by Ryan Stuart
The Perseids meteor shower, the earth’s annual collision with the debris trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, is one of the easiest summer astronomical events to see. In the past couple of years, though, it’s been unspectacular. “The moon’s been too bright,” says Sara Poirier, an astronomer at the Ontario Science Centre. “Instead of 60 to 80 meteors an hour, we’ve been seeing more like a dozen or two.” But this year, the Perseid peak coincides with a new moon. Watch for the meteors from August 9 until August 14, peaking on August 12. “In cottage country it’s pretty easy: Look up and you should see them,” says Poirier. They’re best viewed after midnight in the northeast sky, moving eastward as the night progresses. Now all you need is clear skies.
The best place in Southern Ontario to view the night sky
by Jenna Wootton
Having trouble seeing the night sky with so much light pollution?
While the cottage can help solve that, there’s also a new top-of-the-line destination in Southern Ontario—the most populous region of the country—that will allow you to view the sky as it was meant to be seen. This Dark Sky Viewing Area is based in Lennox-Addington county, home to the well-known Bon Echo Provincial Park. Today marks the site’s official opening, just in time for prime star-gazing season. The Milky Way is best viewed from mid-August to September (as long as you avoid full moons).
One of the main factors behind the development of this site was its accessibility. While Algonquin Park and other areas in Northern Ontario are also perfect places to view the night sky, they can be quite a hike for some. This new site, north of the 401 at Napanee, is located on County Road 4, only a couple hour drive from a number of large cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Syracuse and Montreal. According to the site’s creator, the author of 14 astronomy books and editor of Sky News magazine, this spot is the farthest south you can travel in Ontario where the sky is that dark and pristine.
So what can you expect when you get there? The L & A Dark Sky Viewing Area may be an ideal place for astronomers and astrophotographers, but it’s also designed for casual cottagers, too. The simple site is equipped with a concrete pad for camera and telescope set-up, or merely plopping a few lawn chairs down for more relaxed star-gazing. You’ll also find some signage that provides details about our home galaxy, The Milky Way.
For complete directions to the L & A Dark Sky Viewing Area, see the Lennox-Addington county website. To find more great places to see the stars in cottage country—from Manitoulin Island to the Kawartha Lakes—check out our list of astronomical observatories, dark sky reserves, and parks.