Health benefits of dark skies

Today’s blog comes from our Healthy Parks Healthy People Coordinator Sarah McMichael. 

My most memorable camping memory didn’t come from a crackling campfire, a panoramic lookout, or a stunning sandy beach.

It happened at 3:00 am at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

As I stumbled out of my tent for a late-night bathroom break, I noticed something different about the sky above me. There were stars.

A LOT of stars.

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Eyes on the skies — September

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the skies” series. This series covers a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

Many people consider September to be the finest month of the year to enjoy Ontario’s outdoors.

The bugs have all but left and the daytime temperatures are cooler, making the weather ideal for strenuous activities such as hiking or canoeing. To top it off, the leaves begin their beautiful transition through the colours of fall.

With the much shorter days, the nighttime skies are full of celestial splendors that we hope you will enjoy discovering in this edition of “Eyes on the skies.”

Here are our astronomical highlights for September, 2020:

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Featured constellations: a water bearer, flying horse and southern fish

In last month’s featured constellations, we discussed Sagittarius, Capricornus and Delphinus.

In our September edition, we discuss Pegasus the flying horse (moose or baseball diamond), Aquarius the water bearer, and Piscis Austrinus the southern fish.

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Do the skies need our protection?

Stars as seen in midnight’s gaze
Stars shining upon shoreline’s haze
Guiding us, teaching us with stories manifold
About ourselves, stars speak, from birth till old.
Their permanence ties us to days gone by
But to hide their secrets, they still do try
To gaze upon them brings dreams of futures bright
But to see them vanish, is to lose much delight.

~Bruce Waters

At Ontario Parks, we’re committed to the protection and preservation of our province’s biodiversity. The night skies in their natural splendour are an important part of that protection.

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Eyes on the skies — August

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.

August is here at last with its fine weather, fewer mosquitos, and longer nights. All of the constellations and objects from July are still visible, but there are a few exciting new things to see this month.

Here are our astronomical highlights for August 2020:

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Comet NEOWISE

Our night sky seems to be a fixture of perfection.

While the stars rise and set, and the sun, moon and planets do appear to move against the starry backdrop, little other changes are apparent.

However, that stillness does get punctuated from time to time by ghostly interlopers — the comets!

And right now, our eyes are fixed on Comet NEOWISE!

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Eyes on the skies — July

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.

July has finally arrived. Summer is the perfect time to escape the noise, air, and light pollution of the larger urban areas and head to the peace and serenity of a provincial park.

July also hosts a number of beautiful constellations, full of interesting stories to tell.

Here are our astronomical highlights for July, 2020:

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Featured constellations: Madoodiswan, Noondeshin Bemaadizid, and Madoodoowasiniig

In this month’s featured constellations, we will discuss two Anishinaabek constellations that are prominent at this time of the year: Madoodiswan (the Sweat Lodge) and Noondeshin Bemaadizid (the Exhausted Bather).

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Eyes on the skies — June

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.

June formally ushers in summer, that time of the year when Canadians leave the confines of their homes and make their way to the wilderness. And stargazing is a uniquely memorable part of our experience.

Perhaps that’s because so many Ontarians live in areas with light pollution. City dwellers seldom see the stars and then, only the brightest ones. But to miss the stars is to lose our connection with the beauty and mysteries of the skies.

Heading outside? Here are our astronomical highlights for June, 2020:

Continue reading Eyes on the skies — June