Winter Skies: Aurora and Astronomy in Churchill March 16-21, 2023


The Churchill Northern Studies Centre, a Canadian subartic research station, with northern lights (aurora borealis) lighting up the sky

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Event Dates: March 16-21, 2023

Participants: 24

Total Cost: $2669.00 CDN

Immerse yourself in the beauty of breathtaking subarctic skies. Located directly beneath the auroral oval, Churchill, Manitoba is the best place on Earth to view the aurora borealis – the spectacular atmospheric phenomenon better known as the northern lights.  For over 240 years, astronomers and physicists have journeyed to Churchill to probe the upper atmosphere with cameras, balloons, and even rockets.  You can marvel at the aurora from the comfort of the CNSC’s heated viewing dome by night and explore the Churchill area by day.  Local tours, cultural presentations and dog sledding offer a taste of life in the Subarctic. The Churchill Northern Studies Centre sits next to the historic Rocket Range, offering an iconic backdrop for aurora photography.

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Sample Itinerary 

Day 1

As you arrive in Churchill, you will be greeted by a staff member from the CNSC at the airport or train station. If you’ve arrived early in Churchill to get a head start on exploring we will meet you at your accommodations. Once gathered, we will leave the town of Churchill and make our way to the CNSC located 23 km east of town in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Located beneath the auroral oval and away from major sources of light pollution, the CNSC is a first class viewing location for the northern lights, featuring a heated 360 degree aurora dome as well as an outdoor elevated viewing deck.

After arriving at the CNSC, you will be welcomed and checked in. Settle into the space with an orientation to the LEED-certified facility and time to check out any cold weather rental gear you might need. An outdoor walk around the centre will provide you with some time to test out your winter gear and determine if you need to rent out any additional gear for Churchill’s cold winter temperatures. Dinner will be provided onsite at our wonderful and spacious cafeteria, where there is always something good cooking! After dinner we will have our first lecture on viewing the Northern Lights in one of our classrooms, followed by a workshop which will teach tips and tricks on photographing the northern lights. Sit back in comfort and relax as you wait for the call that the lights are out!


Day 2

We start the day with breakfast in the cafeteria, followed by a presentation on current research being done at the CNSC conducted by one of our in-house science team. After some hot lunch we will be departing the CNSC for an afternoon of dog sledding! Not only will you learn about the history and philosophy of dogsledding in Churchill from a local musher, you’ll get to experience it yourself as you go for a ride through the forest – don’t forget to thank your dog team when you’re all done! We will then transfer back to the CNSC. Following dinner we will learn more about the sagas and science of the aurora. Enjoy the rest of your evening with some sky watching!


Day 3

This morning we will be exploring some CNSC history with a walking tour of the Churchill Research (Rocket) Range, Canada’s only research rocket range and a designated National Historic Site. After lunch we will be watching a movie with popcorn in our audio-visual lounge! The Snow Walker (2003) is a movie based on a Farley Mowat short story and filmed on location in Churchill. Spend some time resting and relaxing this afternoon so you have energy for the evening ahead. After dinner we will have a lecture on Star Tours: Getting to know the sky, and will be followed of course by an evening of sky watching.


Day 4

After breakfast we will start our day off with an educational presentation on winter subarctic ecology – learn about the plants, animals and landscape that surround us, and how the organisms adapt to such incredibly cold temperatures! After lunch it’s time to out on our outdoor gear again and head out for an

afternoon of hands-on learning about snow – we walk on it, drive on it, shovel it, but now we can learn about its structure and how it affects all the animals that use it and move through it throughout the winter. Strap on your snowshoes as we head into the boreal forest to investigate this most important aspect of winter ecology. After we’ve learned about snow, we’ll head back to the CNSC to warm up and have some hot dinner. After an evening lecture, we will be spending the rest of our evening sky watching!


Day 5

This morning we will be transferring to the town of Churchill for a different kind of exploring. A remote community of approximately 900 people, Churchill has a remarkable variety of services and points of interest for such a small town. We will be exploring the town while learning about how this remarkable community came to be. Lunch will be in town at a local restaurant. After lunch we will be visiting the Itsanitaq (Eskimo) Museum, where we will listen to an interpretive tour and spend time looking at various Inuit carvings and artefacts while learning more about Churchill and Indigenous history. At the Parks Canada Visitor Centre we will have an interpretive tour and further learn about Churchill’s history, which will compliment the knowledge gained from the museum and give us a well rounded understanding of local history. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the town at your own pace before our transfer back to the CNSC. After dinner back at the CNSC, there will be a cultural talk with a local Indigenous elder and a traditional food and farewell gathering in the Cafeteria. One final evening for sky watching will wrap up our evening events.


Day 6

After a final breakfast at the CNSC we will check out and transfer to train, plane, or other accommodations. Make sure to look out as you head your way to your final destination and take one last look at the wild sub-Arctic environment before you head on to your next adventure!


Please note that this is a sample itinerary only. All inclusions listed will be offered but may happen on different days than listed and may be slightly different than described. Lecture topics will vary depending on the guide and their area of research. Occasionally due to events beyond our control certain activities may need to be delayed or cancelled for safety reasons.

Please note that in 2022, we are making all efforts to work with our local providers to offer the itinerary in a safe and respectful fashion. Maximum gathering limits and/or service disruptions may be in force at local museums, gift shops and restaurants. We welcome our guests to the CNSC and ask that all guests be respectful of local requests and needs during this time.


Meals: all (except 1 lunch); two meals on arrival day and one meal on departure day are included

Accommodation: all, 5 nights

Travel to Churchill: no