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Ontario photographer reveals how best to see the night skies

Photo by Trevor Jones (https://astrobackyard.com/) Photo by Trevor Jones (https://astrobackyard.com/)
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An astrophotographer from southern Ontario captured Thursday night’s display of the Aurora Borealis, and has offered some tips and tricks for catching a glimpse of them yourself tonight.

Trevor Jones, of St. Catharines, Ont., told CTV News Toronto Friday that Ontario’s Thursday night light show can be attributed to the sun.

“When we're seeing the northern lights, it means that the solar wind from the sun is sending these charged solar particles towards Earth and we see them at the poles,” Jones said. “It's called a geomagnetic storm.”

“When the storm is strong enough and far enough south in latitude, you can see them here in Ontario,” he said. “But it’s quite a rare sight.”

Jones, who has been photographing space for more than a decade, caught the lights “dancing overhead” in St. Catharines Thursday night and was among a number of photographers who captured Thursday's recent solar event.

In Bowmanville, Ont., resident Brian Connelly also managed to lens the light show, getting a number of shots between 10:45 p.m. and midnight.

Will the northern lights be visible tonight?

Jones said, while slightly weaker, Aurora Borealis should be visible Friday night in Ontario as well. 

“The biggest thing you need is clear skies, so if it's completely cloudy, you'll miss them altogether,” Jones said. “Last night, it was partially cloudy, so it was enough where we could actually still see them.”

He also recommends getting away from the light pollution of the city and allowing your eyes to adjust to the dark for at least 25 minutes for optimal viewing.

Photo by Trevor Jones (https://astrobackyard.com/)

If possible, travelling to a dark-sky preserve, areas where light pollution has been nearly eliminated and residents can enjoy “celestial landscapes,” will give viewers the best shot at a vivid show.

Canada has 13 federally-designated dark-sky preserves, areas where light pollution is kept to a minimum or eliminated completely. Three provincial parks in Ontario have an official dark-sky designation as well. Some of the nearest to Toronto include Binbrook Conservation Area in Niagara, Ont. and Torrance Barrens in Gravenhurst, Ont.

But you don't necessarily need to travel to a designated dark-sky preserve to see the phenomenon. On Thursday night, residents reported seeing the northern lights in downtown Toronto.

Jones also captured what he called his “ first ‘galaxy season' image” of the year on Thursday night in St. Catharines.

“From March to June, [...] there's just so many galaxies available to observe and photograph, so it's a fun time for astrophotographers,” he said. 

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