Lennox and Addington County’s star attraction, the pristine views offered from the Dark Sky Viewing Area, figures to be quite the draw once again this season.
L&A County will host its first formal event of the year at the DSVA on May 11 and 12 with expert astrophotographer Joe Gilker.
“We’re going to have a laser guided tour that’s going to go through the spring zodiac constellations and other prominent spring constellations,” said Gilker, who returns for another year of star gazing tours. “After that we’ll be doing the telescope tour. We’ll be going through the Beehive Cluster, probably the Hercules Cluster. I like that one in particular because it’s very easy to see and it’s always nice to see a big tight ball of 300,000 stars in the sky.”
Mid May will also be a good time to view Jupiter. This will be a somewhat rare occurrence as unlike the constellations, planets aren’t seasonal, meaning they don’t appear in the same spot in the sky every year.
“Last year (Jupiter) was just starting to set so as we were setting up, Jupiter was going down,” said Gilker. “So I pointed quickly and a few people would get a peak but by the time the presentation started it was gone.”
Around midnight the Milky Way will also be in a prime viewing location.
Next Friday’s kick off is just the start what projects to be a great stargazing season, with telescope tours planned at the DSVA throughout the summer.
“Later this summer Mars is going to be making an appearance,” said Gilker. “It’s very visible, very easy to see, nice and red. We got some nice views of it last summer because it was right in the Milky Way but it’s going to be really good this summer because we’re coming close to its approach. It’s apparent size I think is going to be its largest since the early 2000s. We should get pretty good views of it.”
When it comes stargazing, Gilker is well-versed. His blog, Dark Arts Astrophotography, (http://darkartsastro.ca) chronicles his experience as an astrophotographer and provides tutorials and reviews geared at novices. Several of his articles, reviews and photos have been published in Amateur Astrophotography Magazine, a UK-based publication. His photos have also been published in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s journal, and the upcoming book 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario. In 2015, he submitted the winning entry in the Lennox and Addington County Shoot The Stars Night Sky Photography contest.
While the DSVA is well protected from artificial light pollution, it is still at the mercy of Mother Nature and the event will only go ahead as planned if the night is mostly clear of cloud coverage. That was a problem last year, as several events had to be cancelled due to lack of visibility. As always, anyone interested in attending an event is encouraged to check www.DarkSkyViewing.com before heading out to the DSVA for the latest forecast. They’re also encouraged to dress warmly, bring bug spray, a lawn chair and binoculars.
Along with the telescope viewing events, L&A County will also be hosting a monthly event known as Astrophotographers Assemble, the first of which scheduled for May 19 at 9:30 p.m. Photographers of all skill levels are encouraged to attend and share tips and ideas for photographing the night sky. All events are free of charge.
The DSVA is located at 7980 County Rd 41, about 37 KM north of Napanee. It is renowned across the province for offering some of the best views in of the night sky, untouched by ambient light. The site includes a large concrete pad for camera or telescope setup, or placement of lawn chairs for general stargazing.