Visitor's Guide

Planning your visit

  • We run the open house events whether it is clear or cloudy. We have the buildings open, astronomers on hand to answer questions and terrific talks.
  •  Check the weather: If the sky is cloudy or if there is too much humidity, our telescopes will not be in use. Our Skywatch page offers a wide array of resources to guide you in planning your visit. You can also check in on Twitter for updates.
  • There is a small giftshop with packaged snacks, pop, water and merchandise for sale.
  • During open house events the gates remain open from 8:00 pm until 11:00 pm. There is no requirement to register, it is a drop in event, pay at the door.
  • Our entrance fee is $30 per car, which gives carpoolers an added benefit! We accept cash, credit or debit, at the front desk in the Interpretive Centre – the building nearest to the parking lot.
RAO terrace
RAO under the night sky

Accessibility

  • The observatory site is kept very dark and, due to the rural environment, there are several places where ground is uneven. Please take your time and watch your step.
  • The buildings onsite are wheelchair accessible and handicapped parking spaces are available, close to the Interpretive Centre.
  • Flashlights are welcome, and should be directed toward the ground to facilitate safety, and to avoid affecting the view for other guests.
  • Public events at the RAO are family friendly, though it’s important to note that telescope viewing and activities are geared towards those eight years old and up.

What to Expect on Site

  • During open house events talks are held inside the Interpretive Centre classroom and, on clear nights, guided sky observation sessions are held outdoors. Be sure to wear an extra layer or two against the cold, even in summer.
  • You’ll find telescopes on the terrace, as well as in the observatory buildings. The slightest touch on a telescope will change its alignment, so please avoid touching the equipment while looking through the lens.
  • You can talk with astronomers about what you can see in the telescope and what you should be looking for. We love your questions!
  • We want to help you get the most out of your visit. If you have general questions or concerns during the open house, please bring them to the front desk in the interpretive centre, where our knowledgeable staff and volunteers can provide assistance.

RAO at night

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View of milky way at night.

Preserving our dark sky

  • Flashlights are welcome at the RAO, though red light is preferred as it does not affect the telescopes and allows you to maintain your night vision. If you do have a white light flashlight, it’s important that you keep the light pointed downwards to avoid affecting the view for other guests.
  • In order to retain our dark sky environment, there is to be no flash photography inside the domes or on the terrace.

Parking

  • Parking is limited, so we encourage you to carpool.
  • Upon your arrival at the observatory, please follow directions from our parking attendants who can help you find a space.
  • Follow the signs, once over the cattle gate please drive up the hill and park according to directions from the parking attendants. Drive to the right at the fork, the parking lot is One Way.
  • Please Watch for signs that the parking lot is full. If the parking lot is full then the event is full. No other cars will be admitted if the parking lot is full. 
  • Do not park on the highway. It is very dangerous and the RCMP may issue parking tickets.
  • We will do our best to ensure that you have a safe and fun visitor experience at the RAO.
RAO parking lot