Windsor

Astronomers eye Leamington council vote to turn down greenhouse lights

Star gazers are eyeing a Leamington town council decision on what to do about greenhouse lights.

Starr Livingstone gave presentations to both Kingsville, Leamington councils

Kingsville town council has voted on a bylaw that would limit light pollution created by individuals and corporations, but Leamington council is looking for resident feedback on the issue. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Star gazers are eyeing a Leamington town council decision on what to do about greenhouse lights.

Last week, Kingsville town council voted to move ahead with a bylaw to address light pollution, but neighbouring Leamington is taking more time to consult with the public.

"We have a observatory near Comber and light pollution is now destroying the ability to use that facility," said Starr Livingstone, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Windsor Centre. He gave a presentation to both councils about the effects of light pollution. 

"The Milky Way, for instance, from out there, you could see the band of light going across the sky ... Now, it's getting to the point where you can barely see the Milky Way from the observatory and that's happened in the last three years mostly," Livingstone told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre. 

Livingstone says the inability to see things through telescopes is to the detriment of individuals, families, and students who have never seen the Milky Way before. 

"I think it's important for people to know where they are in the universe and I think that seeing the stars and understanding some of that is important to us," he said. 

Livingstone showed council photos of the light pollution seen on a map. A comparison between 2012 to 2019 shows a significant increase in the amount of light given off by Essex County. 

This light pollution map shows the amount of light given off in the Essex County area in 2012. (lightpollutionmap.info)
This map shows the growth of light pollution in Essex County, mapped in 2019. (lightpollutionmap.info)

He also worries light pollution will affect bird and butterfly migration, harming tourism at Point Pelee National Park. 

Kingsville's bylaw has already come into effect, but town CEO John Norton says officers will have discretion to issue warnings.

The maximum penalty for an individual breaking the bylaw is $5,000 for a first offence and $10,000 for a subsequent offence. For corporations the maximum fines are $50,000 for a first offence and $100,000 for a subsequent offence.

Starr Livingstone took this photo of Mars at Point Pelee National Park. He says preserving dark skies around the park is important to species that migrate. (Submitted by Starr Livingstone)

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