When the sun went down and the stars started to come out, at least 40 people were treated to a spectacular view of Saturn and its rings at the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve near Plevna Saturday night. Also in the frame was the likelihood of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, but there was some discussion as to whether this was actually a star in the background and couldn’t be confirmed by press time.
Saturday night was the third star party at the observation pad this summer (subsequent parties include (Aug. 11, 12 and 13, the Perseid meteor showers), Sept.1, seven planets, Oct. 6 featuring the autumn constellations) and also featured Jupiter and its four Galilean moons. The banding on Jupiter was also visible.
While many of the stargazers were locals and regulars, a considerable number were from out of town and first-timers.
“I wanted my family to see how pure the sky is,” said Rong Hui Yang from Ottawa. “In Ottawa, there is too much light pollution.”
Paul Thiel of the North Frontenac Economic Development Task Force said that the Yang family are typical visitors to the sky pad, coming in for the evening. But, he said, they do get a lot of inquires from people who would like to come and stay longer. The problem is that the lodges and campgrounds are pretty much booked solid with seasonals and there’s no place for would be stargazers to stay.
That almost happened to Lloyd and Francine Kresic from Rockford, ON, but they managed to luck out.
“We wanted to come down for this when we found out about it, but we phoned around and nothing was available,” said Lloyd while setting up his telescope. “Luckily, Ferleigh Lodge had a cancellation and we found out about it Wednesday.
“It’s our first time and we’d like to come back.”
Thiel said accommodation (or lack thereof) is something the task force has been looking at in detail.
“The campgrounds and lodges are booked full-time from mid-June,” he said. “We just finished a survey to see that’s changed since six years ago.
Thiel said he’d like to see the property to the west of the pad purchased and turned into a campground, but with the caveat of a seven-day maximum stay.
That could be especially important once the campaign to build an observatory to house the donation of a 16-inch telescope from the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Astronomical Society becomes a reality.
And speaking of the observatory, there’s a Go-Fund-Me page dedicated to the project if you’d like to contribute.
Verona’s Tim Trentadue, a frequent visitor, said he’s met people from all over at the pad and many have expressed the same frustration with finding a place to stay.
“I’m here on most clear nights and I’m rarely alone,” he said. “One night in April, a moose came through.”