THINGS TO DO:
Northern Lights & Dark Sky
In my mind's eye, I can see the hungry people and hear the howl of the winter wind. Suddenly, a pack of wolves appears. I watch as they teach the tribe how to work together, how to hunt and what to eat. Come spring, the tribe will be strong and the wolves will be gone, but I will still see them working together - high overhead in the night sky, along the Wolf Trail.
I am deeply moved by the aboriginal legend of what we call the Milky Way. Gazing upward, it seems like the centre of our galaxy is rising straight up from the Athabasca Glacier. Deep in the heart of the world's second largest dark sky preserve - Jasper National Park - I pull my coat a little closer and resume my stargazing. Look! There's the Hunter and, there, the Seven Sisters!
Leave the City Behind
Under the ambient glow of city light, it's impossible to see more than a few hundred stars. Not so in a dark sky preserve free from artificial light where star systems wheel freely across the night sky and modern civilization seems but a dream.
It's late August in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and the Summer Star Party is in full swing. We leave the group to lay down in the meadow, looking for familiar constellations, just like we did as kids. This place has the highest elevation in the country east of the Rockies and the night skies are spectacular.
In September, we'll take our families and join the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) in the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve to peer through telescopes at galaxies millions of light years away. Soon Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park will have received its RASC dark sky designation and we can take a trip down there. Wood Buffalo National Park has its designation now, eclipsing Jasper as the world's largest.
The Sky's the Limit
We've decided to join the Calgary chapter of the RASC for monthly meetings and star parties. Their big one is in early September near Drumheller. And there are lots of open houses throughout the year at University of Calgary's Rothney Observatory near Priddis. The kids are already in love with the planetarium/digital dome at Telus Spark, Calgary's science centre. When we head up to Edmonton, we'll visit the University of Alberta's campus observatory and the Telus World of Science, too.
To learn more about all things astronomical, check out the resources page on the RASC website.