Seeing stars at Stake Lake Observatory

Nature Kamloops

Local astronomy enthusiasts now have a new location for viewing the night sky. The Stake Lake Observatory will be celebrating its first anniversary with an open house this Saturday.

The observation dome was donated to the Kamloops Astronomical Society by Joan Bernard and Murray Foubister in 2010 for the use and enjoyment of all who look to the stars.

"One of the challenges with this hobby is inclement weather," said Bev Markle, KAS president. "The dome provides shelter from the wind and low temperatures, and extends the viewing season."

The society considered several locations for the observatory before selecting the south side of Stake Lake for the exceptional darkness of its night sky.

Moving the observation dome from its location in Upper Sahali to Stake Lake proved to be a challenging project. A crew of 15 KAS members carried the dome and base separately about 100 metres down a steep treed slope to a flatbed trailer where it was transported in two parts to Stake Lake.

During the past year, society members prepared the new foundation and deck, put the dome and base in place, and installed an underground electrical cable. A donated eight-inch telescope has been cleaned, adjusted for accuracy, and positioned inside the dome.

In order to protect the quality of the night sky in the Stake Lake Recreation area, the society is working with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to establish a dark sky preserve. Across Canada there are presently 13 such preserves, with only one in B.C., which provide accessible dark observing sites for the public to experience the wonders of the naturally dark night sky.

A second, equally important function of a dark sky preserve is to improve the night-time environment of organisms which require day-night contrast for their biological rhythms.

The KAS has already expressed its concern to the Environmental Assessment Office about the proposed Ajax mine, that could contribute substantial sky glow to the proposed Stake Lake Recreation Area Dark Sky Preserve.

The Stake Lake Observatory Open House is a public event on Saturday, Oct. 1, starting at 6 p.m. Parking is available at the far side of Stake Lake from the ski parking lot.

Bill Burnyeat, an astronomy instructor at BCIT, is a guest speaker for the evening. Additional activities are a swap table (at 4:30 p.m); a silent auction; the KAS raffle draw for a telescope, astro-photo print and a backyard astronomy guide book; and observatory tours.

Weather permitting, visitors may view the night sky through the observatory telescope or through a variety of members' telescopes.

It is recommended that visitors bring a chair, a red-light head lamp or red-light flashlight, sturdy footwear and warm clothing. If it is cloudy or raining, all the activities will take place except viewing.

Anne Neave is a member of the Kamloops Naturalist Club and Kamloops Astronomical Society. Nature Kamloops is written by members of the Kamloops Naturalist Club, a group dedicated to protection and promotion of the natural environment. Questions and observations about nature in and around Kamloops are welcomed at www.ocis.net/~davids/ or email kamloopsnaturalists@shaw.ca.

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