Not only does the enormous Rocky Mountain preserve offer dozens of designated observation sites that are startlingly free of light pollution, but it has scored quite a coup by enlisting Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (pictured) to be the principal speaker at the 2014 Jasper Dark Sky Festival.
Now in it's sixth year, the fest kicks off today with an astronomer-led tour of the gargantuan Columbia Icefield, and fills its 10-day schedule with free and ticketed events encompassing music (there's an open-air evening performance by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Strings on Oct. 18); cuisine (including a five-course formal dinner at Evil Dave’s Grill); and plenty of organized astronomy and photography, highlighted by the Orionids meteor shower on Oct. 20 and a partial solar eclipse on Oct. 23.
The hottest ticket, however, is the sold-out Oct. 25 evening with Hadfield, who will share his experiences in space alongside Daily Planet host Jay Ingram and his band, The Free Radicals.
I had a chance to visit with one of the festival's interpreters, Jasper National Park's digital media specialist, Ryan Bray, in late April, and was enthralled by his demonstrations of time-lapse and astronomical photography.
Like so many of us, I dream of venturing into space one day, but gazing deep into the cosmos through a powerful telescope is the next best thing. And in Jasper, the experience is elevated still further by the surrounding scenery and serenity. I mean, just look at these photos by Bray and his colleagues: