Looking for something to do with the family that costs absolutely nothing?
Want to take the time to live in the moment and clear your mind?
Looking to enjoy some quality screen-free time together away from the hustle and bustle of the city?
Stargazing might be the adventure you are looking for!
All you need is a dark sky that is far enough away from light pollution and your eyes. You can always bring a telescope, but the naked eye can see approximately 2,500 stars without assistance.
Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO)
The RAO is only a half-hour drive south of the city.
It is owned by the University of Calgary and is in the foothills between Calgary and the Rocky Mountains.
The observatory welcomes the public to use the space during special astronomical events such as eclipses and meteor showers. It also hosts themed public events about once a month. Learn more at science.ucalgary.ca/rothney-observatory.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
This is one of the best stargazing locations in Southern Alberta. The badlands make for a backdrop that almost seems other-worldly in nature. If you really concentrate, you can imagine an extraterrestrial cresting one of the hills, lit by the night’s sky and twinkling stars.
Nose Hill Park
The stars won’t be as bright as they would be outside the city, but Nose Hill is far enough from the lights of downtown to get a wonderful view. The lookout has the perfect elevation for a magnificent view of the sky.
Okotoks Big Rock
You may have seen some breathtaking photos on social media of the Okotoks Erratic outlined by a vast array of glittering stars. This is a great place that is just far enough away from the light pollution of Calgary for you to see an astrological event like a meteor shower or the northern lights if the timing is right.
Big Hill Provincial Park
This is a lesser-known area for stargazing, but it is truly beautiful. Catching a glimpse of the celestial bodies as they peek out from the dark valley sky makes for a fun game of “how many can you see?” during your astronomy adventure.
This massive 237-hectare park is a great spot to catch the stars within Calgary’s borders. There is less light pollution than you might think in the area and the skies are beautiful to behold.
Fish Creek Park
The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society sometimes host stargazing nights with special guest speakers. The event often includes going outdoors to take in the sky and learn about the constellations overhead. Learn more at friendsoffishcreek.org.
Crossfield is just north of Calgary and offers spectacular views of the sky. The area is also a popular storm chaser location. The ponds are a well-known stargazing spot - just don’t forget the bug spray!
There is no doubt that K-Country is absolutely gorgeous. The mountain views, towering trees, and vast valleys are all stunning any time of day, but at night the sky opens up into a spectacular splendor that you won’t see anywhere else.
Dark Sky Country
The RAO is in the Dark Sky Country of Foothills County. The organization is part of a dark sky corridor on the western section of Calgary that includes the Weaselhead Conservation Society, Leighton Art Centre, and Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. The RAO works with their dark sky partners to advocate for dark and quiet skies to protect the wilderness of the night sky. As you can imagine, any of these areas is a great place to stargaze. Learn more at foothillscountyab.ca.
Stargazing has several benefits including getting your family out in the fresh air, allowing you to relax and leave behind the stress and anxiety of the day. There is also evidence that it can improve eyesight, increase your attention span, and help you sleep.
Whether you want to stay close to the city or drive out a bit further and make it a real adventure, taking the time to slow down and look up from time to time is a great way to improve your mental health together as a family. CCM
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