The aurora over Fort Smith at the Dark Sky Festival in the NWT.

KIll the lights! And welcome to Wood Buffalo National Park, the world's largest Dark Sky Preserve. Here, far from the blinding glare of big-city lights, the nighttime heavens shine forth in all their glory – the moon, the planets, the Milky Way, and the stellar Northern Lights. You can enjoy this celestial tapestry anytime from mid-August to April, but the finest sky-gazing occurs during the Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival, held annually in late August. The 2019 event took place from August 22 to 25. Here were a few of the star attractions. 

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Model rocket making at the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT.

Blast off! Always a hit with the little astronauts in the crowd, the launch is not only thrilling to see but the model rocket making session is a great intro to the science of rocketry.  

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Telescopes at the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT.

Check out those guns! A dark sky preserve is a designated area that restricts artificial light pollution. Since Wood Buffalo National Park's is the biggest in all the world, that means the views of the cosmos are that much clearer. There'll be plenty of magnum-grade telescopes at the Dark Sky Festival for star-gazers to peer through. Obviously, you're welcome to bring your own. 

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Astronaut Roberta Bondar at the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT.

Literally. That's Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, who shared her extraterrestrial experiences at the Dark Sky Festival a few years ago. Julie Payette, Canada's current Governor General, has come to the festival and she knows a thing or two about outer space: the astronaut has been in orbit twice, making more than 400 circuits around the Earth. The Dark Sky Festival always features interesting and engaging speakers: Bob McDonald, from CBC's Quirks and Quarks science program, and Opaskwayak Cree Nation educator Wilfred "The Star Guy" Buck were last year's guests.

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Bannock on a stick at the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT.

Yum! It's a Northwest Territories staple. 

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Hands-on learning at the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT.

Baking soda, vinegar – something's about to go kaplooey. For kids and adults alike, hands-on learning is a focus of the festival. 

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Aurora borealis over Fort Smith at the Dark Sky Festival in the NWT.

With big, wide-open – and most importantly, dark – skies, the Dark Sky Festival's location at Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park has some of the best Auroral displays in the world. Rent a cabin at Pine Lake from Parks Canada to be in the middle of the action all weekend.

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The Northern Lights above Pine Lake, the site of the Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith, NWT and Wood Buffalo National Park.




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Aurora borealis over Fort Smith, NWT.

No, seriously, just look at it. When are you ever going to see a more stunning skyscape? And since it's August, it's not even cold outside, meaning you and your fellow festival-goers can kick back in your camp chair all night long, ogling the heavens. It's enough to make you feel both humbled and inspired. It's why the Dark Sky Festival will brighten your life.

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8 Bright Reasons To Get Starry-Eyed At The Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith 14 c53dfa93-7f24-47e4-90a2-967d1a8c57c0

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