No matter where you look in Jasper National Park, you’re bound to find awe-inspiring scenes of natural beauty. Though each fall, all eyes are set on the skies, and for good reason.
The Jasper Dark Sky Festival invites visitors, experts and locals alike to bask in and celebrate the park’s spectacular skyscapes. The annual festival takes place each October, offering a blend of adventure, astronomy, science and solitude in the pristine conditions of the national park.
Jasper’s low light pollution makes for outstanding stargazing, earning the park a designation as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2011. At over 11,000 square kilometres, Jasper is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world (behind only Wood Buffalo National Park), meaning there’s no shortage of wonders to explore both during the days in the Canadian Rockies or under the sprawling stars.
Here are six of the things that have us counting down the nights until the next Jasper Dark Sky Festival.
With the darkness of winter knocking but the warmth of fall lingering, October is the perfect time of year to be outside at night. During the summer, the sun sets very late. During winter, it can be really, really cold. But the middle ground of autumn evenings gives everyone a chance to throw on an extra layer, sip a favourite warm drink and embrace the beauty of the night sky.
Jasper stargazing can largely be done outside and with the naked eye, though the festival also hosts events at the Jasper Planetarium. There, the most powerful telescope in the Rockies brings sky-high sights down to Earth through guided tours, and dome theatre shows help put the cosmos into context.
Astronomers of every level and walk of life gather in Jasper for the Dark Sky Festival. From leading cosmologists, astronomers and photographers to historians, storytellers and industry pros from the likes of NASA and Blue Origin, the festival plays host to an array of fascinating speakers and presenters. Be sure to plan ahead, build a personal itinerary and book tickets in advance to make sure you don’t miss your must-see events.
The Dark Sky Festival's signature outdoor event is the Symphony Under the Stars, which sees the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Strings perform outside next to Lac Beauvert at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Bring a cozy blanket and watch the twilight roll by as you take in some of the finest music under the sky.
Capturing the wonders of the night sky is no small task. That’s why the Jasper Dark Sky Festival hosts workshops every year to help amateur photographers focus on getting the perfect night-sky shot.
Whether you're looking to hone your sunrise skills or savour the scene of a sprawling night sky, experts in astrophotography can help you master the art of better skyward photos. Plus, many of the workshops include cocktails, food stations and other extras as you learn lasting skills to up your photo-game.
There’s arguably nothing more universal than taking in the wonders of nature, with admiration for the night sky transcending the boundaries of language. And perhaps the best thing about the Dark Sky Festival is just getting together with a group of people from around the world who share a curiosity for knowledge and a love of the outdoors. Cheers to making new friends.
Many Jasper hotels have built budget-friendly packages to coincide with the Dark Sky Festival. The Crimson is a funky and modern hotel popular with adventurers while the Forest Park Hotel has a spa so you can contemplate the universe while treating yourself.
Beyond the Dark Sky Festival, there are plenty of other highlights in Jasper through mid-October.