For as long as people have walked this Earth, we have had a fascination with what lies “up there.” Looking up at a dark sky peppered with billions of stars fills us with a sense of wonder and perspective. Unfortunately, with our constant use of electricity and populated cities, outdoor lighting masks the beauty of the night sky. With all of those city lights, how are we supposed to wish upon shooting stars or experience the thrill of finding Orion’s constellation with our friends?
Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Just head out of the city and into the wild, or depending where you live, just walk outside to your own yard! We are fortunate to live in the Great Lakes region where there are thousands of beautiful star-gazing destinations. Here are some tips to get the most out of your star-gazing adventure.
Participate in star-gazing tours
There are many guided tours and clubs in the Great Lakes region, especially in provincial and national parks. You can take lessons about space and constellation identification and visit planetariums to learn more about the skies above.
Visit star-gazing destinations during “dark sky nights”
“Dark Sky Nights” are marked by the absence of the moon. Many destinations have calendars that help you plan your trip around these dates. Without that big, white, glowing orb, the sky is at its darkest and the stars are even more visible.
Buy a red light flashlight
If you really want to see the stars, you will have to go out when it’s really dark. A red flashlight will help you see in the dark without reducing your night vision (unlike blue or white light which can make it more difficult for your eyes to adjust to the darkness).
Don’t worry about getting super expensive equipment like a telescope
Telescopes can be tricky to use, and you should first learn how to identify basic constellation and key stars. You can decide later on whether you would like to invest in that equipment to find the more distant objects. Plus… did the first homosapiens need a telescope to find the stars? No! Just look up and enjoy the view.
DO grab yourself a pair of binoculars
They don’t have to be expensive, but a pair of binoculars will help you feel closer to the sky and see features that you can’t see with your naked eye.
Don’t fear the cold!
Summer can come with hazy, humid skies. Crisp winter nights often bring the best star viewing.
Get a star chart or app
Good old-fashioned star charts will make you feel like Galileo as you map out the skies! And there are tons of apps out there that are fun to use and easy to learn from.
Take a look at your own galaxy
As it nears midnight on summer nights, stay far away from city lights and look up. You will likely see the starry cloud of the Milky Way. It comes into view each summer, especially in July. Any rural location away from city lights should give you a decent view! Nothing compares to marvelling at our very own galaxy.
Use your imagination!
See what shapes and creatures you can find among the stars. Make your own constellations! Sit back, relax, and have fun!
For some of the most breathtaking sights, feast your eyes on the Point Pelee skies
Point Pelee was designated as a dark sky preserve back in 2006. This means that it is kept free from artificial light pollution. Point Pelee is the southernmost point in Canada. Being so far south, you can see some of the southern hemisphere constellations (like canis major) and deep space objects (objects that lie beyond our solar system)! When the air and water reach the same temperature, the fog lifts over Lake Erie and you can see a clear horizon and brilliant star-spotted sky.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab some blankets and a thermos full of tea and gaze up at the starry sky. Who knows, maybe you will spot some shooting stars and your wish will come true, just like Pinocchio!