Montreal Fringe: The Sky Never Looked Better, Thanks to Plateau Astro’s Night Sky Tour

The popular Montreal Fringe Festival has finally begun. Of all the indoor art, music and theatre performances it usually hosts, this year’s Fringe is back in full swing and expanding to outdoor activities again. Taking advantage of the summer clear skies and this expansion, Plateau Astro has joined Fringe to organize The Night Sky Tour.

The Night Sky Tour by Plateau Astro is an active one-hour workshop that teaches us the basics of using a telescope and also a brief on how to study the stars and planets. This description on the Fringe brochure intrigued the science kid in me. I just couldn’t say no to an evening of star gazing, viewing the magnificent moon in its raw form, knowing how to spot constellations, following meteor showers, monitoring the launch of the International Space Station (ISS) and many more.

Do you know that the width of your pinky finger raised and placed on a backdrop of the sky equals one degree on the latitude? And do you also know that one degree latitude measures four minutes in actual time? That is how the time zones, daytimes and so on are measured. My geography major didn’t teach me that my pinky finger can help me measure time. But Trevor Kjorlien, the founder of Plateau Astro and the host of the Night Sky Tour did teach us that. 

The engaging storyteller that he is, Kjorlien started with a casual talk about how the tour is going to be, then pulled up his tab, and opened this extraordinary app called "Star Walk 2." This was where things got interesting. The app showed us in real time the path of the sun, the places in the sky where we can spot Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus and even Saturn’s magnificent rings. 

It was past 8:40 pm. Ten minutes into the workshop I witnessed a sunset from the northern hemisphere with a new perspective for the first time since I moved to Montreal from India, which happens to be closer to the equator. This explains the slanting path of the sunset. Once the sun has set, he spoke about constellations, zodiac signs and various calendars in the world and how they are related to this path of the sun. 

Nothing prepared me for the extraordinary moment that happened next. He taught us how to adjust a telescope and focused it right on the moon in the clear night sky. The moon with all its imperfections and craters was a sight that made me squeal like a kid. To top this feeling, we took pictures of the moon from our phones through the telescope. 

“Plateau Astro!” shouted a few fans, recognizing Kjorlien with his telescope. People walking by in the park wanted to view the moon through the telescope too. He is a local star, with all the pun intended. He truly is our friendly neighbourhood astronomer.

Summer goes by real quick and according to Kjorlien, June is the perfect time to attend astronomical workshops like these. The last day of the Night Sky Tour with the Montreal Fringe Festival was June 12 but Plateau Astro also has private workshops and tours apart from the Fringe, which I highly recommend attending.