Last person out, turn off the stars
I fell in love with the sky on my vacation. More accurately, I fell in love with astronomy.
We all love the stars and the moon, but what is happening in the universe is beyond amazing.
If you want to see the stars, really see them, you need to go where light is minimal, where there is 'dark sky.' Gorgeous Canada is home to more than 17 officially designated Dark Sky Preserves.
Located just four hours from Edmonton and less than five hours from Calgary you will find Jasper National Park, home to the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival and the world’s second-largest, most accessible dark-sky preserve. By day, Jasper is a thriving oasis for wildlife, boasting unblemished scenery that is hard to rival. By night, Jasper is a stargazer’s paradise where dark sky and bright stars abound.
During the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, visitors can expect an array of activities and events. This annual gathering brings pro and amateur astronomers together underneath the dark skies of Jasper where they come to marvel at nature’s sky-high masterpiece and share their love of the stars. Events at last year’s Jasper Dark Sky Festival included a Space Cadet Fair just for kids, a night-sky tour around Pyramid Island, a Starlight Adventure, Dinner with the Stars, numerous astronomy talks from the best in the business, professional night-sky photography lessons and more.
Jasper offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world and throughout the festival, professional stargazers are on hand to help visitors scope out prime viewing spots. And for those wishing to dig a little deeper into the night sky, festival-goers were invited to make a trip out to Lake Annette to see the stars through a deep-sky telescope. The hottest nightlife in town is easy to access – all you have to do is look up. Last year, Daily Planet’s Jay Ingram, “comet sleuth” David Levy, and resident “Sky Guy” Peter McMahon were just a few of the professionals lending their expertise.
This year Chris Hadfield, Canada’s first astronaut to walk in space, will headline the event. Having spent time up close and personal among the many stars and planets that will be visible during the festival, Hadfield offers a breadth of knowledge on all things astronomy. You will find Hadfield and many other all-star astronomers during this year’s festival taking place Oct. 17-26. For more information on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, visit jasperdarkskyfest.com.
Don’t let this seemingly small town fool you. While Jasper may only be home to 5,000 residents, you will still find amenities of much larger cities located here. Take, for instance, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. For those seeking outdoor adventure or perhaps a slower, more peaceful pace, this is the destination for you. With more than 400 rooms situated on 700 acres, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge can be found perched on the shores of Lac Beauvert in the heart of Jasper National Park. This luxurious lodge is so in sync with the wilderness that surrounds it that it is not uncommon to spot elk wandering the property. Amenities include a world-class golf course, one of the best spas in Canada, top-notch dining and, of course, breathtaking views. To learn more, visit fairmont.com/jasper.
Jasper has it all. Visitors to Jasper for the Dark Sky Festival will have their hands full with all of the options for adventure and sight-seeing they will find here. When you aren’t busy casting your gaze on the night stars, take a minute to explore your surroundings.
Travel the Icefields Parkway to Banff National Park. Feast your eyes on some of the most pristine landscape you have ever seen. Drive past mountain lakes, snowy peaks, ancient glaciers and lush valleys. The Icefields Parkway stretches through the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site through Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. You will find more than 140 miles of stunning scenery. This drive of a lifetime is one you won’t regret. It’s more than just a scenic highway – it’s a true testament to the grandeur of the wilderness and the awe of nature.
Witness the wilderness and wildlife of Jasper as you set out on a Sun Dog wildlife tour. Occupying the largest inhabitable valley in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is one of the best places to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Tour-goers can expect to see bear, elk, wolves, moose and more. This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss. To learn more, visit sundogtours.com.
For adventurers looking for something a little more off the beaten path, various day trips are available. Venture out to one of the area’s pristine, turquoise lakes like Pyramid and Patricia Lake. Fishing, boating, hiking and picnicking are all popular at Pyramid and Patricia Lake. Located less than five miles from Jasper you will find these two lakes glistening in the sun just waiting for your arrival. Or, for something a little more adventurous, make your way to Maligne Canyon – one of the most remarkable gorges in all of the Canadian Rockies. Set out on the trail spanning six bridges and catch the spray from the mighty Maligne River as it comes roaring through the gorge.
December 21 marks winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and in Alberta, Canada there are nearly 16 and a half hours of darkness. What a perfect way to spend these long nights but to stargaze in the wide-open wilderness. Jasper National Park is one of two Dark Sky Preserves located in Alberta which is also a prime location to watch the northern lights.
Recently, night sky photographer Jack Fusco captured more than 2,000 breathtaking photos from around Jasper National Park in Canada’s Rocky Mountains and created this time-lapse video. youtube.com/watch?v=grAz87CdefI
For more info on star gazing in Alberta, please visit - http://ow.ly/rARBz
Locations featured in this video: Lake Annette, Pyramid Lake, Maligne Lake and Athabasca Glacier.
Gear used: Nikon D800E | Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 | Feisol Tripods | Dynamic Perception Stage One