The Champ du Feu : a gem for observing the night sky in Alsace
The Champ du Feu is one of the best astronomy observation sites in Northeast France, attracting astronomers not only from the Alsace region (Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin departments) but also from Lorraine, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands.
This highland site offers numerous advantages.
First of all, remember that the plain in Alsace is becoming less and less conducive to observation. In the plain and particularly around the towns, only the brightest planets are still visible (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and the same goes for the stars, which are disappearing at an alarming rate. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, can only be spotted here on rare occasions now.
The Champ du Feu is relatively isolated from the plain, and it is still possible to see hundreds and even thousands of stars with the naked eye. Unlike the plain, we can still observe what is known as the “deep sky” from here. Many galaxies, nebula, etc. can be admired through a telescope.
In addition to the quality of the sky, the other advantages of the Champ du Feu site are the following:
ü Proximity to Strasbourg, making deep sky observation accessible with only a 50 minute car journey;
ü Totally clear 360° horizon (a rare occurrence in the Vosges mountains, made possible by the plateau topography and the cord grass vegetation);
ü The stability of the soil, which is important for precise positioning of the telescope and for astrophotography,
ü A good car park large enough for the astronomers who go there as well as the general public (who come regularly from the plain out of curiosity to observe the objects in the sky with us);
ü Given the altitude (almost 1100 metres), there is the possibility of taking advantage of what we call a temperature gradient inversion (sea of clouds effect), which, when the conditions are right, can totally block the light pollution coming from the plain,
ü This same temperature gradient inversion makes it possible to observe a perfectly starry sky, while the plain is covered with fog or low-lying cloud.
These advantages make the Champ du Feu quite unique.
This site is known all over France in the community of astronomers. In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, the National IYA2009 committee ranked the Champ du Feu the best astronomy observation site open to the public in the whole of France. It was recently mentioned in a television programme (broadcast by a national public channel on 18 February 2015) as a “Mecca for astronomy” which is an example of this recognition.
Astronomy has always been practiced on the Champ du Feu. The Alsace environment agency’s objectives document drawn up in September 2012 as part of the management of the nearby natural protected area, reminds us of the importance of this site for astronomers.
The Champ du Feu site is a gem for observing the night sky in Alsace, and should also be protected in this respect.
Watch this video about Champ du Feu :