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, July 11 and 25, August 1, 15, 22 and 29

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

Starry, Starry Night, July 28

Join astronomer-in-residence Bruce Waters for an amazing evening of stories and stargazing. Armed with the Meade 2080 LX3 telescope that Bruce and his family generously donated, he will lead us on a journey through the universe and back again. Please bring flashlights, bug spray, lawn chairs, and questions! Be prepared for an amazing evening with the stars.

9:00 pm at the Killarney Amphitheatre

Summer Triangle

Astronomy Night, August 11-14

Astronomers-in-residence Bill and Vicki Sherwood will be in the park to run some astronomy programs (exact programs and times still to be determined).

Be sure to check out the schedule of events posted around the park for complete details!

Self-use program

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.