Shooting Stars over Jasper – Perseids (9-15 Aug 2015)

Dates: Aug 9-15 (7 days)
Location: Trip leaves from Edmonton, AB, Canada
Cost: $1460
Accommodation: basic: tent, outhouse


Northern lights


Participate in the global Citizen Science opportunity to document the Perseid Meteor Showers (shooting stars).  This year the meteor showers take place when the moon is almost new, making meteor watching awesome.  The trip takes place right around the peak of the shower, so we should see quite a few shooting stars, typically 60 to 100 per hour.  What better place to see the show than Jasper National Park, a Dark Sky Preserve!

You will meet up with your Trip Lead in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for the scenic train trip to Jasper Townsite in Jasper National Park.  You will then be transported to the campground, your home for the rest of the trip.  After settling in, you will have the afternoon and evening to explore the area.  We will go out at midnight to view and document the meteors, and upload our data to NASA.

The Athabasca glacier in the Columbia Icefields.

The Athabasca glacier in the Columbia Icefields.

This amazing trip will take you into some beautiful country, give you a chance to see some of Canada’s glaciers before they are gone, perhaps see the northern lights, and participate in a global Citizen Science project of documenting the Perseid Meteor showers.  See you there!

What’s Included

  • Return transportation to Edmonton
  • Daily van transportation between the campsite and Jasper, and reasonable daily transportation to nearby trailheads
  • All necessary camping equipment
  • All meals, glass of wine or specialty drink with dinner
  • Trip Lead
  • Citizen Science T-shirt


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Why the research is important

A meteor, or shooting star, is a small piece of rock that is passing through earth’s atmosphere. Meteor showers are named after the star constellation from which they radiate – thus the Perseids seem to come from the constellation Perseus, but they can appear anywhere in the sky.

According to, the Perseids are one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The shooting stars are produced when the earth passes through the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The thin crescent moon will be no match for the bright Perseids this year so be prepared for a great show.

NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) is the NASA organization responsible for meteoroid environments pertaining to spacecraft engineering and operations. The MEO leads NASA technical work on the meteoroid environment and coordinates the existing meteoroid expertise at NASA centers.

The primary functions of the MEO are to:
* Lead NASA technical work on the meteoroid environment; coordinate the existing meteoroid expertise at NASA centers.
* Provide design, operational determination, and review assistance for NASA Programs/projects with respect to risk mitigation.
* Develop, maintain, and distribute a more accurate sporadic meteoroid model.
* Provide meteor shower forecasts to NASA spacecraft operators.

NASA, in partnership with the International Meteor Organization, has an ongoing Citizen Science program where they are asking the help of all people interested in meteors to document their meteor findings.  By having people document the shooting stars from all around the world, they can better put together 3-D models of the meteors.  NASA have created an app for this as described in Scientific American.

As part of this trip, we will use the NASA app to document the Perseid meteor shower.  That is just the starting point – something anyone can do.  If you have an interest in photography and want to take the opportunity to get some amazing photos of the shooting stars, some information about taking photos of meteors can be found here.
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About the research area

Columbia Icefields

Athabasca glacier at the Columbia Icefields

We will be staying at the Columbia Icefields campground – beautifully nestled in the trees, right across from the Athabaska Glacier – one of the primary observation sites (the best sites in the park).  The icefield area is about an hour south of the Jasper townsite, so even the limited lights of Jasper will not interfere with meteor shower viewing.  In addition, the area around the icefields is sparsely vegetated, so there are a lot of open vistas to watch the stars.

In addition to being one of the darkest areas of the park, the Columbia Icefields are one of the most interesting.  Icefields form when large accumulations of snow compress over many years into ice.  Glaciers are actually huge ice packs that flow from the source icefield down a valley.  In the Columbia Icefields, glaciers come right down to the road, and you can easily walk up to the toe of some of the glaciers, or take tours (not included) right onto or over the glaciers.

The area also offers some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in the park, and a variety of hiking trails.  For hikers, the location provides one of the most accessible yet least busy hikes in the park.  The very small size of the icefields campground ensures that the longer trails in this area are not very busy.

More broadly, the trip will be in Jasper National Park, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Jasper townsite (village) has a lot to offer visitors, with a visitor information centre, swimming in nearby lakes, interpretive programs and walks, lots of restaurants.  Jasper is very busy during the summer, and can provide a needed return to civilization or place to entertain youth, or even have a day at the lakeside beach.
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Daily life/itinerary

First day:

7:30AM-1:00PM Train to Jasper through the Rocky Mountains – an unforgettable trip

6:00PM Welcome Dinner


9:00-10:00AM – Breakfast

10:00AM-6:00PM – free time to pursue your personal passion.  Drive to-from hiking trailheads, icefield visitor center and Jasper townsite provided as requested.  Bagged lunch provided.

6:00PM Dinner and conversation

8:00PM Local activities (or naps)

10:00PM-2:00AM Documenting shooting stars with NASA app and personal photography

Last Day:

7:30AM Breakfast

9:00AM Leave for Edmonton, arrive Edmonton airport by 3PM and/or Edmonton city by 4PM
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Accommodation and food

We will be staying at the Columbia Icefields Campground.  The accommodations are pretty basic:  Two-person tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, ground sheet.  Pit toilets (outhouses).  There is no power anywhere at the campground, and limited mobile phone connectivity.  Power is available at the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre (walking distance) or in Jasper (one hour drive).  We will be able to have fires at night, for fun and companionship.  Even though we are staying across from a giant glacier, August in Jasper is quite warm and you certainly won’t need your winter woolies.

All meals are included and will be prepared by the Trip Lead over camp stoves.  A hot breakfast will start you off in the morning, whenever you wake up (within reason of course).  Lunch and snacks will be something that you can pack into a backpack to take with you on the trail or into town.  We will have supper together, something warm and nourishing.  One small glass of wine per night per person is included, or equivalent non-alcoholic beverage.

We can accommodate most dietary restrictions, just let us know when you make your reservation.
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Cost details

Travelers should plan on a night in Edmonton prior to the trip as the train leaves Edmonton at 7:30 AM.

$250 deposit per person is required to secure your place, you will be invoiced for the remainder, including any applicable taxes (7% GST), 6 weeks prior to the trip.  Gluten free menu is an additional $50 per person.

Travel assistance & arrangements

If you need assistance with travel to/from Edmonton, or need a hotel in Edmonton, we recommend our travel partner Your Paradise Awaits. They can also help you with travel insurance, which we strongly recommend.
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