Thunder Bay

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Quetico Provincial Park host annual Perseid meteor shower event

People and families from across northwestern Ontario had a chance to satisfy their deep-space curiosities during the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Perseid meteor shower observation event in Quetico Provincial Park on Aug. 9-10.

Northwestern Ontario chapter hosted series of lectures, observations about annual celestial phenomenon

The Thunder Bay chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada hosted an observation event of the Perseid meteor shower, pictured here, over the weekend at Quetico Provincial Park. This photo of a Perseid meteor, captured north of Gimli, Man., in August 2013, was submitted by CBC reader Ric Hornsby. (Submitted by Ric Hornsby)

People from across northwestern Ontario had a chance satisfy their deep-space curiosities during the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Perseid meteor shower observation event in Quetico Provincial Park on Aug. 9 – 10.

The Thunder Bay chapter of the RASC hosts the annual stargazing event to help introduce people to wonders of the night sky through a series of lecture-style presentations and storytelling sessions.

Brendon Roy, president of the city's RASC chapter, said the mystery surrounding space and our natural curiosity about it keep people coming back to the event every year to learn more. 

"Astronomy touches us all," he said.  "It fills the night sky half the day. We hear about things in the news about far-off worlds with interesting stories. It's also just a human curiosity to explore and wonder about what's out there and what more could possibly be. Astronomy encourages creativity and encourages imagination and when people come out to the park, their open-mindedness is what brings them out."

A view of the Ring Nebula in the night sky on Aug. 9 above Quetico Provincial Park. (Submitted by Brendon Roy / Royal Astronomical Society of Canada)

According to Roy, "the Perseid meteor shower is an annual event where the Earth is passing into the stream of a comet that has already passed through the Earth's area. Every year, the Earth intercepts this stream of small particles - if you think of pebbles on a road, that's basically what we're running into - and when they hit the Earth's atmosphere, they're coming in so fast that they light up and they produce a nice light show throughout the night."

Roy added that Quetico, which is a large park about 162 northwest of Thunder Bay. is an ideal location to hold the event because of the dark skies and limited light pollution.

"Quetico Park is a beautiful place to be. Because we're so far from any major centres, the night sky here is really dark, so it's an excellent place to show people things that are in the night sky and teach them about the constellations and stories that go along with the constellations and objects that you just might not be able to see from your backyard."

The Thunder Bay chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada prepares to host its annual Perseid meteor shower observation at Quetico Provincial Park with several different telescopes for participants to try out. (Submitted by Brendon Roy / Royal Astronomical Society of Canada)

About 100 people attended the meteor shower observation, including many families and "young people whose first viewings from a telescope happened on the weekend."

Roy added, "this weekend, unfortunately the Perseids were not their best. We were expecting between 60 and 80 meteors an hour, but we got far less."

Nonetheless, Roy said, "but the skies were nice for us so we were able to see most of the major constellations, point out the north star, the centre of the galaxy, and some of the bright planets that were out on the weekend, like Jupiter and Saturn."

The Perseid meteor showers will be gradually getting stronger until they hit their peak during the night of Aug. 12 – 13.