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Killarney's New Dark Sky Preserve Will Show You the Galaxy Like Never Before

Take in the Northern Lights, meteor showers, planets, and more just outside of the city!

You don’t have to be a professional astronomer to go stargazing in Northeastern Ontario's Killarney Provincial Park, but a new Dark Sky Preserve, upgraded Park Observatory, and expert astronomy guides sure do help.

What Is a Dark Sky Preserve?

Killarney’s new Dark Sky Preserve is a Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) designated area where visitors can observe the celestial landscape with luminous visibility. With a telescope or the naked eye, visitors can marvel at brilliant Northern Lights, meteor showers, planets, the Milky Way, and stars with tremendous detail and clarity.

Along with the new Dark Sky Preserve status, Killarney is ramping up its astronomy programs to connect visitors to the celestial galaxies above. 

This year, Killarney Provincial Park is upgrading its public observatory to allow more people to view deep sky features like star clusters, meteor showers, the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus, the spectacular craters on the moon, and much more. An expert team of Astronomers-in-Residence will be on hand to help deliver exciting new programming designed to engage more park visitors with the celestial landscape.


This is just how dark it is—perfect conditions for night sky viewing!
Photo provided by Gordon's Park.

The Park currently offers formal interpretive programs throughout the summer months and informal drop in sessions with some of its volunteers and staff. Park Superintendant Jeremy Pawson is particularly proud of the new Dark Sky Preserve Designation:

“This year we’re providing new and exciting educational opportunities for our visitors. We’re adding an upgraded observatory complete with a research grade viewing tube and secondary equipment that will greatly enhance our visitors' experience and overall program quality.  We are ramping up our self-guided telescope use program where visitors can sign a telescope out for their own private use. Our astronomy programs are geared towards visitors of all knowledge and skill levels, and visitors are encouraged to bring along their own equipment if they have any.”

Star Party & Science North Partnership

To celebrate the new Dark Sky Preserve, Killarney Provincial Park is hosting their first official Star Party on September 22. A new “Stars Over Killarney” event sponsored by Science North, is also in the works.

Visitors to Science North will be bussed out to Killarney Provincial Park to enjoy an afternoon at the Park and then a night of astronomy including learning First Nations constellations, a planet walk (scale model of the solar system) done at night from the amphitheatre to the Observatory, and a night of observing at the telescope.

More special programs will be added for events such as a solar eclipse.

Building a Dark Sky Preserve

According to Park Superintendant Jeremy Pawson, earning this coveted designation took two years. To secure and maintain RASC Dark Sky Preserve designation, the Park adheres to active measures designed to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution.

Bruce Waters, one of Killarney Park’s Astronomers-in-Residence, volunteered his time to help establish the Dark Sky Preserve. His passion for astronomy is clear:

“Being able to go to Dark Sky sites and see those same stars that our ancestors saw, without being affected by lights and modern distractions, allows us to connect with nature in a unique and special way. The spectacular Milky Way and the dust lanes that run throughout, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), for which the visibility is highly affected by light pollution, and meteor showers are best seen in Dark Skies.”

A viewing telescope. Photo provided by Gordon's Park.

Out-of-this-world views and stunning photographs aren’t the only benefits that Dark Sky Preserves offer. According to Waters:

“Protecting our night skies not only improves our health as a society, but saves tremendous energy by focusing more light downwards. Any place that preserves its darkness also preserves its flora and fauna for future generations by inhibiting the growth of activities that can otherwise negatively impact the environment.”

If you’re planning a visit to Killarney, you can connect with the Park’s Interpretive staff when you arrive. They will be armed with knowledge of current viewing conditions and astronomy program scheduling.

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For updates on Killarney’s Astronomy Programs, check the website and follow Killarney Provincial Park on Twitter.

About Emily Baillie

Emily is a travel writer hailing from rural Ontario. After travelling to over 25 countries worldwide she is on a mission to inspire people to get off the beaten path and explore destinations both near and far. She works with travel brands and new media publications to inspire meaningful travel. 

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