Fingal Dark Sky Site

Two Observatories are available for London Centre Members

London Centre operates two Roll Off Roof Observatories, equipped for Visual Observing and Astro-Imaging, plus a Heated Warm Up Room to take the chill off during chilly clear evenings.

Observing at Fingal

Members of London Centre enjoy dark skies near Fingal, thirty two kilometers south west of London. From there the majestic arch of the Milky Way can be appreciated, the mysteries of the aurora borealis can be awe inspiring, and dim and distant galaxies or the faint and fuzzy outline of a visiting comet can be seen clearly through a telescope.

 

Telescope at Fingal

 Lots of room for scopes and parking and we’re very proud of our new addition… a heated warm-up room built by the members of the Centre.

We observe near the Fingal Wildlife Management Area. During WWII this area was a bustling air force training base, the Number 4 Bombing and Gunnery School, and the huge concrete pad on which we park and set up telescopes was once the floor of aircraft hanger number 6.

Our magnetic declination, the amount that a compass needle points away from true North, is currently 8 degrees, 41 minutes West of true North. This information may be useful for anyone trying to polar align a telescope mount while it is still light.

The area is managed by the Elgin Stewardship Council for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and supports a wide variety of native plants and wildlife. The War To Roses Walking Trail takes you through the remaining signs of a once busy and vital training camp, where thousands of non-pilot aircrew learned their skills. An excellent guide and map is available for a donation just to the right of the Washrooms. Several large fields surrounding the road network of the old air base support conservation farming. Hunting, which must cease at dusk, is permitted in season in the woods and fields well to the south of our observing area.

Skies are relatively free from light pollution, often reaching naked eye magnitude 5.7, very good for South-West Ontario. On hazy nights there is light pollution in the north east sky from London and St. Thomas, and in the east sky to a lesser extent from Port Stanley. To the west the light dome of Dutton, West Lorne, Chatham and Detroit can be detected. Low to the south the lights of Cleveland can be seen, but these rarely effect visual observing of the southern Milky Way.

We usually observe during the period from third quarter moon to first quarter moon when the skies are clear and dark. There is not much point to driving well out into the country to escape city lights if the moon is as bright as a streetlight!

You are welcome to observe with us. If you are not a club member, contact one of our executive members to make arrangements. Bring your binoculars or telescope if you have them, and you can always have a view of the treasures of the night sky through ours.

Enjoying Our Dark Sky Site

  • Dress warmly, especially with warm footwear and a hat, as it can get chilly on clear nights even in the middle of the summer.
  • Come and go quietly as the wildlife and our neighbors would not wish to be disturbed.
  • By all means bring your children to enjoy the sights but caution them to not touch the telescopes. The telescopes move very easily and will swing away from the intended astronomical object.
  • Ask the amateur astronomer what it is they are observing. They will be keen to share.
  • Leave Fido at home. We love our pets too, but an excited dog may get tangled up in power cords, knock over an extremely expensive telescope, or become lost chasing wildlife.
  • Stay on the gravel paths or the concrete observing pad and don’t wander through the fields. You may disturb the wildlife, and wildlife might disturb you! While we have never seen ticks at Fingal, the real possibility exists that they are in the long grass and leaf litter, and Fingal is in the Lime Disease area of South Western Ontario. Ticks do not move onto the exposed concrete surfaces so you should be entirely safe while observing.
  • Plan to arrive at or before dusk so that you can find your way in the unfamiliar territory, find a safe parking area, and meet the observers as they set up their equipment. Small reflective arrow signs at the three major turns point the way to the observing pad from the main entrance.
  • Try not to sweep your headlights across the observing field if you arrive after dark.
  • If you must arrive late and you can’t turn off your headlights, it may be best to park in the parking lot by the gate and walk in. If you do decide to drive into the observing pad area turn your car to the right to keep your headlights aimed into the trees. Amateur astronomers value their dark adapted eyesight which is only achieved after about an hour in the dark illuminated only by the stars and the Milky Way.
  • Don’t sit in your car with engine running and headlights and interior lights on as you search for that lost glove. Your light could ruin a half hour of carefully guided astrophotography and interrupt visual observing activities. Not a good way to make an entrance!
  • White flashlights are absolutely forbidden after dark. Cover the flashlight lens with a deep red filter which is safe for dark adapted eyes. Amateur astronomers use red Light Emitting Diode flashlights that provide enough illumination for reading sky maps or choosing another eyepiece, yet do not hamper night vision.