There is no better place to see the stars or the dancing colours of the northern lights than Canada’s Rocky Mountain playground. Stargazing is a free and truly memorable experience unlike any other that is sure to enhance your vacation!
Canmore and Banff are a stargazer’s paradise, since there is very little light pollution. The stars appear as though you could reach out and touch them and on clear nights the Milky Way galaxy can be seen as a hazy band of white light arcing across the night sky.
Just a short distance outside of the town on a clear night, one can see a whole ‘new’ sky. A few great summer star gazing locations are Tunnel Mountain Meadows, Lake Minnewanka, Vermilion Lakes or the Banff recreation grounds. If you’ve always lived in a city your kids won’t believe their eyes when they discover stars in the Rocky Mountain skies.
While stargazing you will also have a chance to hear the night calls of the wild. Owls hooting, wolves howling, and elk bugle are just a few of the incredible sounds of the dark you might hear.
And while you are more likely to see one of nature’s most incredible phenomena - the Aurora Borealis - in winter, you just might be lucky enough to witness it when stargazing this summer, too. It can be difficult to predict when the northern lights will dance across the sky, but there are a few key factors to follow: the darker the better, and cold and clear are best for viewing the Aurora.
Some key dates for celestial events this summer:
August 11, 12 - Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak.
August 21 - Full Moon
August 27 - Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
September 5 - New Moon. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
September 8 - Conjunction of the Moon and Venus. Look for both objects low in the western sky in the early evening. The pair will be visible in the evening sky for about 2 hours after sunset.
September 8 - Conjunction of the Venus and Saturn. Look for both objects low in the western sky in the early evening. The pair will be visible in the evening sky for about 2 hours after sunset.
For more information, visit www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2013.html