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Hoping to see the Aurora Borealis during your visit to Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka, Parry Sound or Loring-Restoule? The website Spaceweather.com provides anyone interested in stargazing with news and predictions concerning aurora, planets, meteor showers, comet viewing and eclipses – you name it. It was through an “aurora alert” on this handy website that my wife and I were able to head out to Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park this past March to capture the spectacular show as Aurora danced across the sky for about 45 minutes, and then slowly faded away.
Scenes like this play out year-round in the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto, far from lighted skies of urban centres. The Milky Way, our very own galaxy and home to billions of other suns and worlds, glows brightly overhead, a river of stars and galactic dust. You have to see it to believe it. Bright meteors streak across the sky, occasional displays of Aurora can be seen, and this year in particular, comets are visible.
One of these fleeting apparitions has already come and gone (comet PanSTARRS), but a new one is on course to brighten and become visible in the fall (comet ISON). There are predictions that Comet ISON could be the brightest seen in 100 years or more! Time will tell. But when it becomes visible in autumn, it certainly will be best-viewed from dark skies, like those in Algonquin Park, the Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka, Parry Sound and Loring-Restoule.
There are many great locations to observe the skies when you’re visiting the region, and there are many star parties to check out. Star parties are get-togethers of amateur astronomers who bring telescopes of all kinds, binoculars, photography equipment or just the naked eye to a location far from city lights, such as a provincial park or a Dark Sky Preserve.
Here are some links that may be of interest, including observing sites and events to enjoy with friends and family – and just a couple hours drive from Toronto.
The Annual Algonquin Adventure Star Party Sept 5-8, 2013
Gravenhurst Muskoka Family Star Party Oct 4-5, 2013
The Algonquin Radio Observatory has two star parties, July 11-14 and Aug 8-11, 2013
Star charts and satellite predictions: Witness a flyover of the International Space Station
MewLake and Lake of Two Rivers campgrounds (from the beaches) are great locations in AlgonquinPark.
As a child, I was raised in Bala, Ontario. I recall seeing my first “falling Star” from Camp Pinecrest near Torrance, Ontario. Inspired by what I saw as a child, I went on to discover that astronomy and photography are my passions. These hobbies have taken me around the world to witness and photograph eclipses and to run my astronomy club the NYAA and our annual Star Party called Starfest.
Guest Blogger: Malcolm Park
By day, Malcolm works for a Canadian bank, but on his own time he explores his passion for astronomy and photography. He has had pictures published in magazines and online including the NASA website the Astronomy Picture of the Day (also known as APOD).
His prime focus in photography is astronomy and nature, and he is the lead organizer of Canada’s largest star-party and amateur astronomy conference, Starfest. Malcolm is a fan of stargazing in Algonquin Park.
All photos courtesy of Malcolm Park