For most Saskatchewan residents, camping and spending time exploring nature is a favourite summer past time. With an abundance of wide open space, Saskatchewan is fortunate to have many different park spaces to enjoy. Not to mention, the bucket list views!
When you are out enjoying parks around Saskatchewan don’t forget to make time to check out one of the best views each park has to offer, the Night Sky. Viewing the Night Sky can be therapeutic, spark curiosity and excitement all at the same time. As you view some of the celestial wonders of the night sky it can become one of the most memorable nights of the summer! Camping is a great opportunity to get out under a blanket of stars and take in the views and Saskatchewan provides some of the best views in the world of the night sky.
When the sun goes down, the firepit starts crackling and darkness takes over, take the time to step away from the light. Going to somewhere dark, maybe down to the lake or a dark park space and letting your eyes adjust for at least fifteen minutes in the dark to allow yourself the best possible views of the night sky. You will soon realize your accommodations have a billion star view! Thats because many parks in Saskatchewan are located in areas that provide excellent views of the night sky.
Stargazing is a great way to spend time, the view has a way of bringing peace and calmness to the moment, becoming a memory you can keep forever. Getting out to view the night sky is a great family activity that involves nothing but time alone under the stars. Getting a cozy blanket, some snacks, hot drinks and even a stargazing chart can help elevate the experience even further!
The Stars and Planets are not the only thing you can admire in the Saskatchewan Night sky during the summer. The Noctilucent Clouds which are glowing white clouds during astronomical twilight only occur during the early summer. You can read more about this rare celestial phenomenon here.
Then there’s the Northern Lights. Saskatchewan has one of the best views in the world of the Aurora during the summer. With just enough darkness even during the long days of summer to allow for the Aurora to shine. This can become a highlight of your weekend if you are lucky enough to catch a show.
During June and July it will get dark enough just before midnight until around 2am before the morning light starts to wash out the sky. During this time if you happen to see the aurora dance, you will be among the very few people in the world that get to experience warm weather aurora. This is because the arctic areas that typically have the best views of the Northern Lights, don’t have any darkness in the summer so the aurora is not visible there. The midnight sun shines done further north, allowing most of Saskatchewan (& the Canadian Prairies) which still lies under the aurora oval, some of the only views. This makes Summer Aurora one of the rarest and most memorable summer experiences you can have. And luckily you can enjoy it right here in Saskatchewan!
The best time for summer viewing is in August & September when there are more hours of darkness to enjoy the night sky and the weather is warm. Aurora is known to be more active around the spring and fall equinoxes, making late September one of the best times to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Although some parks may close earlier in September, most areas remain open till at least the end of September before closing for the season.
There are many parks in Saskatchewan that provide excellent views of the night sky with little light pollution because of their rural and remote locations. Sadly light pollution is increasing at alarming rates each year on a global scale, so the actual darkness of each park varies depending on nearby developments. If you are looking for the Aurora, pick a location with good northern views, preferably in the central or northern parts of the province to get further under the aurora oval.
Here are some of the parks I have had the opportunity to visit recently and would recommend as ideas to get you started:
Good Spirit Provincial Park
Narrow Hills Provincial Park
Great Blue Heron Provincial Park
Greenwater Provincial Park
Porcupine Hills Provincial Park
Duck Mountain Provincial Park
Prince Albert National Park
Hudson Bay Regional Park
Nipawin Regional Park
Grasslands National Park and Cypress Hills Inter Provincial Park are both Dark Sky Preserves designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Although I haven’t personally photographed in this area, it is known to be some of the darkest skies in Canada! Looking forward to visiting them soon and will be documenting my experience. Selecting a location is important, and with a little preparation it can help make your stargazing event one to remember.
Here are some tips for Heading out Stargazing:
- Take a headlamp/bug spray/warm clothes/blanket, make sure you are comfortable.
- If you are scouting for areas during the day, watch for lighting that would block your night view.
- The way your eyes work, not looking at any form of light for at least 15 minutes will improve your night vision.
- There are printable sky charts available as well as apps for cellphones to help guide you through the constellations and planets you are viewing.
- If you are looking to photograph the night sky, here are some tips.
- Here are some aurora hunting tips to follow.
- Night time during the summer is about two hours after the sun sets.
- The milky way core and densest area of stars is visible to the south all summer on any clear night.
- Respect all park quiet times and talk quietly (sound travels further at night!)
Heading out at sundown to catch the last light of the day and to witness the subtle changes of light is peaceful and calming. It’s the best way to finish off a day’s adventure, clear your mind and enjoy one of the most amazing views the parks throughout Saskatchewan offer. A time well spent with family, friends or even alone. Stargazing & watching the Northern Lights!
Keep Exploring & Wishing you a clear dark sky!