Five Things You Should Know About Night Sky Wonders
On April 11, join Don Hladiuk in Fish Creek Provincial Park for an evening of astronomy and (hopefully) catching a glimpse of a planet.
Photograph by Don Hladiuk
It’s fair to say that the night sky is a passion of Don Hladiuk’s. A self-described amateur astronomer and Royal Astronomical Society of Canada member, he recalls when his mother woke him up to watch astronaut John Glenn orbit the earth. He hasn’t been able to tear his eyes away from the night sky since, even going door to door selling cards in order to save up enough to buy his own telescope. Hladiuk is hoping to share his passion with a wider audience at the upcoming Night Sky Wonders event. Taking place at the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre in Fish Creek Provincial Park on April 11, Hladiuk created the event in conjunction with the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society.
Night Sky Wonders will be split into two parts. The first part will consist of a presentation by Hladiuk, where he’ll share images of the night sky and discuss essentials of astronomy, along with suggestions based on his own experience. The second part (depending on Calgary’s ever-changing weather) will be outdoors, where Hladiuk will take to the telescope in the hopes of identifying Venus. “Venus is a brilliant planet in the western sky, so I’m hoping we can pick [it] out in the twilight and maybe pick out another object or two,” says Hladiuk.
Here are five things you should know about Night Sky Wonders.
There are plenty of opportunities for those in the city to gaze at the night sky.
Hladiuk hopes to get other people involved in and excited about astronomy, particularly people who don’t often have the opportunity to gaze at the stars. “I want to focus [the presentation] for city-dwellers, because not everyone can get away. You can [look at the stars when] you’re walking a dog in the evening or early in the morning.”
Make sure you're letting your eyes become “dark adapted” before doing any star gazing.
One of things that Hladiuk will cover during his presentation is allowing your eyes to adjust enough to see all of the objects in the night sky. “You have to get away from bright lights and give yourself at least twenty or thirty minutes, because you will see so much more. When I’m walking in the park, I don’t need a flashlight. Once you’re dark adapted you can see everything because there’s so much scattered light around the city,” says Hladiuk.
If you can find the Big Dipper, you can easily find other constellations.
Hladiuk notes that the Big Dipper is one of the most easily identifiable objects in the night sky – and if people can find that, he can show them how to find other constellations. “When they see the [Big Dipper] in the sky it is something most people can identify. If you can find the Big Dipper, from there I can show you how to find a constellation. Just start with something you know, and then move away from there.”
Dark sky preserves help fight light pollution.
Hladiuk aims to raise awareness about what’s in the skies above us at night, especially because of the threat of light pollution. “Here in Alberta, we’re really taking a lead on [dark sky preserves] which is excellent. Cypress Hills is one of the dark sky areas. You’re restricted on the type of lighting you can use so that we are trying to preserve these islands of darkness.”
The northern lights are Hladiuk’s favourite thing to see in the night sky.
Hladiuk speaks passionately about a variety of objects in the night sky, including Saturn and the moon. But his favourite thing in the night sky? The northern lights. “A beautiful display of northern lights can take your breath away,” says Hladiuk. “When [my friends'] phone rings at 11 at night they wonder if something bad has happened, but it’s just me calling: ‘Look outside, run outside, you have to see this because it’s just so marvelous.’”