Island Star Party 2023

Posted by as Events

August 11-13, 2023

Island Star Party 2023 poster

Location: Bright Angel Park at rural and dark Cowichan Station, in the beautiful Cowichan Valley on southern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Gates will open at 2pm on Friday. Camp on the field, setup your telescope and bring binoculars to enjoy observing the night sky from a dark site.

Cost: Free of charge for drop-ins! Suggested donation of $20/Adult observers who camp overnight (cash only) – one night or two. Kids camp free.

Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, can attend planned activities and have access to the observing field. Prizes include a telescope!

Star Party Poster – please print it, stick it on your fridge and share with friends! PDFs: 8.5″x11″ & 11″x17″

Don’t want to camp? No problem…it’s no more than a 20-minute drive from most areas of the Cowichan Valley, and only a 45-minute drive from Victoria. Live out of town? Stay in one of the many guest houses, hotels and motels in the Cowichan Valley, however reserve early, since accommodation fills up during the summer.

Staying after dark? Please bring a red light with you – do not use white lights, including cellphone flashes!

Come observe the stars and the Perseid meteor shower from this dark site in the Cowichan Valley. Lots of amateur astronomers will be there to talk about astronomy and to help you observe celestial objects after dark. Observe the Sun (safely) during the day, and hike the trails, swim, play, and enjoy this natural treasure of a regional park. Two days/nights on the weekend – Friday Aug 11th starting at 2PM, all day and evening on Saturday Aug 12th. Camp overnight (1 night or 2), or just drop in for an evening of fun and fascination. A free event, but campers will be asked for a donation if staying overnight.

Schedule of Events

Friday Aug 11th

  • 2:00 pm – Gates open
  • 7:30 pm – Telescope tour
  • 8:00 pm – Welcome and door prizes
  • 8:30 pm – Speaker – Seeing is believing: capturing images of nearby solar systems – William Thompson
  • 10:00 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please

Seeing is believing: capturing images of nearby solar systems – William Thompson

Astronomers have now discovered over five thousand planets around other stars, ranging from scorching hot Jupiters, to puffy mini-Neptunes, and rocky worlds devoid of atmospheres. Now that we know planets are common, the next step is to learn more about them and compare them with our solar system.

HR8799 Planets & Orbin modelling of 51 Eridani b

In this talk, I will show how we can take pictures of nearby planets and present the latest developments in the quest to image planets just like our own.

William Thompson

William Thompson is an astronomy PhD candidate at the University of Victoria and an exoplanet hunter. He uses the techniques of direct imaging, radial velocity, and astrometric motion to find and photograph young giant planets, and to study their orbits. William will be joining the National Research Council this fall as a Herzberg Instrument Science Fellow, where he will continue to work on astronomical instrumentation and observational projects.

Saturday Aug 12th

  • Solar viewing – all day on the field
  • Nature Walk through the park trails – afternoon
  • 7:30 pm – Telescope tour
  • 8:00 pm – Door prizes
  • 8:30 pm – Speaker – Probing the Universe with Type Ia Supernovae: legacy and future – Melissa Amenouche
  • 9:30 pm – Public viewing of the night sky with telescopes on the field
  • 10:30 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please
  • The Perseid Meteor Shower will be at its peak overnight!

Probing the Universe with Type Ia Supernovae: legacy and future – Melissa Amenouche

Type Ia Supernovae (SNeIa) are very luminous explosive events in the sky. They can be detected in very remote galaxies and are excellent distance indicators. In the late 90s, the accelerated expansion of the Universe was discovered using the measurements of SNeIa, revealing for the first time the existence of Dark Energy. Today, one of the main goals of modern cosmology is to understand its nature using SNeIa measurements combined with other cosmological probes.

Vera Rubin Observatory

In the past two decades,  the number of SNeIa has drastically increased along with our understanding of these objects and their ability to indicate distances. And this will continue with the current and new generation of surveys like the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and the Large Survey of Space and Time (LSST). I will review the ongoing efforts to unlock precise cosmological measurements with ZTF samples, many of which can be extended to LSST data, with a focus on key steps of the analysis. 

Melissa Amenouche

Melissa completed her PhD in December 2022 in France. She is currently a postdoc fellow at NRC-Herzburg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre involved in a new Canadian spatial telescope (CASTOR). She is also calibrating and simulating Type Ia Supernovae data from the Zwicky Transient Facility (a great telescope in California) to help answer key questions about our understanding of the Universe and its evolution.

Sunday Aug 13th

  • Cleanup – everyone please pitch-in & help
  • 12:00 pm – departures by Noon please!

The Island Star Party is hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre, with support from the Cowichan Valley Starfinders.

Directions to the star party

Head west off the Trans-Canada Highway on Koksilah Road and turn right onto Tigwell Road. The park is at the end of the road. If you are driving a big vehicle, we suggest you turn west off the Trans-Canada Highway at Allenby Road, then turn left onto Koksilah Road and left onto Tigwell Road. This slightly longer route will avoid a low-clearance rail bridge on the more direct route.

Bright Angel Park, 4528 Tigwell Rd, Cowichan Station, BC

Lat 48° 44.0246′ N, Long 123° 40.5144’W

What to expect

Dark sky and red lights on the observing field
Dark sky and red lights on the observing field

The night sky at this location is very dark, but there is a light dome to the north from the City of Duncan. Views in the other directions and overhead are excellent, and at this time of year Sagittarius is visible in the early part of the evening to the southwest.

There is limited camping on the observing field with your tent and car where telescopes and other astronomy gear can be set up. There is some power on the field for astronomy equipment and to charge small devices. Please do NOT park on the field with your vehicle if you plan to leave after dark! In this case, move your vehicle off the field after setting up, and park outside the gate on Tigwell Road with your headlights facing away from the field. The same parking request applies to visitors for the evening – park outside the gate and walk into the field.

  • Washrooms are a short walk from the observing field with sinks, toilets and urinals, but no showers. Red lights will mark the way at night along the forest trail.
  • Playground and workout gym on the observing field
  • Park gates are open from 7am – 9pm daily. Make sure your vehicle is outside the gates before 9PM if you plan to leave later on!
  • Explore the trails through the forest and along the Koksilah River – a nice way to spend the day. Good swimming too, although the river water is cold!
  • Pets are allowed in the park and at the star party, but must be under effective control of their owners at all times. If your dog knocks over an expensive telescope, you just bought it!
  • Drinking alcohol or smoking is not allowed in public areas of the park.
  • Trailers and motorhomes are not allowed in this regional park.
  • Dry summer conditions demand that no open flame be used. Please cook using a camp stove in the Picnic Shelter by the lower parking lot. No campfires or open flame please!
  • Although the observing field is flat, it is bumpy, so people with mobility issues may find some areas are not easy to navigate. The washrooms are accessible by using the trail through the forest and navigating a modest slope.

What’s nearby

  • Tim Horton’s fast food dine-in and drive-thru and a Co-op gas station and convenience store are both nearby at Bench Road and the Trans-Canada Highway.
  • Big box stores, grocery stores and malls are a short drive away in Duncan, Cobble Hill and Mill Bay.
  • Pizza and other fast food can be ordered from and/or picked up at numerous local establishments.
  • Espresso drinks and other fancy beverages are available in Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Cobble Hill and Mill Bay.
  • Nearby mall at the intersection of Cowichan Bay Rd & Trans-Canada Highway – Pizzeria Prima Strada, Drumroaster Coffee, Country Grocer, Dragon Yuen.
  • Whippletree Junction – a variety of eclectic stores that are worth a visit, located nearby on the highway.
  • The fascinating and historic Kinsol Trestle is a short drive from the park, where the Trans-Canada Trail crosses the Koksilah River. The trestle is an easy walk from the parking lot – level and accessible.
  • Wineries in the area are too numerous to mention individually! Look here: Wine Festival Specials
  • BC Forest Discovery Centre – steam trains, historic forestry equipment and local history – fun for all ages
  • Cowichan Bay village – fish boats, oceanfront restaurants and shops, whale watching, sea lions
Island Star Party 2023 t-shirt
2023 Island Star Party t-shirt

Island Star Party t-shirt

Fruit of the Loom quality cotton t-shirt, printed ink design. Men’s sizes in black: S, M, L, XL, 2XL. Sold out. A second order list is being taken, so contact Joe Carr – Email


  • Dave Payne – Email – mobile ‭+1 (403) 874-1980‬ – Event Lead

Photo galleries of local Star Parties

  • 2023 – Island Star Party
  • 2019 – Island Star Party
  • 2019 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2017 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2016 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2016 – Island Star Party
  • 2015 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2014 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2014 – Island Star Party
  • 2013 – Island Star Party – event & night sky
  • 2013 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2012 – Island Star Party – event & night sky
  • 2012 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2011 – Island Star Party – night sky
  • 2011 – RASCals Star Party
  • 2010 – Island Star Party – event & night sky
  • 2010 – RASCals Star Party

Press coverage

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