The Best Stargazing in Ontario Is at This Beautiful Park
Spot moon craters and locate planets like an astronomical pro in the Killarney dark sky preserve
With its sapphire lakes, jack-pine forests, pink granite Georgian Bay coastline and stark-white La Cloche Mountains, Killarney Provincial Park has long captivated adventurers and artists alike, including the Group of Seven. But now it’s also attracting stargazers, thanks to its dark skies.
Last year, Killarney became the first provincial park in Ontario to receive a dark sky preserve designation from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. That means artificial light is restricted within the borders to protect nighttime ecology.
Why dark sky preserves are important
Many birds, amphibians, insects and plants rely on uninterrupted periods of darkness for everything from breeding to migration, according to Ontario Parks. Plants, for example, depend on seasonal changes in darkness to prepare for spring and fall.
Dark sky preserves also allow the general public to experience—and understand the importance of—the dark night sky.
How to stargaze at Killarney Provincial Park
Along with receiving its new designation, Killarney has upgraded its research-grade observatory with a 16-inch telescope and refractor for astrophotography. Now anyone visiting the park can gaze into what’s known as the deep sky to spot moon craters, star clusters, meteor showers and even the rings of Saturn.
Killarney has an astronomer-in-residence at the observatory on Tuesday nights, as well as summer astronomy programs that include drop-in nights with guest astronomers and formal presentations. A self-use program lets visitors book time in the observatory, free of charge, to explore unhindered views of the dark night skies. No experience is necessary, only an interest in stargazing (plus, there are cheat sheets to help you locate planets, the moon and double stars). Bookings are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
Where to stay at Killarney
A four-hour drive north of Toronto, the park has car camping, backcountry camping, cabins and yurts available for an extended stay.
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Image credit: Courtesy of Ontario Parks