The Pic du Midi, an observatory at an ascent of 2,877 metres in the French Pyrenees, is a much sought after destination by those looking to soak up the views of the Milky Way. For this observatory in France’s first International Dark Sky Reserve benefits today from unadulterated dark skies, free of light pollution.
This exceptional star-gazing opportunity is thanks to the local French councils who are committed to reducing light pollution and returning the night sky to its purest form. In their quest to restore the night sky, they are upgrading the lighting over the 3,000m² area.
In the ski resort of La Mongie, the lighting had gone downhill badly. Old streetlights were bathing the slopes in an orange glow and obscuring the night sky. It was also affecting the astronomers working at the Pic du Midi observatory - 45% of the light pollution was coming from the ski station.
The council and the SDE 65, responsible for managing the public lighting wanted an energy-efficient lighting solution that would work well in snowy conditions and wouldn’t disrupt the scientists. They wanted to be able to adapt the lighting during the tourist seasons and according to climatic conditions and events taking place in the observatory.
They opted for a lighting solution incorporating a range of Schréder luminaires - Citea NG, Stylage and Ampera - fitted with LEDs with a colour temperature of 2,700K, which limits the blue light interfering with observations of the night sky.
All of the luminaires are controlled by the real-time Owlet IoT control system which means the lighting can be adjusted according to the ski season, weather and snow cover.
The new solution also cuts energy use by 40% (8,319 kW instead of 13,928 kW) with a higher light output. Thanks to the real-time management system, everyone can enjoy bright streets for the après-ski and starry nights from the observatory.
The new lighting has been highly praised by residents, astronomers and the local authorities. It has generated significant energy savings while considerably improving the quality of light in the village, increasing visibility, visual comfort and the perception of colours.
Astronomers at the Pic du Midi are delighted that the luminous halo coming from the ski resort has gone, enabling them and residents to marvel at the dark skies in this exceptional setting and maybe even spot the Northern Lights.
The new lighting has transformed the skyline so much that the project was awarded the prize of the Exemplary Lighting Trophy for public lighting in 2018 by the French Lighting Association (AFE).