrowed from the Royal Astronomical Society at buildings that fog the night sky around them in light.

Glasberg has charted her results — light intensity is measured in lux figures — and hopes to present her research to Ottawa's city council to raise awareness about excessive artificial light.

"It's not a very talked about type of pollution," Glasberg said, adding people think of pollution mostly in terms of garbage and oil spills.

Light pollution, she said, "doesn't harm the world as much as it harms the humans and the animals and insects."

Biologists have long complained about light pollution's effect on migratory birds, and some studies have been launched into the effects of constant light on human sleep cycles.

And for the public, light pollution robs the view of a starry night sky.

Astronomical society hopes to expand study

Glasberg's results have been so impressive that the Royal Astronomical Society is hoping to expand studies like hers across Canada.

"I thought 'this is great, nobody's done this before — not to this degree,'" said Robert Dick, who runs the society's light pollution program.

"Because light pollution is so new there isn't much data on it. And it's really grassroots data like the stuff Stacy got that's what you use to design or develop a lighting policy for a city."

Glasberg said she hopes her research will eventually lead the city to pass legislation to clean up some of Ottawa's most luminous areas.