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23 August 2023

Celebrate Dark Skies In Jasper

Photo by Ryan Bray

Set in the Rocky Mountains, about four hours west of Edmonton, Jasper National Park is known for its natural beauty and scenic landscapes. But for a couple of weeks each fall, everyone’s attention is drawn away from the high mountain peaks and clear glacier lakes to focus squarely on one of the park’s most spectacular features — the night sky.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is an annual event that takes place over two weeks in October to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of the celestial sky. In 2023, the event takes place from October 13-22.

The Dark Sky Preserve

A man watched the northern lights while camping in Jasper. Photo c/o Parks Canada / Ryan Bray

In a world of increasing light pollution, places of true darkness where the night sky can be observed in all its glory are getting harder to find. But in 2011, Jasper National Park was officially recognized by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as a Dark Sky Preserve, meaning that due to its commitment to limit light pollution, the park contains ideal conditionas for dark sky viewing.

After Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, Jasper is the largest such area — and because it contains a town within its limits and is reachable by train, Jasper has become legendary as the biggest, most easily accessible bastion of night sky darkness in the world.

Highlights of the annual Dark Sky Festival

Photo by Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett

As autumn arrives in the Canadian Rockies, it brings with it cooler weather and shorter days. These are essentially some of the most ideal conditions in which to observe the night sky.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival, now in its 13th year, brings together astronauts, Aurora chasers and space enthusiasts from around North America for a series of events all aimed at creating connections between humans and the universe beyond. Events include guest speakers (NASA scientists, former astronauts), guided planetarium tours, stargazing sessions and lessons in astrophotography.

Highlights of the Festival include:

  • Cosmic Conerts: Feel the vastness of the universe as musicians take the stage at Symphony Under the Stars, including performances by Jay Ingram and the Dark Sky Band and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Strings.
  • Sunset Celebration: Hear the drumbeat of the mountains at pahkisimon (the Cree word for sunset), an Indigenous celebration at Annette Lake with storyteller Teneil Whiskeyjack from Saddle Lake First Nation.
  • Drone Dance: See a light show like no other as 200 choreographed drones light up the night sky. This is an annual crowd favourite.

Please reach out to us if you’d like help creating the perfect Dark Sky Jasper experience.

Photo c/o The Jasper Planetarium

Category: Alberta