New night sky festival marks MOA’s bid to become Vancouver’s first urban star park

Next weekend, during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, the Museum of Anthropology will welcome more than 1000 guests for a new festival of arts and astronomy.

Blackout: Night Sky Festival will take place on Saturday, August 12 and features Indigenous storytelling, an immersive art installation and interpretive stargazing set to a soundtrack of live and electronic music. The unique event is part of a larger initiative to transform MOA’s outdoor grounds into an urban star park — the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver.

Situated on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people, MOA offers an ideal location for astronomy and stargazing due to its position on the edge of the ocean, facing away from city lights.

The museum has sent a request for support to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. If the necessary requirements are met, MOA would become the first museum in Canada to be designated an urban star park.

“As Vancouver continues to grow, our night sky continues to disappear,” said April Liu, MOA’s Curator of Public Programs and Engagement. “The next generation may grow up without any view of the stars. Our goal is to protect the dark and wild spaces that surround the museum, and hopefully inspire other museums and heritage sites to do the same.”

Blackout: Night Sky Festival highlights the importance of preserving the night sky by exploring our connection to the stars. Co-hosted with the UBC Astronomy Club, the event runs from 5 pm until midnight and offers activities for all ages.

The festival kicks off with Indigenous Sky Stories from Margaret Grenier and a multimedia presentation by world-renowned astrophysicist Don Kurtz. Visitors can immerse themselves in an art installation by Hfour and MOA’s Native Youth Program, and can make a lantern with the Secret Lantern Society before joining an illuminated procession up the hill for a night of stargazing.

Festivalgoers can explore the stars through one of many high-powered telescopes while DJs, live music and throat singing compliment the constellations. The Perseids will be at their peak with over 200 meteors shooting across the sky, and astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews will provide interpretation.

MOA’s galleries will be open for visitors to explore until midnight, and food and drink will be available outdoors at a BBQ and bar. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door. Students of all ages and youth under 19 are free.

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