starry sky with milky way

Stars over Killarney 2023: colours in the cosmos

“Stars over Killarney” is an annual festival celebrating the connection between the natural heritage of Killarney Provincial Park and astronomical knowledge.

This year’s theme is “Colours in the cosmos: a celebration through paint and pixels of the beauty that surrounds us.”

The marriage of art and science

When gazing upon the endless night sky, we are amazed by the countless stars above our heads, contemplating their origins and our own place within the cosmos.

With telescopes, we can tease out beautiful objects displaying their richness in colour and complexity, both subtle and bold.

Much like walking amongst beautiful paintings or photographs within an art gallery, we are enchanted with the diverse images of these cosmic splendours.

orion nebula

While being of tremendous scientific value, often informing us to the fascinating processes that create them, these images are very beautiful works of art in the own right.

Through coordination with our partners, the Allan I Carswell Observatory, Science North, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, we have developed activities designed to enrich our knowledge of colour as well as enhancing our skills at capturing the beauty of Killarney by day and night.

science north logo RASC logo

The weekend event hosted at Killarney Provincial Park and Science North will feature guest speakers as well as hand-on workshops and competitions!

Art’s role in the formation of  Killarney

Artistry and Killarney share a strong historical connection.

The park owes its very existence to the work of Canadian artists. In fact, one of its preeminent lakes, OSA Lake, is named for the Ontario Society of Artists who helped to establish the protected area from logging.

painting of rocky hills
A.Y. Jackson (1882–1974) Hills, Killarney, Ontario (Nellie Lake), c. 1933 oil on canvas 77.3 x 81.7 cm Gift of Mr. S. Walter Stewart McMichael Canadian Art Collection 1968.8.28

As the story goes, it was the famous Group of Seven artist, A.Y. Jackson, who after being shown the future logging area on a trip in and amongst the white quartzite mountains of Killarney, reached out to his O.S.A. colleagues to implore them to save this area for future generations to come.

Fortunately, his wish was realized with the creation of a protected area, then with the establishment of Killarney Provincial Park in 1964.

Producing colour from nature

Anong Migwans Beam

Have you ever wanted to know the origins of paint and how we as people are connected to it?

Join Ojibwe artist and pigment creator Anong Migwans Beam as she teaches us the Ojibwe traditions of how to create and appreciate art and painting through the creation of pigments from various natural materials. [1]

Anong will open our eyes to the fascinating world of pigment creation and its importance to the work of herself and many others.


We will also have the opportunity to create our own painting through workshops in which we will use Anong’s pigments to fill in illustrations to create our own works of art.

Add a colourful starry backdrop to your nature photography

When we look out into space, we are struck by the beauty of the stars beyond our reach. With telescopes, astrophotographers can capture amazing nebulae, rich in colour and deep in mystery, such as the image of the beautiful Orion Nebula captured by Ontario Parks’ observatory in Killarney (featured at the top of this blog).

time lapse star trail
Colours in the Cosmos time-lapse star trails taken by astrophotographer Nico Carver using a smartphone and tripod

But for those of us without access to fancy telescopes and DSLRs, can we take interesting nighttime photography with our smartphones?

Today, the answer is yes!

Nico Carver

Join guest astrophotography educator extraordinaire Nico Carver as he teaches us how to capture amazing star trail photography from the incredible Dark Sky Preserve in Killarney. [2]

Using a smartphone and tripod, Nico will take us through all the steps required to capture amazing star trails. We will then put his guidance to use by going to the observatory complex and capturing photos ourselves.

While some smartphones are better equipped than others for this kind of work, we suggest optimizing your experience by downloading these or other similar apps in advance. [*]

Hands on workshops — improve your painting, photography or embroidery skills!

Over the course of the weekend, participants will have the opportunity to create their own works of art through our various workshops. These workshops will be focused on:

Embroidery — stitch the stars

Our popular “stich the stars” program will be back where participants can create embroidery of their favourite constellations.

Painting — learn how to enhance your painting abilities

Travel to one of our favourite lookouts to learn how to capture the view from expert artists. Or, using an existing illustration and Anong Migwans beam’s paints, create your own colour combination to bring the illustration alive.

Photography — obtain DSLR control over your smartphone

Learn about how you get the most out of your smartphone!

Including subjects such as:

  • rule of thirds
  • camera raw file storage
  • white balance
  • ISO
  • depth of field
  • slow motion photography

Colours in the cosmos — a hands on lab at Science North!

element sign for hydrogen and oxygen with nebulae in background

Did you know that when astronomers look deep into space upon those glowing clouds of gas we call nebulae, we’re seeing colour based on the same science that led to the invention of the neon sign?

Dr. Olathe MacIntyre

Come and join Dr. Olathe MacIntyre, staff scientists at Space Place, Science North to participate in a wonderful hands on learning about the creation of colour in the cosmos. [3]

We encourage you to camp in Killarney to experience all the natural wonder of the park!

For those who don’t wish to stay over, make a day trip to the park to enjoy specific elements of the programming.

The heavens await you

On Friday and Saturday nights, our Allan I. Carswell Astronomers in Residence and guest volunteers from the Sudbury Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will present us spectacular views of the many wonderous and beautiful objects in the universe using the two observatories in Killarney as well as many of their own beautifully handcrafted and award-winning telescopes.

Calendar of events

Friday, October 13, 2023

Time Activity Location
8:30 p.m. Experience the wonders of the cosmos from the Killarney Dark Sky Preserve with participation from the Allan I Carswell Observatory Astronomer in Residence and members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Killarney observatory*

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Time Activity Location
10:00 a.m. Welcome to Stars over Killarney and Killarney Provincial Park’s connection to the Ontario Society of Artists Killarney amphitheatre*
10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Gathering Colour with Anong Migwans Beam. Learn about traditional Ojibwe pigment creation and its use in art. Killarney amphitheatre*
1:30 – 4:00 p.m. Hands on Workshops:

Stitch the Stars — constellation embroidery

Capturing Killarney Colours on Canvas — a painting workshop

Capturing Killarney with Pixels — how to optimize your smartphone photography to obtain the best results at A.Y. Jackson Lake


Nature Centre

Sunset Rock

East La Cloche Silhouette Trailhead

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Painting and photography contest winner selection Killarney amphitheatre*
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Capturing the beauty of Killarney against a starry backdrop Killarney amphitheatre*
8:30 p.m. and onwards Colours in the Cosmos

Capture your own star trails amidst the beauty scenery of Killarney.

Learn about colour in the cosmos while observing galaxies, clusters, and nebulae with the Allan I Carswell Astronomer in Residents and members of the Sudbury Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Cloudy-sky alternative

Understanding colour in the night sky using images of galaxies, clusters, stars, and nebulae. Learn about the scientific processes that produce the beauty that we see in the night sky.





Killarney observatory complex*

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Time Activity Location
10:00 a.m. Painting with natural pigments

Use Anong Migwans Beam’s pigments to paint line art.

Killarney amphitheatre*
2:00 p.m. Colours in the cosmos explained

Come to Science North to learn how colour in the cosmos works through hands on activities and displays.

Science North

programming and locations may change depending on the weather. Please consult park updates on the days of the events.

Campers and day use visitors with a Killarney permit valid for October 13  through October 15 will also receive 50% off admission to Science North and their planetarium!

Enjoy exhibits on astronomy and the natural world and experience the very best in science education at this world class science museum!

Visitors to Science North with proof of purchase will be admitted free of charge to the Stars over Killarney program throughout the duration of the event.

Did you know Killarney was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2018?

group looking up at stars and milky way

In addition to protecting the ecological integrity of the park’s nighttime ecosystems, the park’s extraordinary dark skies make it the perfect place for admiring the stars, space, and to understand our connection to the cosmos.

Join us!

[1] Anong Migwans Beam is an artist, mother, and paint maker who lives and works in her home community of M’chigeeng First Nation. Raised by artist parents Ann and Carl Beam, she was homeschooled and apprenticed with her father in ceramic, pigment, and clay gathering within his painting/photography studio. Anong has studied at the Museum Of Fine Arts Boston, Ontario College of Art and Design, and Institute of American Indian Art. She has been active in Language and community and is the founder of the Gimaa Radio (CHYF 88.9 FM) Ojibwe Language Radio station and was the Executive Director/Curator for the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation from 2016-18. Anong paints primarily large format oil paintings. However, in 2018, Anong founded Beam Paints, that produces plastic-free paints and watercolors inspired by her culture and pigment gathering of her youth. Learn more about Anong’s life’s journey here.

[2] Nico Carver is a dedicated deep-sky astrophotographer with a knack for teaching people complex software. He has taught Photoshop professionally in the past at the University-level and in nationally-attended webinars. After discovering astrophotography in 2017, it quickly became an obsession. From 2019-2022, he worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where he helped preserve the early history of astrophotography through Project PHaEDRA. Starting in 2023, he has gone full time with astrophotography education and his primary mission is helping beginners get started with astrophotography through detailed videos on his YouTube channelNico’s favorite objects to photograph are nebulae. You can find his work here.

[3] Dr. Olathe MacIntyre was among the final 72 astronaut candidates out of 3772 applicants with the Canadian Space Agency in 2017. Her B.Sc. in biology at Dalhousie University and research at a wastewater treatment greenhouse led her to study biological life-support systems for space exploration. She completed her M.Sc. in space science at the International Space University in France and participated in a microgravity flight while in France and two analogue Mars missions at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Her Ph.D. thesis explored the implications of low pressure conditions for plant-microbe interactions in a Lunar or Martian greenhouse. Dr. MacIntyre is currently a staff scientist with Canada’s second-largest science centre, Science North, where she helps inspire the next generation of scientists through space exploration.

*Ontario Parks does not support nor endorse any third-party solutions nor takes responsibility nor liability for the usage of such technologies and the potential use or impact on the user’s smartphone. All downloads are completely at the sole decision of the smartphone owner