Fun with night-vision: 5 unconventional uses

A few weeks ago, I was looking for the Andromeda Galaxy in a loaned night vision monocular and a pair of “Navy SEAL-style”night vision goggles from my backyard on the outskirts of the small town of Port Hope, ON.

While out there, I figured I’d take our 3-year-old miniature schnauzer, Winston, out for his final business transaction of the night. At the same time, our 3-month old mini, Frankie Jenkins (Above, also known as “the trainee”) decided to hop out into the yard for a tinkle… Continue reading “Fun with night-vision: 5 unconventional uses” »

5 reasons to get image-stabilized binoculars

image_stabilized_binoculars_efstonscience_compositeFive years ago, when I really started exploring the night sky from Canada’s wild spaces, I started looking for the ultimate portable telescope. What I found wasn’t a telescope but two telescopes (really small ones at least) enhanced with the same gyroscope or electronic-optic-steadying technology used in camera optics. Continue reading “5 reasons to get image-stabilized binoculars” »

Test-driving a wilderness astronomy dream-setup

A month or so ago, when I took possession of a suite of Sky-Watcher telescopes supplied by EfstonScience of Toronto, the notion of how I would use any of these instruments was farthest from my mind (my first thought was to take the largest of the set and go on an “observing spree” of normally-faint deep space objects.) Continue reading “Test-driving a wilderness astronomy dream-setup” »

Holiday stars over Canada’s best hot spring

radium_sky_hot_springs_2011If someone had asked me last week where you should go if you hate seeing things like stars, planets, nebulas and galaxies, I would have told them to head to BC’s Kootenay mountains.

But after years of trying to go stargazing from Canada’s largest, least crowded, least stinky hot spring, the clouds parted for more than a few hours and we FINALLY Continue reading “Holiday stars over Canada’s best hot spring” »

Canada’s newest public observatory

Back in June, I was in Cypress Hills Interprovincial park on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border to research an upcoming column for Sky News magazine – a column (“Wilderness Explorer”) that you can now read and see imagery of in the current issue of the magazine Continue reading “Canada’s newest public observatory” »

Exploring the water of our solar system

I had the chance a few days ago to use some of my latest goodies from in an interactive astronomy session I did at the 2011 Latornell conservation symposium Nov 16.

The astronomy event was attended by a total of approximately 80-100 people as part of a slate of evening activities at the symposium, which regularly attracts more than 1,000 delegates from conservation authorities from around Ontario and Canada Continue reading “Exploring the water of our solar system” »

A month in the world’s largest “astronomy park”

athabasca falls river peter mcmahon jasper

I was feeling a bit melancholy at the end of this month – and not due to the end of the warm season here in Ontario, or the ominous approach of Halloween (which I actually really love.) I was mourning the end of what felt like one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments – Like a kid at the end of a great season of summer camp, not knowing if they’ll ever be back:

(Above: The river widens at midnight below Jasper’s Athebasca Falls (click for full-res to see the extent of stars. Image: Peter McMahon) Continue reading “A month in the world’s largest “astronomy park”” »

Meteors over Canada’s shipwreck capital

Wrapping up our rattlesnake tour of Canadian stargazing destinations, we stopped by Bruce Peninsula National Park/Fathom Five National Marine Reserve and Dark Sky Preserve.


Though it has fewer venomous snakes than Grasslands dark sky preserve, the ones here near the harbour town of Tobermory are a protected species (you can actually get in trouble with authorities for harming them.) Thankfully, no snakes emerged and our 20-lb mascot Winston was snuggled up in the motel far from any dangerous tall grass.

Meanwhile, local astronomy guru Rod Steinacher was kind enough to spend the night showing me around the local stargazing haunts and he did NOT disappoint! Continue reading “Meteors over Canada’s shipwreck capital” »

First Nations stars on the prairies

On the way back from the Canadian Science Writers’ Association conference just over a month ago, we stopped by the town of Val Marie, SK (pop. 136) on the edge of Grasslands National Park.

The lone (and lone) prairie habitat in the Parks Canada system recently doubled its yearly visitors from 5,000 to almost 10,000.

In comparison, 11 km long Point Pelee in Ontario gets 250,000…Banff gets more than 3 million.

How did Grasslands do it? The chief new attractions have been the rare, re-introduced Black-footed Continue reading “First Nations stars on the prairies” »