Star Gazing on the Escarpment

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Written by: Erin Worgan

Stargazing is a natural activity that has been slowly lost from our daily lives, especially in large cities where the stars are slowly being lost from view. It seems we as a society are beginning to look down at our screens rather than up at the wild blue yonder overhead. A reconnection with the beauty of our night sky is a wonderful and humbling experience as you take in the vast beauty that is always above us but rarely observed. Stargazing is ideal at the Conservation Halton parks. Being located along the Escarpment in conservation areas the amount of light pollution from the bustling cities is muted and the elevation offered in areas, such as Rattlesnake Point, can really allow for a better view of the stars.

The Niagara Escarpment remains one of the few places in Southern Ontario where the night sky can still be viewed in all its glory. There are countless references available to you to enrich your experience, and guide you in your galactic gazing! There are various sources of constellation maps that are dependent on your location, season, time zone, etc. There are tons of free apps you can download for more informed star viewing. The most popular ones are Starwalk, Aurora Forecast, and Sputnik. These applications can help point out to you the exact location of constellations, locate the core of the Milky Way and you can even find your star-sign in the stars!

Have you ever wanted to photograph the night sky? Photographing the stars in the night sky is called Astrophotography and it involves a little more skill and knowledge than average point and shoot picture taking. With a little bit of understanding photographing the stars can be a fairly simple process once you get to know your camera. There are a few tricks photographers use. Generally the key is to have your aperture (the hole in the lens that lets in light) open wider and the shutter speed at longer increments to gain a longer exposure. However this extended time frame for taking the picture makes the image susceptible to blurriness and movement so a tripod is often required for this kind of shot. You will need a wide aperture or fish eye lens (optional), tripod, a DSLR Camera is preferred but any camera that has manual settings so you can change your ISO and shutter speed will work. The right combination of settings across your ISO, Shutter speed, and aperture will require some practice shots and playing around. However, an aperture setting of f/2.8 seems to be ideal for astrophotography most often. You can try to create star trails with longer exposure/shutter speed settings, where the longer the picture is open for (greater than 45 seconds) you will begin to see the movement of the stars across the sky as the earth rotates. For more helpful photography tips check out this link.

So why not have a star party? Read our blog post on how to spot constellations in the sky. Get together with friends to camp out and attempt some astrophotography! Camping is available at Rattlesnake and Kelso Park, or for day pass holders all the Conservation Halton parks are open until 9pm during summer hours. Each year in the fall, the Mountsberg Conservation Area hosts an annual “Explore the Night Sky” event, which includes a fun and educational presentation from a planetary expert as well as hands on experience with telescopes! So keep an eye out for information on how to get involved in this cosmic occasion.


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