The opening of the L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area could not have come at a better time from an astronomical perspective, coinciding with the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower, a spectacular natural display of "shooting stars" that will rain across the sky this week and peak Saturday, August 11, 2012.
The L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area is easily accessible and located at Ontario's Sheffield Conservation Area north of the 401 on County Road 41, 36 km from Napanee, ON, making it the most southerly point in the province to see the pristine night sky for stargazing. (See http://goo.gl/maps/LG5T) The specially designed open air viewing area officially opened to the public on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. (See www.DarkSkyViewing.com )
"Lennox and Addington County is the best location this far south in Southern Ontario for stargazing, giving you a night sky experience very similar to what was available 100 years ago," says renowned astronomy author Terence Dickinson, who has published 14 books on the subject, selling over two million copies worldwide.
"I moved here in 1976 knowing it was a location where you could access such a pristine night sky," adds Dickinson, who is also editor of SkyNews magazine. "The L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area creates a dedicated, accessible space for anyone to now enjoy what really is the biggest expanse of nature - the universe. The question I get asked the most, especially by people in bigger cities like Toronto or Ottawa, is where can I go to really see the stars. Now I can tell them. This is really a gift of nature here in this part of L&A County."
While the L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area is ideal for both amateur astronomers and astrophotographers, Stephen Paul, Lennox and Addington County's Manager of Economic Development, says the appeal is much broader based.
"This designated stargazing site is open to everyone," says Paul. "You don't need a telescope to enjoy and appreciate the natural wonder of the pure night sky. We are very fortunate in this area to be surrounded by the right natural conditions where you can enjoy a view that is not available in any other place in southern Ontario. So we designed the site with a flat surface to make it easy to take pictures, set up a telescope or just bring along a lawn chair and enjoy the view with your family."
The site's designer and project manager sees the L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area as a special place and he imbued his design with spiritual symbolism.
"We tried to create an environment that symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth, where infinity is expressed in the skies," says Hans Honegger, Designer Bon Eco Design. "We had complete reverence for the natural terrain, finding a spot that is naturally open and unencumbered by trees and integrating the natural presence of the pre-cambium rock of this region into the design. We also incorporated the symbol of a raven into the platform as the astronomical north arrow indicator."
The end result is a rustic, nature-inspired viewing area that blends with the natural environment and includes benches for those who just want to sit and admire the natural beauty of the sky the way their ancestors would have 100 years ago.
Lennox and Addington County is situated in south-eastern Ontario, conveniently centered between the cities of Kingston and Belleville. The county covers a sprawling area of 2,841 square kilometres, stretching from Lake Ontario, northward over 130 kilometers to Renfrew County. The northern half of the county forms part of the Canadian Shield. The southern half of the county is essentially rural, with the exception of the Town of Greater Napanee and the suburban community of Amherstview within Loyalist Township. The rural area is dotted with a number of villages and hamlets which function as commercial and tourism centres for the surrounding area. Settled at first by United Empire Loyalists and later by American and European pioneers, Lennox and Addington County is alive with reminders of a rich past: the family names of the earliest pioneers endure, and hundreds of grand Victorian homes and farmsteads still stand as symbols of an era of hard work and bustling growth, their survival and vitality a testament to the vision of the founders. Visit www.lennoxandaddington.com