The annual Dark Sky Festival in Jasper National Park ended with the best finale – dark skies, on a beautiful star-filled night.
On Saturday night, October 22, I left the final set of science talks in the Big Tent at the heart of the Festival and headed out down the Icefields Parkway for a night of shooting Jasper by starlight.
The lead image is of the winter stars, including the Pleiades, rising above Mt. Kerkeslin at Athabasca Falls.
I shot the image above moments later, from the usual viewpoint overlooking the Falls, reduced to a trickle in late autumn. Illumination is solely by starlight – no artificial and glaring light painting here.
Earlier in the night, I stopped at the Athabasca River Viewpoint and shot the autumn stars of Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Perseus above Mt. Kerkeslin. The Pleiades are just appearing above the mountain ridge.
From that viewpoint I shot a scene looking south over the river and with the stars of Capricornus and Aquarius above the Divide.
At the start of the night I stopped at the viewpoint for Athabasca Pass far in the distance. The summer Milky Way was setting over the pass. This historic pass was used by David Thompson in the late 1700s and early 1800s as his route into B.C. to extend the fur trade across the Divide. Thompson writes in his Journal about one particularly clear night on the pass:
“My men were not at their ease, yet when night came they admired the brilliancy of the Stars, and as one of them said, he thought he could almost touch them with his hand.”
The night ended with a display of Northern Lights over the Athabasca River. What a superb night under the stars in Jasper!
As a finale, here’s a music video collecting together still images and time-lapse movies shot this night, and on two other nights during the Dark Sky Festival, including at the big Lake Annette “Beyond the Stars” star party I spoke at.
As usual, enlarge to full screen and go to HD for the best view.
It’s the day before the eclipse, and the skies are not clear!
On Thursday, October 23 the Moon covers the Sun in a substantial partial eclipse. I’m in Jasper National Park, participating in the Park’s annual Dark Sky Festival.
One of the events is a public viewing session of the solar eclipse. Let’s hope for some clearing skies and breaks in the clouds, so we can see 66% of the Sun eaten by the Moon!
I shot this image at eclipse time the day before – today! – from a viewpoint looking west toward the Sun on the Icefields Parkway south of Jasper townsite.
The Sun is trying to break through and is casting its beams down onto the famed Athabasca Pass, the route over the mountains pioneered by David Thompson in the early 1800s when his preferred route over Howse Pass to the south was blocked by the Pikanii who objected to Thompson trading with their enemies over the Rockies.
Thompson was one of the first astronomers in western Canada, using the Sun, Moon, Jupiter and stars to navigate his way and map the country. The lower sign explains. Click on the image for a larger view.
The Dark Sky Festival continues the tradition of stargazing in Jasper, a science Thompson depended upon in his travels.
The setting sun lights the clouds over the river plains of the North Saskatchewan.
This was the panoramic view two evenings ago from the Howse Pass viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway in Banff.
We’re looking south over the North Saskatchewan River near its junction with the Howse and Mistaya Rivers. The spot is near where Highway 11, the David Thompson Highway, comes in from the east to join the Parkway. It’s a modern highway now but 200 years ago this was a main canoe route for the fur trade.
The area is known as David Thompson Country, named for the great explorer, surveyor, and celestial navigator who mapped much of western Canada in the early 1800s.
Until about 1810, Thompson passed this way every year en route to the fur trade forts he set up in the B.C. interior, his main job for the North West Company.
Conflicts with the local Pikanii people, who objected to Thompson trading with and arming their traditional enemies, the Kootenais, forced Thompson to find a new route across the Rockies, the Athabasca Pass in what is now Jasper National Park.
The top image is a 180° panorama, the bottom image is a full 360° panorama from the viewpoint. In the distance are Mt. Murchison, at left, and Mt. Cephren in the far distance, the prominent peak by Waterfowl Lakes.
I shot these with a 14mm lens, in portrait orientation, and stitched them withPTGui software. The top image is made from 6 segments, the bottom from 12 segments.
The software blended them perfectly, no small feat in such a uniform twilight sky. I’m always impressed with it!