Thinking of doing some stargazing this summer?
With many Canadians getting set to drive out of the city and into the wilderness, the Canadian Space Agency has recently released a list of the best spots across the country to get an unobstructed view of the stars. Most of them are isolated locations in parks and reserves, shielded from light pollution and ideally situated at higher altitudes.
Some of the CSA’s chosen spots are better than others, however, if you’re really serious about astronomy. Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park, for example, is the darkest dark-sky preserve in Canada and considered one of the most ideal stargazing locations in the country.
“Visitors can marvel at the Milky Way, constellations and other astronomical phenomena that are very difficult to see near urban areas,” the CSA says of the park. “Its vast prairies are perfect for contemplating the starry horizon.”
While Grasslands might be the darkest, Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories takes the prize for the biggest dark-sky preserve — not just in Canada, but anywhere in the world. Also observable in the night sky, there are huge populations of owls and night-hawks. And from August 23-26, you can join other stargazers for the annual Dark Sky Festival.
Yet another chosen location is Quebec’s Mont-Mégantic, which offers the bonus of an observatory right on site. If you happen to be in the region this weekend — or during the weekends of July 12-14 and July 19-21 — the public will have a rare opportunity to access the observatory in the evenings.
For the very adventurous, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Torngat Mountains National Park is the perfect destination, but be prepared to work for the view. The park is only accessible by boat or charter plane, and the skies will only get dark for a few short hours during the summer months.
“The scenery is worth the extra effort,” the CSA notes. “Inuit culture, astronomy and captivating landscapes collide for an unforgettable excursion.”
WATCH: Astronomy student launches stargazing book for kids
Curious what you might spot in the heavens above? The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada provides helpful weekly updates on what’s happening in the night sky.
Here are a few extra tips for people who want to get an unobstructed, memorable view:
- Stay bundled up. There’s nothing worse than having your stargazing interrupted because you need to dash back to the warmth of a campfire or cottage. Blankets and even warm drinks can keep you toasty on cool summer nights.
- Wait until the sun is well and truly set and astronomical twilight or full night has started. The further north you go right now, the longer the days, so check local sunrise/sunset times.
- Check the weather in advance. Cloudy nights are obviously not ideal for stargazing. Consult satellite images and other information provided by Environment Canada for local forecasts.
- If you really want to focus on the stars, plan to head out during a crescent or new moon. The moon’s brightness can be enough to obscure fainter stars or other stellar objects.