Vancouver’s smoky skies will be lit up with the bright lights of the Perseid meteor shower this weekend, and if you’re looking for a spot to watch the show, UBC’s Museum of Anthropology has you covered. The MOA is celebrating the natural phenomenon with the first ever Blackout: Night Sky Festival, running from 5 p.m. to midnight this Saturday (August 12).
The night is co-hosted with the UBC Astronomy Club, and will offer an outdoor BBQ, Indigenous storytelling led by Margaret Grenier, kid-friendly lantern-making sessions, and an art installation by the MOA and Hfour's Native Youth Program. The meteor shower itself will be narrated by astrophysicists Jaymie Matthews and Don Kurtz.
April Liu, MOA’s curator of public programs, tells the Straight that the idea came from an interest in showcasing the natural spaces that surround the museum as development plans for new buildings and amenities are underway.
“The museum is going through expansion, and so I thought it would be a great opportunity now, as we’re getting architects and designers in the conversation, to get them to think about light pollution and get them to think about our building in relationship to the landscape and not just the landscape as an empty campus that you build on,” says Liu.
Protecting the MOA’s wild spaces is part of a larger initiative to have the museum designated as an urban star park, the first of its kind of Canada. The title falls under the global dark sky movement led by scientists and cultural leaders to protect spaces from light pollution—without the unique natural landscape of the grounds, the MOA would lose its eligibility.
“That space is recognized on campus as a dark spot,” says Liu. “The astronomers have been coming for years to set up their telescopes to do nighttime observation there. Basically we’ve got this bluff that overlooks the ocean and it faces away from the city and it gets quite dark at night, so we teamed up with them to do this event.”
Blackout offers a unique opportunity to watch the meteor shower at a first-choice spot for astronomers, using their top-of-the-line telescopes that are increasingly hard to find, after the Vancouver Telescope Centre closed earlier this year.
“It’s a really special opportunity for people in Vancouver to look through some amazing telescopes,” says Liu.
The event is set to run rain or shine, smoke or no smoke, and Liu is hopeful that there will be enough breaks in the clouds to catch a clear view of the meteors.
“I’m so thrilled, I didn’t expect such an outpouring of interest and support,” says Liu. “I’m really looking forward to having this every year and building upon this momentum so that we can realize our dream of having an urban star park at MOA and being the first museum to do that. Hopefully it will inspire other museums and institutions to do the same.”
More information on Blackout: Night Sky Festival can be found here.