The Jasper Dark Sky Festival: Stargazing in the Canadian Rockies

The town of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies is one of the best places for stargazing in North America, thanks to its pristine dark skies. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is an annual celebration of the night sky and astronomy that takes place every October.

Jasper National Park has strict lighting ordinances that help minimize light pollution, allowing for exceptionally dark night skies. The mountain town of Jasper is situated in a broad valley, surrounded by towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies. This geographic position shelters the town from most outside light sources, creating near-perfect conditions for stargazing and astrophotography.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival runs for 10 days every October and features a range of daytime and nighttime events. By day, attendees can attend presentations, exhibitions and workshops on topics like astrophotography, astronomy and light pollution. At night, the festival hosts stargazing events where people can view the night sky through powerful telescopes with the help of knowledgeable astronomers and astrophysicists.

Some of the most popular events at the festival include the keynote talks by special guests like astronauts, scientists and astrophotographers. Past speakers have included Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA scientist Kevin Schindler and landscape astrophotographer Alan Dyer. The festival also hosts an “Exploring the Night Sky” workshop, where participants learn how to set up a telescope, read star charts, spot constellations and even capture night sky images.

Of course, the main attraction of the festival is stargazing under the park’s famously dark skies. The festival sets up high-powered telescopes in scenic locations just outside of town where astronomers help guide visitors in observing celestial wonders like distant galaxies, nebulae, star clusters and planets. With Jasper’s high altitude and clear mountain air, the Milky Way is often clearly visible to the naked eye, stretching from horizon to horizon in a cloud of stars and cosmic dust.

Whether you’re an avid astronomer or simply looking to experience the wonders of a dark sky, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival is a must-see event. Nestled in the stunning Canadian Rockies, the festival offers a perfect combination of education and inspiration under some of the most pristine night skies in the world. An autumn visit to experience the peace and grandeur of Jasper’s dark sky is sure to inspire a sense of wonder and make you appreciate our place in the universe.

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