Bob McDonald's passion for space is infectious. The host of CBC's Quirks & Quarks was in Jasper last weekend as a guest of the Jasper Dark Sky Festival.
JASPER, AB - It’s human nature to wonder what’s up there in the heavens above.
For those of us who want to know more, we head to Jasper, AB., tucked amid the Canadian Rockies and home to an out-of-this-world night sky.
It’s home to one of the world's darkest and largest Dark Sky Preserves in the world, designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. With that title, Tourism Jasper hosts a Dark Sky Festival every October to celebrate this fact, and welcomes star trackers to a destination rich in celestial sightings.
Jasper is located about 3.5 hours west of Edmonton and about five hours northwest of Calgary, away from the lights of any big city. There are not many places left in North America with skies untouched by light pollution. Jasper has been a National Park for more than 100 years and has gained a reputation as a spot that serves up some stellar star safaris.
"Our National Parks are national treasures. It’s so important we keep them that way," says Bob McDonald, host of Canada's second longest running radio shows, CBC’s Quirks & Quarks. McDonald, a passionate space enthusiast, made the star trek from Victoria for Tourism Jasper’s annual festival. He’s a big proponent of teaching children about the skies, as well. “Take your kids outside and introduce them to what is up there. They will be fascinated by what they see."
I share McDonald’s excitement of astronomy; it was the only thing I aced in university. The course included a lot of field work, sitting out in Manitoba’s back 40, drawing constellations with temperatures dipping to -20C and trying to stay warm by drinking peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate. Those field trips helped me to unlock some of the secrets to the heavens. Learning about what was up there, just like we did this weekend at Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival.
Bob McDonald’s favourite space facts and inspirational musings:
Did you know that the rings of Saturn are composed mainly of water ice particles that range in size from a few millimeters to the height of a semi-truck?
Top 3 reasons we need to have some galactic curiosity:
1. “It makes you appreciate the earth in a new way - to compare our planets. You start to realize our time on this planet is short and we better live each day to make it the most it can be.”
2. “I spent 40 years of my life in Toronto, where you’d see maybe 40 stars. Here in Jasper, you see 4,000!” Being an astronomy fan gets you outside and exploring new places.”
3. “It’s humbling for us as humans to understand we don't have it all figured out. Most of the universe is made up of dark matter, but scientists don’t yet know exactly why that matter exists. We’re not as smart as we think we are, and in reality we still haven't a clue what's up there. This keeps us humble, and we truly appreciate how small we are in the grand scheme of things.”
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For more information on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival visit Tourism Jasper’s website