Eyes on the skies — May

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This space (<– see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

While spring “technically” begins in March, most of us living in cold climates tend to celebrate May as the true start to the season.

The lakes open to allow the first paddle strokes, and the songs of migratory birds can be heard throughout the land. Staying up through twilight lets you see the splendors of the evening sky whilst being serenaded by the lovely sound of Spring Peepers and Chorus Frogs.

Here are our astronomical highlights for May, 2018:

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Does the darkness need our protection?

Today’s post comes from our Natural Heritage Education Coordinator Brad Steinberg.

Not many researchers like being kept in the dark…

…except, that is, for scotobiologists!

Scotobiology is the science of darkness, a research topic that is growing in importance. Many birds, amphibians, insects and plants (and us!) have evolved to rely on uninterrupted periods of darkness during the night.

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Featured constellations: the Bears and a Dragon

In last month’s blog, we discussed some of the constellations that are prominent in the spring: Leo the Lion, Cancer the Crab, and Coma Berenices (Queen Berenice of Egypt’s hair).

This month, we will focus on two of the most well-known, as well as one of the longest, constellations visible in the night sky: Ursa Major, the Great Bear (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor, the Little Bear (Little Dipper).

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Eyes on the skies — April

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This space (<– see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

For those of us in Ontario, April is that transition month between winter and spring weather. The snows start to melt away, the lakes start to open up and, by month’s end, the first buds may appear on the trees.

Here are our astronomical highlights for April, 2018:

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How to tell direction without a compass

Did you know you can determine your directions without a compass or GPS?

It would be wonderful if we had a built-in system to help us tell direction. If we did, it would probably have saved many lives who became lost by travelling away from safety rather than towards it.

Humans are not very good at instinctively knowing which direction they face. Most methods of determining one’s direction when in the forest tend to be unreliable.

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The Northern Lights

Seeing the magnicificent Northern Lights is a bucket list item for any nature lover.

But did you know that the Northern Lights are caused by charged particles from the Sun?

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is the name given to an often-ethereal band or curtain of faint light seen towards the northern horizon. Generally, the light is so faint that the light pollution of even a small town can wash it out.

However, in the dark skies of many of our provincial parks, the Northern Lights can be spectacular.

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Featured constellation: Leo the Lion

For thousands of years, humans have looked up at the stars. The stars helped them try to understand their purpose, and the role they play in our lives.

To help memorize the different stars, patterns of connect-the-dot figures were created by many different cultures. Today, we recognize 88 official patterns or “constellations” of stars.

In last month’s blog, we discussed Gemini the Twins, as well as two other prominent constellations seen in the winter.

This month’s post will focus on three constellations that mark the transition from winter to spring: Leo the Lion, Cancer the Crab, and Coma Berenices.

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Eyes on the skies – March

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This space (see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

March is one of the most glorious months to be camping, or even just spend time outdoors enjoying our parks.

On March 20, the earth passes through Spring Equinox. This is the day that formally marks the beginning of spring, and affords equal hours of sunlight and darkness.

Here are our astronomical highlights for March:

Continue reading Eyes on the skies – March