A stratospheric balloon to study light pollution

Cégep de Sherbrooke professor Martin Aubé and four of his students will launch a balloon in the stratosphere to collect data on light pollution and its impact on health. The launch will take place in Timmins, Ontario between August 21st and 26th.
The project is part of a stratospheric balloon program led by the Canadian and French Space Agencies (CSA) and (CNES).

Named HABLAN for High Altitude Light Balloon at Night Experiment, it is developed in collaboration with the University of Western Hungary. The balloon is 200 meters in diameter and is equipped with two digital cameras; it will be launched 36 km above the ground to take different images of artificial light from the sky.

In particular, the experiment will focus on two parameters: the color of the light and how the light escapes. “We want to draw other information too, it is still the field of hope,” says Martin Aubé.

Photographic snapshots will gather essential data to determine the level of artificial light that enters homes and eventually to assess its impact on people’s health, especially with regard to prostate cancer cases.

Project data will be used to feed Professor Aubé’s research. “In addition to looking for unique variables, it’s a unique experience, it’s unexpected; there are many things that have been studied only theoretically. ”

The launch will take place in Timmins as launch sites of this genre are scarce; the location was chosen in particular for security reasons.

The balloon could be thrown somewhere between August 21st and 26th, depending on weather conditions.

The project will be presented at the Cégep de Sherbrooke next Monday, during the school year. Mr. Aubé and his students will hold a booth, where visitors will be able to see the device that will be launched. Students will have the chance to practice what they learned in class as part of a real-life experience.

“Through this experience, I can better understand the reality and importance of certain physical concepts. I very much hope that our results will make it easier to determine the properties of streetlights, which are the main cause of light pollution. This phenomenon particularly affects us researchers because it prevents us from fully observing the starry sky, which has the effect of slowing down scientific progress, “said Vincent Jordan, a student at the Cégep de Sherbrooke participating in the project. It should also be remembered that the impact of light pollution on human health is of increasing interest to the scientific community, which is interested in its impact on the development of hormonal cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Two years ago, Mr. Aubé and his students had also launched a stratospheric balloon to gather scientific data, but the objectives were different.

In addition, the work that will lead to the creation of a starry sky reserve in connection with the project of Mont-Bellevue Nature Reserve, will start next week, says Mr. Aubé. The Tribune reported on this project last spring, which aims to restore the Milky Way to citizens in the middle of the city.

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