Check out a different kind of nightlife in Northwest Ontario!
Thunder Bay is home to two observatories and an astronomy club, and the long dark nights of winter are ideal for stargazing, catching a glimpse of a meteor and even, if you’re lucky, a sky filled with unforgettable northern lights.
1. Thunder Bay Observatory
Explore stunning views of the night sky with professional equipment that has the ability to view a billion “stellar objects” ranging from stars to meteors. There is also a 70-seat multiscreen “mini-planetarium” for viewing. Owner Randy McAllister (who keeps records of local UFO sightings) offers night sky photography sessions as well as educational talks and slideshows—upcoming topics include “Space Travel Past and Future,” “The Universe in Motion” and “Astronomy Influencing Man’s History.”
2. David Thompson Astronomical Observatory (DTAO)
Located at Fort William Historical Park, the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory opened in 2012. View the night sky through a powerful 20-inch telescope, one of the largest for public viewing in central Canada. The adjacent Discovery Centre is home to astronomy software and computers, and video feed and projection systems for observing images, so even if it’s a cloudy night you can still experience a virtual tour.
The DTAO offers popular “Star Walks” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings with themes such as “constellation mythology” and “biology and the stars.” Other events include classic sci-fi movie evenings, a lecture series led by expert astronomers, and, in the summer months, the “Astronomy Traveller” package geared towards RVers and tenters who want to stay at the only campground in Ontario equipped with its own observatory.
Historic navigation equipment and a meteorite collection are on display in the Discovery Centre. And the name? David Thompson was a surveyor with the North West Company who used tools like a telescope, sextant and chronometer, as well as his skills in math, astronomy and surveying, to create a massive map of an area of almost 4 million square kilometres. First Nations peoples called him “the stargazer.” Learn more at www.fwhp.ca, or by calling (807) 473-2344
3. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Thunder Bay Centre
The local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada meets the second Tuesday of each month to talk about all aspects of astronomy at open-to-the-public meetings at Confederation College, and also occasionally offers public viewing nights, usually at Hillcrest Park, throughout the year. Bring your own telescope or binoculars, or take a look at the sky through one of the many telescopes and binoculars set up by members.