Tired of mountains? New Jasper Planetarium offers stars
Jasper has always enticed tourists with the allure of mountains, but a new venture in the town promises an experience that takes travellers even higher.
The Jasper Planetarium, opening June 29, will offer interactive, digital Jasper- centric astronomy shows projected onto a domed ceiling and views through what’s touted as the largest telescope in the Rockies. Staff will guide visitors through the night sky outside the planetarium or farther into the park. It also offers daily views of the sun through special solar telescopes.
But the biggest question manager and astronomer- in- residence Peter McMahon says he gets is, “There’s a planetarium in Jasper?” It’s not as unlikely as it seems. Jasper National Park was officially declared a dark- sky preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2011 and it hosts a dark sky festival every October. The idea came up during last year’s festival.
“We all looked around and said there really is a market for this, and not just for astronomy nerds, but what I call polar fleece stargazers,” said McMahon, who also runs a similar planetarium in Ontario.
Tourism operators Sundog Tour Co. and Jasper Raft Tours bought a projector and an inflatable dome to launch the Jasper Planetarium in an outdoor courtyard of the Marmot Lodge, on Jasper’s main street.
“Essentially, we’ve got what amounts to a small version of what you would see in Telus World of Science in Edmonton or Telus Spark in Calgary.
“It’s technically similar, sort of, but on a much smaller scale.”
The domed planetarium is an inflatable fabric structure about six metres across and can fit 35 people inside.
It’s covered by a tent to protect it from the elements.
Shows, which are 35 minutes and cost $ 29 for adults, will focus on the sky from a Jasper perspective. First Nations constellations will also be featured.
McMahon said the planetarium will take Jasper’s growing dark- sky tourism offerings to a new, daily and year- round level. Many tour operators have already pre- booked the facility, he said.
The Jasper Planetarium will show Jasper- oriented space programming inside an inflatable dome starting June 29.