Gazing up in awe at a sky full of twinkling stars and faraway planets is an experience quite unlike any other. Though we’re always surrounded by these celestial entities, they’re not always visible to us — especially if you’re a city dweller.
Getting away from the light pollution and travelling somewhere remote where you can marvel at the universe in all its glory is something that should be on everybody’s bucket list. With the forthcoming Jasper Dark Sky Festival, this might just be your opportunity to climb a little closer to the stars.
Taking place between October 15 and 25, the annual event invites guests to admire and celebrate the sheer beauty of our universe within the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserve. The stargazing extravaganza has something for everyone — whether you’re a space enthusiast or looking for a little family fun.
Here’s a look at some of the signature events you won’t want to miss.
First on the list is heading to pahkisimon (Cree for “sunset”) to catch the sunset. The celebration is free for all to attend (though attendance is limited to the 100 parking spots available on-site) and will unfold on the shores of Lake Annette, where a ceremonial tipi raising, teachings, hand-drumming, community Pow Wow drumming, and songs by Warrior Women will follow. Afterwards, attendees are invited to stick around and take in some of the best stargazing conditions in the area. You can reserve your parking pass for the event here.
Ever wondered why humans are so obsessed with the moon? Find out at the Lunacy Concert where science broadcaster Jay Ingram and the Beakerhead Band tell stories of a distant future where people live on the moon. The festival’s newest signature event will feature live music, an elaborate drone light show, and an Indigenous origin story about the skies, narrated by local Indigenous Knowledge Keeper Matricia Bauer. Attendance will also be limited for this event, so you’ll want to book free tickets soon.
At the Fireside Chat with Warrior Women, more Indigenous songs and stories will come to light from a local Knowledge Keeper. To the heartbeat of a drum, deeply personal stories and experiences of the land will be shared under the night sky.
Another must-see event, Symphony Under the Stars involves curling up with a cozy blanket and being carried away by the enchanting sounds of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Dinner under the stars
Food and stargazing pair together surprisingly well. At Cocktails and Constellations at Authentic restaurant, you can tour the galaxy alongside a complimentary cocktail and delicious three-course, constellation-inspired meal. Post-dinner, guests will be shepherded to a dark sky location via a 1930s-inspired ride for a full telescope experience guided by the Jasper Planetarium team.
A dinner and dark sky combo is also being served up at Pyramid Lake Resort for Dinner and Telescopes. Here, diners and stargazers will enjoy a three-course meal overlooking the shores of Pyramid Lake before being ushered outdoors to peer into some of the most powerful telescopes in the Rockies — with a little help from Jasper Planetarium guides.
Learn from the experts
Some of the greatest minds in the realm of astronomy will be rallying at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival as part of its speaker series. The ticketed events include a talk by Chief Engineer of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission Adam Steltzner and CEO of Delalune Space Rob Meyerson. The duo will be delving into some big topics: the future of humanity, what we can learn from our latest mission to Mars, the fate of space exploration, and more.
For breakfast with a side of space, guests are invited to attend a talk by CBC science columnist Torah Kachur who will be discussing the kaleidoscopic colours of the universe — and how they can help us understand the vast beyond.
Double up on morning learning sessions with Science for Breakfast with professor Hilding Neilson who will be hosting an enlightening talk on the practice of astronomy on the land we refer to as North America. Attendees will learn about Indigenous methods of science, the tradition of sky stories, the cultural implication of space exploration, and more.
Space for kids
Enjoy a hearty Sunday buffet brunch or one of the earlier mentioned talks while your kids learn about the universe during the Kids in Space Brunch. Breakfast cereal and space-themed movies will keep the kiddos preoccupied while you do some learning (or relaxing) of your own.
Telus World of Science and the Edmonton Rocketry Club have partnered to bring Science Everywhere to the festival. At the event’s Astronaut Training Program, you’ll have the opportunity to test your astronaut abilities in a multi-axis trainer and your Newtonian physics with vacuum cannons. Explosive stage shows, virtual reality daytime astronomy, and talks from former Discovery Channel host Anthony Morgan are just a few other things there are to look forward to.
For a full itinerary of stargazing activities and to book tickets to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, go to jasperdarksky.travel.