Look at the stars: Gros Morne gunning for dark sky designation

Gros Morne could soon be joining nine other national parks across Canada by getting a special designation to help with stargazing and astronomy.

‘When I returned to Gros Morne three years ago, I was just blown away by the beauty of the night sky.’
– Carla Wheaton, Gros Morne National Park

It’s called a dark sky preserve, and it’s a special designation determined by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Carla Wheaton, visitor experience manager with Parks Canada, said Gros Morne is in consultation with the society to determine if and how the park would qualify for status.

In order for an area to be deemed a dark sky preserve, it has to adhere to rules surrounding minimal lighting so that people can observe constellations and meteor showers in the night sky.

Some of the lighting measures include using LEDs where possible, installing yellow lights instead of brighter, white lights, and using lamp shades to direct light to the ground rather than upwards.

“You take the beauty of the night sky for granted,” said Wheaton.

“I spent most of my adult life in larger urban centres, and when I returned to Gros Morne about three years ago I was just blown away by the beauty of the night sky.”

Gros Morne National Park

Park staff want to preserve areas like this one in Gros Morne National Park as a place to clearly experience the night sky. (Submitted Lillian Patey)

Nine national parks in Canada currently have dark sky preserves, though the society has yet to designate one in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Gauging interest

Wheaton said it’s unlikely that a dark sky preserve would cover the entirety of Gros Morne National Park, but staff are speaking with nearby communities to gauge interest in being included. 

“If adjacent communities are interested in adopting those same measures, they can make the preserve larger.”

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