My Summer at Bayside Astronomy 2023

Photo: Dante Hunter at the Peninsula Observation Deck in Lion’s Head.
Submitted by Dante Hunter 

For the past 2 months, I have had the honour of being the Bayside Astronomy Program Manager for the 2023 summer year. I wanted to express my gratitude to the people of Lion’s Head and the Northern Bruce Peninsula for their hospitality and friendliness during my stay, and also fill you in on what I learned, the wonders of the night sky I was able to see and share, the amazing people I’ve met, the skills I’ve developed, and the challenges I’ve overcome over the past two months.

Let’s rewind a little bit to June 24th, when I first arrived at Lion’s Head. Having never been to the Bruce Peninsula I did not know what to expect. When I arrived in the town I felt a mixture of nervousness, excitement, and an eagerness to see the night sky. I still remember it was past sunset after unpacking my bags, and I checked the sky conditions for the night. It said average transparency and below-average seeing. Being curious, I stepped outside of my house and looked up in the night sky and saw more stars than I had ever seen before. Not only did I see a ton of stars, but I also saw this silvery cloud going across the night sky, which was the Milky Way! I knew from that very second that this summer position was going to be amazing and that I wanted to make sure the skies of the Northern Bruce Peninsula were kept dark. 

Since that move-in day, I have tried to enjoy the wonders and beauties the Bruce Peninsula has to offer, whether that be stargazing at night, or walking some of the most beautiful trails in all of Ontario, the Bruce Peninsula really helped me reconnect with nature.

Being the Bayside Astronomy Program Manager has helped me develop and strengthen many skills that are crucial for my growth, including improving my writing and public speaking. Before I came to Bayside Astronomy I had very little public speaking experience, but after talking in front of crowds of as many as 150 people, I’ve developed my confidence when talking in front of large groups and found a way to keep people engaged. I also learned a ton about astronomy, including the constellations, the Messier objects, and refining my astrophotography skills. 

The job wasn’t all positive though, as Mother Nature had other plans. Due to clouds, rain, and poor transparency in the skies, we had to cancel a lot of shows this summer. These cancellations and challenges may seem like pure negatives, but the extra time allowed me to help promote dark sky preservation by talk with various groups and organizations around the Northern Bruce Peninsula.

I have a lot of amazing people to thank for this summer. I first want to thank Doug and Paula Cunningham for being my mentors for the summer. Their wealth of knowledge in the field of astronomy and the magnitude of stories they have to share was amazing for allowing me to learn the night sky, and to keep me inspired and eager to observe the night sky every chance I had. 

I would like to thank Elizabeth Thorn of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, who along with Mike and myself, worked hard to develop a Dark Sky Action plan that can be implemented in the Northern Bruce Peninsula for years to come. I would also like to thank Mike Warkentin, who accompanied me to most of my events, lent me his camera so I could pursue my hobby of astrophotography, and who also was kind enough to allow me to carpool with him while my car was getting repaired. 

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Summerhouse Park, Miller’s Family Camp, Singing Sands and the Lion’s Head Harbourmaster and staff who volunteered their wonderful locations, and helped with turning off or adjusting lights to improve our observing conditions. Moreover, I would like to thank all the Bayside Astronomy volunteers who took time out of their busy nights to not only lend their knowledge and telescopes to everyone here, but to also share advice, tips, and stories about their journey with astronomy and their favorite objects to see in the night sky. 

I would like to thank Helen Greig who was kind enough to let me rent out a wonderful room in Lion’s Head. 

And finally, I would like to thank the general public who came to these shows. I have had so many amazing conversations and questions from the general public about all areas of space and astronomy, and being able to show the wonders of the night sky to you, and hear the Oo’s and Ah’s of seeing the objects was an amazing experience. 

The Northern Bruce Peninsula is a wonderful area to live and visit, and I hope that if my studies allow, I can join you again for another summer of Bayside Astronomy!