Milky Way, Saturn on display this weekend at Dark Sky Viewing Area

Lennox and Addington's Dark Sky Viewing Area, located on County Rd 41 in Erinsville, has been a popular spot for stargazing this summer. Photo by Tim Trentadue.

Desiree DeCoste
Beaver Staff

The most southerly dark sky site in Ontario, located 37 km north of Napanee at the Lennox & Addington County Dark Sky Viewing Area will be continuing ‘The Milky Way Stargazing Tour’ season (weather depending) Friday and Saturday.

The night sky experience is very similar to what was available more than 100 years ago, with each event beginning roughly an hour after dusk and lasting approximately 90 minutes.

Admission is free for everyone to come observe the natural wonder of the stars.

If the sky is mostly clear of clouds guests get a laser-guided tour of the night sky by Joe Gilker from Dark Arts Astrophotography and will have the opportunity to take a look through a telescope at various objects.

When it comes to the history of The Milky Way Stargazing Tour, it’s best said on the Dark Sky Viewing Area Facebook page. In 2010 a county resident was making regular trips from his Yarker home north to Pembroke, using County Rd 41 for his commute. He couldn’t help but notice that the view of the sky was spectacular and often pulled off the highway to take night sky photos at an easily accessible location between Erinsvillle and Kaladar.

After looking at a light pollution map he determined the roadside spot where he was stopping was the most southerly spot in Ontario with an unimpeded view of the night sky.

This gentleman was none other than Terence Dickenson, an accomplished stargazing author and longtime editor of SkyNews Magazine.

He told his story to the folks in the Lennox & Addington Economic Development Office and they saw it as a great tourism opportunity and immediately got to work on constructing what is now known as the Lennox & Addington County Dark Sky Viewing Area.

The site has been an overwhelming success since opening in August 2012 and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

To get the most out of your viewing experience, consider these options when deciding to go to a Milky Way Stargazing Tour event:

Choose an evening following a day with deep blue skies for ideal conditions at the L&A County Dark Sky Viewing Area, blue skies indicate low humidity and clear air.

For dark sky viewing with lots of stars and views of the Milky Way, choose a moonless or close to moonless night.

Bring binoculars or a telescope. though they’re not necessary to enjoy the night but the conditions are perfect to enjoy these tools.

A reclining lawn chair is an ideal accessory along with warm clothing and a blanket.

When driving into the parking lot turn off the headlights as soon as possible as even the smallest amount of light can disrupt night sky photographs and disturb people’s ability to focus on the stars.

It really is dark so bring a small, dim flashlight. When on the viewing platform, do not shine any white light (red light is acceptable).

Don’t forget bug spray just in case.

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