\The Dark Sky Preserve in Jasper provides a beautiful night sky to anyone who escapes the city's light and noise pollution.

\The Dark Sky Preserve in Jasper provides a beautiful night sky to anyone who escapes the city's light and noise pollution.

Cosmic extravagance only a dark night sky away

Dark Sky Preserves bring the Milky Way' galaxy to life

Many of the mysteries deep within the night sky can only be solved in vast areas of darkness, and achieving that evening darkness could soon be possible in Invermere.

To test the local interest, Rogier Gruys, a tourism specialist for Parks Canada in Jasper National Park, will be at David Thompson High School on Thursday, April 4th at 7:30 p.m. for a discussion on the value of dark skies and natural soundscapes. The event, titled “Looking and Listening: Dark Skies and Quiet Spaces”, will be hosted by Wildsight Invermere.

“We try to preserve naturally dark skies, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the lights have to be turned off,” Gruys told The Valley Echo. “Lights can point straight down so that they can be used to illuminate paths or the space that needs lighting — but not letting the light shine up into the sky.”

Gruys’ visit to Invermere will promote the idea that naturally dark skies are an important and valuable asset for any community — especially tourist-based.

“I’m going to talk a little about what a Dark Sky Preserve is, and how we in Jasper became a dark sky preserve,” said Gruys. “I’ll have a few examples of what people in Invermere can do, or even if there’s a dark sky organization willing to commence in that area. It doesn’t have to be in a  National Park. I’ll encourage people to see what they can do around Invermere.”

Working from Jasper, Gruys promotes dark skies in a very well-known preserve.

“We’re actually world leaders. We have more dark sky preserves in Canada than there are in all the rest of the world combined, and Jasper is the biggest in the world currently in terms of land mass,” he said.

Gruys aims to increase awareness of the natural aspects offered by the night sky.

“Children grow up in cities and they look up at the sky, and they may see the moon and one planet, but they may not know that there’s a whole Milky Way out there,” Gruys said. “Just to see a shooting star is magic for a kid, but they may never see that in a city.”

Onlookers will often find themselves “mesmerized” just looking at the sky on their backs, he said.

Jasper was officially recorded as the world’s largest dark sky preserve in March 2011, when the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada made the formal designation.

Every year dark sky preserves get added to the official list, but the biggest challenge to promote the preserves are funding and communal unity.

Co-ordinators have been known to make special efforts in the event of meteor showers, an eclipse, and cosmic rays.

Astronomers, star gazers and photographers alike can especially appreciate the collaborative effort of a dark night.

But the naked eye, or even basic binoculars, will allow anybody to greatly enjoy a dark sky preserve, Gruys said.

“Millions of stars will really play to the imagination of kids and adults alike,” he said.

Admission to Thursday’s presentation will be by donation.

For more information about the presentation, contact invermere@wildsight.ca.