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Stargazing & Astrophotography in Crowsnest Pass

April 9, 2020

Twinkling stars, celestial bodies, and majestic meteor showers are best experienced in the Pass.

With limited light pollution and high viewpoints, the awe-inspiring dark skies and rugged mountain terrain of the Pass offer what might be the best astrophotography location in Alberta (and maybe even Canada). We’ve asked Lisa Kinnear, professional biologist and photographer of Bound for Mountain Photography, to dish on some of her favourite places in the Pass for stargazing and photographing meteor showers!

Photography by Lisa Kinnear of Bound for Mountain Photography

Where are some of your favourite dark sky locations in the Pass?

Some easy to get to dark sky locations include Crowsnest Lake or the west-end of Willow Drive (where a footbridge crosses Crowsnest River, there is a nice view of the mountains to the south from the bridge that is quite photogenic). The Frank Slide area (the trail into the Slide) is also quite dark. If you are more adventurous, Castle Parks, the Livingstone-Porcupine Public Land Use Zone, and Bob Creek Wildland are all beautifully dark places, and offer endless front and backcountry opportunities to camp in the ‘billion-star hotel’—perfect for stargazing and making wishes on falling stars!

I personally love to hike in to a higher viewpoint where I can backcountry camp with a view and spend the night photographing and watching the meteors. Going that little bit of extra distance to ‘get away’ seems to help intensify the experience, and the effort to get to a higher viewpoint pays off in spades with a 360-degree view to take in the meteor shower show.

Photography by Lisa Kinnear of Bound for Mountain Photography

The Perseid meteor shower is set to peak this August. Any tips for adventurers looking to catch a glimpse of this dazzling phenomenon?

The Perseid meteor shower is a favourite event for many stargazers. The meteors themselves are actually debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed earth in 1992 and will not return until 2126. The favourable weather (warmer nights) combined with the high number of meteors (sometimes over one meteor per minute) make this meteor shower worth staying up to see.

Meteor showers are named after the radiant: the point at which the meteors appear to originate form. For the Perseids, the radiant appears to be near the constellation Perseus, which will rise in the Northeast. Meteors will appear to be shorter and faster near the radiant; looking away from the radiant they will appear longer. Keep an eye out for fireballs or earth grazers throughout the night—they can come from any direction!

This year, the nearly-full moon will wash-out many of the meteors; the best time to view the meteors will be after the moon has set (in the Pass, the moon should set at about 2 am on Saturday, August 10th, during the meteor’s peak). So rather than stay up late, set an alarm and get out of bed to watch the best part of the show! Make sure to bring a blanket or warm layers, something to sit or lay-down on, and a hot drink! While watching for meteors, keep your headlamp or flashlight off and let your eyes adjust to the dark. You will start to notice the lighter white band of the core of the Milky Way galaxy to the southwest.

Photography by Lisa Kinnear of Bound for Mountain Photography

Quick Tips for Stargazing:

  • Get up high!
  • Bring a set of binoculars—even a cheap pair will do.
  • Get a star chart or use a free stargazing app on your phone to learn the constellations of the area you’re in.

Want to learn how to photograph meteors? Join Lisa from Bound for Mountain and Heather from Uplift Adventures on one of their night photography adventures this summer. Book now, and join them this long weekend on August 4th, or from August 9-11 for a weekend overnight adventure to capture the Perseid meteor shower. Lisa will teach you how to capture the stars with your own DSLR camera, while Heather keeps you cozy with warm snacks and drinks!

We’ll see you under the stars!

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