Where to go: ASTROLab

More details: Perseids evenings

Our story how we stargazed in Mont-Mégantic park in 2018.

Night sky in the park Mont-Megantic

When is the best time for observing shooting stars?

Every year in August in the northern hemisphere, and hence in Canada, you can observe shooting stars with the naked eye.

You can see up to 100 shooting stars per minute.

Stars over the trees in the park Mont-Megantic

Did you know?

What are the shooting stars?
The shooting stars are meteors or meteor showers, i.e. small parts of dust and ice traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere.

What kind of shooting stars can we observe in August?
In August we can observe the Perseids.

Why do we call shooting stars the Perseids?
For us, Earth people, the shooting stars appear from the constellation Perseus. That’s why the name is Perseids.

Why are the Perseids visible in August?
In August the Earth passes through the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The activity is between July 17 and August 24.

What are the best stargazing conditions?
The best observing conditions are clear moonless sky far away from urban “light pollution”.

Shooting star

In 2018 the ideal conditions for observing the Perseids were overnight on August 12-13.

After studying the theory, we have decided to find a spot far enough from Montreal to watch the Perseids.

Since the night from 11 to 12 August fell out on a Saturday-Sunday, we went that night for stargazing. We were lucky because on the following night (August 13) with a peak activity, the sky was covered with haze.

Only one question left: where to go to stargaze?

At first glance, it seems that you can drive 50 kilometers from Montreal, and it will be dark enough to observe stars. We tried a couple of times in the past. What we understood from our experience is, first, it is not dark at all. The quantity of the stars you can see is not much bigger, the Milky Way is only slightly visible. Second, it is not very pleasant to be in the middle of nowhere alone in the night.

That time we decided to stargaze with the professionals.

Astronomy activity center ASTROLab in Mont-Mégantic National Park

You can observe the night star sky with the comfort at astronomy activity center ASTROLab in Mont-Mégantic National Park in Quebec, Canada.

ASTROLab front yard

In the night with the highest activity, usually 4-5 nights in August, you can come and enjoy the stars for a small fee. If you want to know more about the stars, various activities are there for you at ASTROLab center:

  • Interactive shows
  • Night hiking with a guide
  • Knowledgeable animators answer any questions about stars
  • Star and planet observation with a telescope
  • Nice music ambiance…

Bonus: Wildlife watching – we saw a fox slowly crossing the road.

All these activities last from 7 pm to 3 am.

In the astronomical center, there is one more option for observing the stars. This is a bus tour to the observatory. The bus takes you even higher up to the summit. It costs double from the regular price. The tickets were sold out. So we do not know if it is worth to go up to the observatory. We stargazed on the “base”, i.e. near ASTROLab astronomical center.

Milky Way

All night the “base” competed with the “summit”, who was able to see more shooting stars. Until 2 o’clock in the morning, the “summit” was leading, but later we passed them and finally beat them. In both places, the quantity of the shooting starts was more than three hundred!

When we arrived at 11 pm it was +15 C, while in Montreal it was +25 C.

There was a moonless clear sky.

Everything went as expected until we were stopped 500 meters from the park entrance. The cars were parked on both sides of the road. The park employee told us politely, there is no parking space – you need to leave the car here and walk. We did so without much enthusiasm. It was not excited at all to carry all our stuff and heavy chairs. We decided to leave all the equipment inside the car for now and go and explore the area. It was pitch black! If we had not had a flashlight, we would have to walk by touching the cars.

Once in the park, we bought tickets. There was a parking lot behind the reception building. We decided to check if there were available spaces. Just in case somebody already left. Imagine! We found a couple of spots.

I stayed to keep the space, Vitali went to bring the car. This parking lot was much closer to the astronomical center ASTROLab. We had a lot of stuff to carry.

  • Warm clothes
  • Blankets
  • Outdoor chairs, for example, our chairs
  • Hot tea/coffee with sandwiches
  • Photo camera
  • Flashlight with a red light. Flashlights with white light are not allowed because you will disturb other visitors. In our case, it was not too heavy to carry 🙂 Apple Watch has a red flashlight embedded.
  • Something to cover your head. At some point, our heads started freezing. We wore our buffs, useful headwear in cold weather. Read and look at how we wear buffs in winter.
Milky Way over the trees

Among offered activities, we remember the night hiking. Do not be scared! It’s only a half-hour walk through the night forest. You go to a group of people. In the darkness, no way to know how many persons were there. At the head of the group, there is a guide with a small flashlight on a long pole.

We made several stops, the guide told us some interesting facts about the life of night animals. It was funny when she asked: “Is everyone here?”. The crowd burst out laughing. We were not able to see each other!

The most amazing part is that by the end of the hiking everyone agreed to be able to see much better in the darkness than at the beginning of the journey. Our eyes adapted.

Night sky in the park Mont-Megantic

It’s so fascinating! It seems there are millions of stars in the sky! Some of them appear others disappear. If you take a picture, and after one minute take another one, you will see how the stars have shifted!

We peered into the sky and thought: “Who knows? There may be someone who is looking at us from some star…

Near the building of the astronomical center, there were 2 telescopes. From time to time, the animators set them up for a cosmic object. Every time we stood in a small queue, we saw Saturn with its rings, Mars, and two galaxies.

We should say only by these queues we were able to understand how many people around. In fact, there was another indicator. Whenever a star “fell”, a loud “Oh !!!” was heard.

That night we were lucky to watch one bolid! He was different from the Perseid. It was a bright flash and burned longer.

In fact, it’s not so easy to watch the shooting stars. You need to constantly turn your head if you want to see more.

We were the last who left. At 4 am.

For those who could not observe the meteor shower in 2018, there is good news. According to NASA since 2008, the number of meteors increases. Every year the “star show” becomes more and more beautiful!

We wish you a cloudless sky and make wishes! They come true!

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