Discovering Kingston’s constellations

A guide to beating light pollution

A slow capture of the night sky.
via Flickr

Have you ever seen a shooting star? Getting your wishes granted doesn’t have to be a matter of total chance.

Missing a meteor shower or one of the three Supermoons left this year, can make for major disappointment when you hear about it the next day. Planning ahead to stargaze with friends can make for an unforgettable night, or an amazing date with someone special.

Even though Queen’s is in an area with some intense light pollution, finding a nearby place to watch the night skies isn’t too hard with tools like the DarkSiteFinder map, which charts the amount of light pollution over the entire globe.


You don’t need a completely dark sky to see a lot of meteor showers, but if you want to make the hour-long trip, North Frontenac County has a Dark Sky preserve that’s meant to foster peak conditions for professional and amateur astronomers alike.

If you want to stay closer to home, Queen’s has open houses for their observatory in Ellis Hall. You can go to see guest speakers and look through their telescopes at your leisure.

Being able to see the stars is one challenge, telling them apart is the next. But if you’re an astronomy novice like myself, you can rely on free star-charting apps like SkyView to tell you which constellations are which. SkyView connects to your phone’s camera and GPS to map the stars exactly where you are. You can look through your phone’s camera-lens for a really precise and interactive star gazing experience. Hey, finding the Little Dipper is hard sometimes. 

These celestial events for the rest of the year will give you a good chance of seeing shooting stars, and Supermoons, well they’re just really cool to see.

Oct. 8 – The Draconids Meteor Shower

This meteor shower is a minor one, but with about 10 meteors per hour, there are plenty of chances to see them if you make a night of it. They’re best viewed in the early evening right after night falls. The constellation Draco — hint it looks like a dragon — will give you a good idea of where to look for them.

Oct. 16 – Hunters Moon

This moon is also known as the “Blood” moon, because in addition to looking brighter and closer to earth than normal, it can appear to have a reddish-orange tint.

 A full blood moon. (via Pixabay)

Oct. 20-21 — Orionids Meteor Shower

This shower is best viewed after midnight around the constellation Orion, the Hunter. It’ll have quite a few more meteors than the Draconids, with about 20 meteors per hour.

Nov. 4-5  Taurids Meteor Shower

Seeing a pattern? The Taurids is a minor meteor shower with about five to 10 per hour, best seen after midnight around the constellation of Taurus.

Nov. 14  Full Beaver Moon

The Full Beaver Moon is named after the time it is most visible, the last chance for people to set beaver traps before lakes and rivers froze over for winter. This year, the Supermoon will be the closest it’s been to Earth since 1948, making it one of the largest and brightest moons some will see in their lifetime.

Nov. 16-17 - Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids has up to 15 meteors per hour. If you stay up late, after midnight, you should be able to see a few coming from around the constellation Leo. Lie flat on your back on the ground and look towards the eastern sky.  

Dec. 13-14  Geminids Meteor Shower

The Geminids is the most impressive meteor shower you’ll be able to see this year. It has up to 120 meteors per hour during it’s peak from after midnight on Dec. 13 – the morning of Dec. 14. The meteors will be most numerous around, you guessed it, the constellation Gemnini.

Dec. 14  The Full Cold Moon

This full moon is known as the Full Cold Moon because this time of year is when it starts to get, well, cold. Icy cold. If you’re planning on stargazing, bring some hot beverages and blankets.

Dec. 21-22  Ursids Meteor Shower

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower that will have about five to 10 meteors per hour. A good way to relax either during or after exam study, it’s worth it to take a walk and look for a few of the brighter ones around Ursa Minor after midnight.

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