Aug. 8, 2018

5 can’t-miss experiences at the 2018 Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Star gazers and science lovers rejoice! The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is back for its 8th year and the lineup is better than ever.

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When the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated Jasper as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011, they likely had no idea that the mountain town’s Dark Sky Festival would grow to be one of North America’s biggest astronomy events of the year. With luminaries traveling across the world to stand beneath Jasper’s stars from October 12 to 21, attendees can expect a star-studded program celebrating science, space and conservation.


Here are a few of the can’t-miss events and experiences on offer.

Get into double space trouble with Mark and Scott Kelly

Sometimes space just runs in the family. Identical twin astronaut brothers Mark and Scott Kelly will be delivering the keynote presentation on Oct. 19 in Jasper, where they’ll tell their fascinating stories about combat flying, Scott’s year in space and dealing with tragedy. As brothers, teammates, and participants in NASA’s Twin Study, the Kelly brothers’ perspective and lessons leaves audiences doubly inspired and motivated. After the talk, Mark and Scott will be at the VIP Stargazing Reception alongside many other festival speakers.

Listen to a symphony under the stars

Join the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to experience the magic of music in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Performing on the Beauvert Plateau beneath a chorus of twinkling stars, the expert string musicians will make the universe seem even more wondrous. Packages include two nights accommodation in the historic and exquisite Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a welcome reception on the Friday night, Saturday night three-course dinner, and of course tickets to the musical signature event.

Ponder cosmic questions with an all-star panel

Calling all inquiring minds and seekers of good times! The SpaceTalks event has been an audience favourite at past Jasper Dark Sky Festivals, and this year’s illustrious and diverse panel of astronomers and academics are set to continue the trend. Get ready for a dynamic evening of TED-talk style performances that tackle the Big Questions, expertly moderated debate and a healthy dose of audience participation. The panel includes: Emily Calandrelli, Leland Melvin, Scott Ransom, Seth Shostak, and Nadia Drake. Learn more about them here.

Jack Fusco Photography

Hone your dark sky photography with a week-long workshop

Get one-on-one learning with some of the best photographers in the biz: new this year, Jeff Bartlett, Jack Fusco and Ivan Olafsson are offering an incredible week-long dark sky photography workshop that they’re limiting to only ten participants. Daily tutorials, mini assignments, valuable post-processing techniques and tailored learning objectives will help take your dark sky photography to the next level. For a less intensive photography option, check out the 2-day Night Photography Workshop.

Test out the largest, most powerful telescopes in the Rockies

Starting from the cozy comfort of a new 50-seat, climate-controlled dome theatre, the Planetarium Experience is happening every day of the festival and includes a 40 minute virtual tour of the world’s largest dark sky preserve. The Telescope Experience (available as a combo with the Planetarium Experience) includes an outdoor telescope tour with astronomy experts who will point out local indigenous constellations and the Northern Lights, while giving tips on how to photograph both. But that’s not all! The Jasper Planetarium has added dozens new activities for 2018 Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Peruse the full schedule here.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is packed with events, from aurora-spotting at Maligne Lake to stargazing on the Jasper Skytram to a Big Bang Expo! Check out the full listing of events and don’t forget to purchase your Star Package, which for $140 lets you attend both the fascinating SPACEtalks panel AND the Keynote presentation by astronaut brothers Mark and Scott Kelly.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is presented by Rocky Mountaineer and runs from October 12-21, 2018.

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