See the stars at Killarney’s observatory

This post comes from Alyssa Deurwaarder, an assistant natural heritage education leader at Killarney Provincial Park. 

Did you know Killarney is the only provincial park with an observatory?

The park offers a variety of astronomy programs throughout the summer, and this year, for the first time, the observatory will be available for park visitors to use.

The telescope is a Mease Cassegrain design with a manual mount. This makes it easy for beginners to get the hang of moving the telescope toward objects without worrying about confusing electronics.

The telescope and observatory were generously donated in 2010 by the Waters family to celebrate 25 years of astronomy in the park. The new mount was donated by Bill Gardner and his family in 2011.

In a park not too far away…

Killarney’s summer astronomy programs include drop-in nights with guest astronomers, as well as formal presentations and planet walks.

Bill Gardner and Bruce Waters

Our 2017 guest astronomers include Bruce Waters, Bill Gardner, and Bill and Vicki Sherwood.

Programming schedule, 2017

Astronomy Nights August 15, 22 and 29, 2017

Join Bill Gardner, our astronomer-in-residence. Gaze at the stars, ask questions, and learn about the wonders of the night sky.

9:30 pm at the Killarney Amphitheatre

Astronomy Night, August 11-14, 2017

Visit Killarney on August 11 for Comet Making at the Ampitheater at 3:00 pm with park naturalists and astronomer Bill Sherwood.

Stick around for Drop-in Night Sky Viewing at the Observatory at 9:00 pm. Guided by Bill Sherwood, take a peek through our 10 inch Meade 2080 LX3 telescope (donated by the Bruce Water’s Family). Bring along your flashlights, bug spray, lawn chairs, blankets and questions. Be prepared for an evening with the stars!

There will be drop-in sessions at the Observatory on August 12 at 10:00 am, 2:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Make sure you make the evening session for the chance to catch a glimpse of the Perseid Meteor Shower!

August 13 has more drop-in sessions at 10:00 am, 2:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Learn about astronomy in Tom Thomson and Group of Seven paintings with Vicki Sherwood at the Ampitheater at 8:00 pm.

On August 14, enjoy drop-in day sky viewing with Bill and Vicki at 10:00 am at the observatory.

Solar eclipse on August 21, 2017

group of people safely observing the eclipse
Over 200 people gathered at the observatory for the 2017 solar eclipse. Astronomer in Residence Bill Gardner leads park visitors safely through the experience

Don’t miss the solar eclipse at 12:30 pm on August 21! Meet astronomer-in-residence Bill Gardner at the observatory to view and learn about the eclipse.

Self-use program (summer only)

We are excited to announce that as of July 1, 2017, we offer a self-use program for the observatory. The self-use program was created to allow anyone with an interest in astronomy to explore the night sky using a telescope.

Never touched a telescope before? No problem. The program was designed with all experience levels in mind.

Families or individuals can sign out the observatory for themselves, and spend an evening exploring the night sky.

How it works

Guests are asked to come to the gate house between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm to sign out the observatory for the evening. Sign-out is on a first come-first serve basis. Observatory use requires a deposit of $200.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll head to the site with a staff member who will provide instruction on how to use the observatory, including the dome and the telescope.

Killarney observatory

There are cheat sheets in the observatory for when the staff are not present that go through steps on how to set up the telescope and locate objects.

Once it’s dark, gather at the observatory, and spend the night looking at planets, the moon, double stars, galaxies and more!

We ask stargazers to:

  • Fill out the log book with your observations
  • Return the key by 10:00 am the next day (and retrieve your deposit)
  • Complete a questionnaire letting us know how your night went

This is an amazing opportunity for everyone to learn about what is in our night sky, and spend a great evening stargazing in Killarney Provincial Park.

Want a preview of what to look for on your visit?

Check out our “Eyes on the Skies” series, written by Bruce Waters, for night sky highlights.