Fascination with the night sky can be found throughout human history, and at some point, we all stare up at the stars in wonder. Dark Sky Preserves, such as Jasper National Park, are created to ensure each generation can gaze at the stars.
Dark Sky Preserves are areas designated to protect nocturnal wildlife habitats and quality night sky viewing. Currently, there are only 17 dark sky preserves in Canada. In February 2011, Jasper National Park was officially designated a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. At 11,228 km2, it was the largest preserve in the world until August 2013, when Wood Buffalo National Park received its designation. However, Jasper National Park is still the most accessible Dark Sky Preserve and is visited annually by thousands who hope to gaze in wonder at the skies.
97% of Jasper National Park’s 11,228 km2 is a designated wilderness area and therefore free of light pollution. There are roads and multiple trails that provide easy access to excellent year-round star-gazing sites, as many of the valleys in Jasper National Park are broad and u-shaped, providing incredible views of the night sky. Even in the town of Jasper, there is strong dedication to keeping light pollution at a minimum, so amazing star-gazing opportunities are abundant! Jasper National Park is one of the only areas in southwestern Canada with such exceptional darkness, but still accessible year-round and hosting multiple accommodation facilities, making Jasper National Park one of the most popular Dark Sky Preserves world-wide.
Every October, the town of Jasper hosts the annual Dark Sky Festival to celebrate the night sky. With the reduced daylight hours, October is the perfect time to stargaze. This year, it is Oct 16 – 25 2015. The Dark Sky Festival is an ever growing celebration aimed at connecting all ages to our universe, and beyond. There are many different events to enjoy, most of them free, although the main events do have a small cost.
*Photos courtesy of Tourism Jasper (Jeff Bartlett).