When & Where to View Northern Lights

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) can be difficult to predict exactly, but when the Sun has had recent flare activity, seeing the Northern Lights is more likely.

On a night when the forecast is good for Northern Lights, the best viewing locations will be dark (i.e. little light pollution) and have a clear view of the northern horizon. If the aurora are active all night long, then viewing at midnight can be better than at other times, but going out when activity is high is the most important factor.

Auroral forecasts are given in Kp numbers, on a scale from 0 to 9. To have a chance of seeing the lights in PEI, the Kp level needs to be about 6 or above. These maps show where the lights will be visible for different Kp levels (the location must fall within the green band plotted on the map).

Various websites offer aurora forecasts (here’s one) or display the current “aurora oval”. There are also Twitter accounts like Aurora Alerts that tweet when the Aurora Borealis will be active and at what Kp level.

Possible September viewing

We may attempt a make-up viewing sometime in September as our Moon night had to be cancelled due to the cloudy weather.

There is work being done to the roof of Memorial Hall at the moment that is impeding our access to the telescope. When we are certain that the work is finished and if we have sufficient volunteers available., we may be able to hold a public viewing the weekend of Sept. 20/21.

When more is confirmed, we will update you.

In the mean time, to satisfy your telescope viewing needs, if you see a gentleman with a telescope around town (often in the Indigo parking lot or at Victoria Park), he may very well be one of Charlottetown’s “sidewalk astronomers” who would be happy to share his views of the sky with you. He posts when he plans to do observing on the ticker on his website.

CANCELLED: International Observe the Moon Night

UPDATE: Clouds are moving in fast from the west and weather radar shows rain showers approaching. After that it’s predicted to be all clouds, so we won’t be seeing the Moon tonight. Sorry for any inconvenience, but that is our variable PEI weather!


Saturday, September 6, 2014 is InOMN logo-transparentInternational Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). This annual event was created by a partnership of scientists, educators, and amateur astronomers from around the world to encourage a sense of wonderment and curiosity about Earth’s Moon. InOMN events will be held all around the world.

We will host a Moon observation event from 8:00-10:00PM that we encourage all to attend. Volunteers from the Physics Department and Charlottetown RASC will teach you about the Moon, help you identify some of the Moon’s features, and show you stunning telescope views of the lunar surface.

As with all our viewings, this event is weather dependent. Updates will be posted here in the event of cancellation, but as a general rule if you can’t see the Moon because of clouds, our telescope won’t be able to see it either.

To attend this event, meet in Memorial Hall room 417 (suggested parking lots: ‘B’ or ‘C’ on campus map). This room can be reached by the stairs or the elevator. To go up to our observatory, it is necessary to climb the stairs one floor plus up into the dome. However, for this event we hope to also have some binocular and small telescope viewing from ground level which will be accessible to any guests with mobility issues.

More Seats Available in Physics 251

If you tried to register for Physics 251: Introductory Astronomy I back in July but found it was full, despair not! We have enlarged the class size to accommodate the wait list and there are still places available. The course runs in the evenings, Tuesdays & Thursdays from 7:00-8:30 PM with a lab/field observations Thursdays from 8:30-10:00 PM.

In this course, you’ll learn: why the stars, Sun, and Moon appear to move the way they do; how the solar system formed; why the planets move the way they do; why there are different types of planets (and which ones might house life other than Earth!); and how humankind has learned all that we have about our solar system. We’ll learn this using only basic mathematics and try to have fun with the topics.

You can find the calendar description here. If you’re on Twitter, search #phys251 and check out some of the discussion from last year’s course.

UPDATE: August 9th/10th Viewing Cancelled

UPDATED: The sky is no clearer today than it was yesterday and the clouds don’t look like they’ll be moving out at all tonight, so we have to cancel the for tonight, Sunday, August 10.

Although it’s great that we’re getting some more rain to help our farmers’ dry fields, it’s unfortunate that it had to come on the one weekend we had our viewing scheduled!


Everyone is welcome to attend public viewings.  To do so, meet in Memorial Hall in room 417 and you will be guided up to the observatory when it is available.  It is necessary to climb the stairs one floor up to the observatory, however the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor before doing so.

Public viewings are co-hosted by the UPEI Physics Department and the Charlottetown Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).