Earth Hour helps astronomers connect with the stars

A tall, white-bearded man dressed in a wool toque and big sweater waves his arms around while describing the tales of Greek gods and their adventures as they play out in Toronto’s night sky.

Although the clouds block the view, it doesn’t stop Guy Nason from getting the word out about the planets and stars.

“It is an opportunity to talk about light pollution,” Nason said. “It is at the heart of all astronomy, especially urban astronomy.”

Two thousand people gathered at the Ontario Science Centre to help celebrate the third annual Earth Hour on Mar. 27.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) participated in the event. For Nason, a member of RASC for 25 years, the event was a chance to plant the seed of interest and to get the word out about one of the biggest issues for astronomers today.

He says it’s necessary to drive an hour from Toronto before reaching a dark enough sky for proper viewing

According the Nason, Torontonians have not been able to see the Milky Way, the galaxy containing the Earth and the sun, since the 1980s. He suggested that light pollution has become an even larger problem for society.

“We are disconnecting from our heritage and in Toronto especially,” Nason said.

He said humankind’s ancestors lived by the stars through things such as navigation, cultural storytelling and spiritual worship.

“So when we lose the stars, we lose that connection with our histories, all of our histories,” he said.

Sara Poirier agreed. She’s the astronomy expert at the Science Centre

“Two-thirds of the world has never seen the aura borealis,” Poirier said.

Also known as the northern lights, the aura borealis requires a fairly dark sky for viewing, Poirier said. Its waves of colour dance across the night sky and have become an integral part of Canada’s folklore, especially among indigenous cultures.

Earth Hour activities took place across the GTA between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. EDT