Dark skies: Festival celebrates the starry wonders of Maine's special darkness

Tyler Nordgren

A view of the Milky Way from the Park Look Road in from Acadia National Park. 

For as long as human beings have walked the Earth, the night sky has been a source of fascination for astronomers, philosophers, dreamers, myth-makers and apparently even reality TV stars.

Tyler Nordgren

The Milky Way from Cadillac Mountain.

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Tyler Nordgren

The night sky and a carriage road in Acadia National Park. 

The 5th Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival

Where: Bar Harbor, Maine

FMI: For more on the festival, a schedule of events and links to related sites (including the International Dark Sky Association), visit www.acadianightskyfestival.com.

Physicist and photographer Tyler Nordgren

Dr. Tyler Nordgren took the photos accompanying our story today. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Redlands in California.

According to his biography, among his other endeavors, since 2005 he has worked with the U.S. National Park Service to promote astronomy education in U.S. national parks.

He has also helped document increasing light pollution with his ward-winning night sky photography. In 2010 his book "Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks" was published as a way to spread the message of the importance of protecting the night sky.

In 2011 Dr. Nordgren was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the premier organization dedicated to protecting and preserving dark starry skies around the world. Nordgren now regularly tours the national parks giving talks to visitors and rangers alike on the beauty of the night sky and how the national parks act as windows on that beauty.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren took the photos accompanying our story today. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Redlands in California.

According to his biography, among his other endeavors, since 2005 he has worked with the U.S. National Park Service to promote astronomy education in U.S. national parks.

He has also helped document increasing light pollution with his ward-winning night sky photography. In 2010, his book "Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks" was published as a way to spread the message of the importance of protecting the night sky.

Nordgren is on the board of directors of the International Dark-Sky Association, the premier organization dedicated to protecting and preserving dark starry skies around the world. Nordgren now regularly tours the national parks giving talks to visitors and rangers alike on the beauty of the night sky and how the national parks act as windows on that beauty.

For more information on Nordgren and his photographs and other works go to http://www.tylernordgren.com/

Earlier this month, Jennifer Farley, better known as JWoww from MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” visited Acadia National Park with her boyfriend, Cherryfield, Maine, native Roger Matthews. In addition to posting pictures from the summit of Cadillac Mountain on her Twitter feed, Farley tweeted, “Just saw a falling star with my babe. First time ever! So cool.”

If JWoww had never seen a meteor hurtling across the sky before, it may not have been from lack of looking up on her part, but rather a question of geography. If you want to see stars – the kind up in the sky, not the ones on TV – the Jersey shore isn’t the best place to look.

It might come as a surprise to some that most Americans don’t see the same night sky our grandparents did. Just as industrial pollution has threatened our air, water and other natural resources, light pollution is threatening our view of the heavens.

Light pollution occurs when some of the light from homes, businesses and infrastructure such as street lamps is allowed to shine up into the sky, instead of down to the ground where it is most useful. This wasted light bounces off water and dust molecules in the atmosphere, obscuring the view of the night sky.

While this problem is most pronounced in large urban centers, even in rural areas of southern and central Maine light from nearby cities makes it difficult to see all but the brightest stars. For us, the farther north you travel, though, the darker things get.

If you look at a dark sky map of the United States, northern Maine jumps out as a star-filled oasis in the vast desert of light pollution that is the eastern United States. In fact, northern Maine is home to the largest area of dark sky east of the Mississippi River, with the darkest spot centered right over Piscataquis County.

And standing as one gateway to this starlit paradise is Acadia National Park, an outpost of darkness at the end of the 1,700 miles of blinding artificial glare that is the Atlantic coastline.

“I can still walk out to the end of my driveway in the heart of Bar Harbor and pick out the Milky Way,” said Jennifer Wright, events and development associate for the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, describing a sight that has become increasingly rare in contemporary America.

Bar Harbor and the other communities on Mount Desert Island, where Acadia is located, didn’t just luck into their dark sky. They’ve had to work for it.

In 2008, Bar Harbor adopted a dark skies ordinance, requiring all new developments to incorporate lighting that reduces light pollution, protecting the region’s night sky. The requirement didn't return the town to the dark ages, it just ensured that light intended to illuminate the ground did just that.

Soon after, two of the three other communities on the island, as well as a few nearby communities, adopted similar ordinances. Wright hopes it will have a ripple effect on cities and towns throughout the state so that more Mainers can enjoy the views she routinely sees from her home in Bar Harbor.

“The night sky really is an ever-shrinking commodity,” she said, using an unabashedly economic term.

Though industry and the environment are often perceived to be in conflict, businesses on Mount Desert Island have mostly all bought into the community’s protective stance toward its starlit skies. Wright said this support is largely influenced by the region’s strong tourism industry.

“As a business community, we really try to promote as many sustainable initiatives as possible. The environment is so integrated with the economy here. Without the park, we wouldn’t have a tourism industry, so it’s in our interests to protect it,” she said.

Celebrating the dark

John Kelly, park planner at Acadia, said he first became aware of what a valuable attraction the park’s night sky was in about 2006, when activists in Utah were protesting a development that threatened the dark sky over Bryce Canyon National Park.

“This was really a recent recognition by the National Park Service that the night sky is a resource to be preserved, just like the land, the air and the water,” said Kelly.

“Natural sights, sounds, smells and a natural night sky all contribute to the total package of the national park experience.”

In addition, said Kelly, light pollution has serious negative consequences for wildlife. Migrating birds can become disoriented due to light pollution, lose their way and die from exhaustion. Light pollution, even in small doses, also obscures the mating signals of fireflies, resulting in the rapid decline of this enchanting bioluminescent species.

Even humans suffer negative fallout from too much light. Not experiencing enough total darkness can affect hormone levels, triggering mood disturbances, weight gain, fatigue and other health problems.

Struck by the Utah experience, Kelly began to wonder to what extent Acadia's dark skies were being threatened. Some research indicated the park’s sky views are already affected by nearby Ellsworth and communities as far away as Bangor, and that poorly executed lighting on the island itself could obliterate them entirely.

That knowledge sparked Kelly, the Friends of Acadia (the national park's robust support group) and other community organizations to take action and push for the dark skies ordinance in the town of Bar Harbor, which was approved in 2008.

To celebrate passage of the law and to educate people about the importance of Mount Desert Island’s dark sky, several community organizations put together a one-evening Night Sky Festival in 2009, complete with a stargazing session atop Cadillac Mountain.

Over the years, the festival has grown into an annual multi-day celebration integrating art, music, science, poetry, film and good old-fashioned star watching, designed to appeal to everyone from casual backyard stargazers to avowed astronomy fanatics.

This week marks the fifth annual Acadia Night Sky Festival. Last year’s celebration drew more than 4,000 sky lovers from across North America. Canada, California, Minnesota, Utah, and North and South Dakota were just a few of the locales from which festival attendees have hailed in years past.

Festival organizers are hoping to see even more this year.

“Astro-tourism is a growing trend,” said Wright.

“People are willing to travel hundreds of miles for the opportunity to stargaze in unadulterated skies.”

Their arrival is a boon for Bar Harbor’s economy, which typically sees a downturn in tourism between Labor Day, when the summer crowds leave, and Columbus Day weekend, when the leaf peepers converge on the area. It’s no coincidence that inns and motels around the area now routinely promote the region’s dark sky in their marketing literature.

“This is a resource that is rapidly disappearing. We’re incredibly lucky that people can still come and see the relatively pristine skies over our national park,” said Stephanie Clement, director of conservation with Friends of Acadia, one of the festival’s sponsors.

The festival: Something for every stargazer

The festival is timed not just to inject some tourist dollars into the region during a traditionally dry period, though. Kelly pointed out that autumn and winter, when the moisture content in the atmosphere is lower, are actually the best times to enjoy Downeast Maine’s starry skies.

In addition to Acadia’s remarkable views of the night sky, one of the draws of the festival is the big names in astronomy it manages to attract. This year’s keynote presenter is Alex Filippenko, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the world’s most highly cited astronomers.

Filippenko, who was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe, will speak on “Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe.”

If that all sounds a bit too technical, don’t worry. The 2013 Acadia Night Sky Festival promises something for everyone.

The festival begins this Thursday, Sept. 26, with a film about owls and other nocturnal creatures, and ends on Monday morning, Sept. 30, with simultaneous sunrise viewings on Cadillac Mountain and Schoodic Point. In between is a full schedule of films, presentations, star parties, starlit paddles, night hikes, mountaintop stargazing, art exhibits, workshops, kids’ activities and more, all around the island.

For more information about the Acadia Night Sky Festival, including a schedule of events and links to related sites, visit www.acadianightskyfestival.com.

Acadia Night Sky Festival schedule of events

Every day of the festival:

10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Kids: Build Your Own Night Sky Family Ornament

Christmas Spirit Shop, 80 Main St., Bar Harbor

Kids can come and build their very own night sky Christmas ornament to take home. Call 207-288-8168 for more information.

7:00 – 9:30 p.m. Bioluminescent Night Paddle

Castine Kayak, 17 Sea St., Castine

Experience an unforgettable evening paddle in Castine Harbor under a blanket of stars and in the midst of bioluminescent organisms of the water that swirl and light up with every stroke of your paddle. Fascinating! Castine’s harbor is Maine’s own Bioluminescent Bay with a unique ecosystem that creates the perfect environment for these glow in the dark phytoplankton to survive and multiply. Explore the constellations of the stars of the night sky immersed in the bioluminescent stars of the water!

$55. Call 207-866-3506 for reservations.

Thursday, September 26:

1:00-3:00 p.m. Hoo’s That Calling in the Night?

Wendell Gilley Museum, 4 Herrick Road, Southwest Harbor

Movies and stories about owls. $5 adult, $2 children 5-12, children under 5 (with an adult) free.

Call 207-244-7555 for more information.

5:00-6:00 p.m. Science on Mars

Northeast Harbor Library, 1 Joy Road, Northeast Harbor

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Bob Reichman presents a program about the scientific mission of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory Rover. Learn about the instruments on board the rover and what they can tell us, where it’s been so far, and where it’s headed next.

7:00-8:30 p.m. Keynote speaker: Dr. Alex Filippenko – "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe”

MDI High School Auditorium,1081 Eagle Lake Road, Bar Harbor

As part of the team that received the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, Dr. Alex Filippenko will provide a presentation exploring his work on the rapid expansion of the universe. "We expected the attractive force of gravity to slow down the rate at which the universe is expanding. But observations of very distant exploding stars (supernovae) show that the expansion rate is actually speeding up, a remarkable discovery. Over the largest distances, the universe seems to be dominated by a repulsive 'dark energy' – an idea Albert Einstein had suggested in 1917 but renounced in 1929 as his 'biggest blunder.' It stretches the fabric of space itself faster and faster with time, creating a 'runaway universe.' But the physical origin and nature of dark energy, which makes up about three quarters of the contents of the universe, is probably the most important unsolved problem in all of physics."

Call 207-801-2566, ext. 802 for more information.

7:00-9:00 p.m. Guided Night Hike

Acadia National Park

Join Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School, as they lead a hike up the Beachcroft Trail up Champlain Mountain, under the stars. This hike is intended for experienced hikers with their own equipment.

For reservations call 888-232-9559.

7:30-8:30 p.m. Glow-in-the-Dark Paint Party

Little Sister’s Creative Youth Studio, 47 Rodick St., Bar Harbor

Help bring the stars indoors at a glow in the dark party with fun music and lots of paint to kick off the weekend festivities! $20/adult and $12/child, preregistration recommended.

Call 207-801-4010 for reservations and further information.

8:00-9:00 p.m. Stars Over Sand Beach

Acadia National Park, Sand Beach, Park Loop Road

Sit back and gaze at Acadia’s amazing night sky and hear some stories and science associated with the stars. Dress warmly and please minimize flashlight use to preserve night vision.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

Friday, September 27th

2:00pm & 4:00 p.m. Starlab Planetarium

MDI YMCA, 21 Park St., Bar Harbor

Learn about the night sky inside a portable planetarium. Programs limited to 60 people every hour, with shows at 2pm and 4pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Entry is offered on a first-come first-serve basis.

3:00-4:00 p.m. Virtual Moon Tour

MDI YMCA, 21 Park S., Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Bob Reichman presents a geological tour of the moon’s surface, featuring great close-up photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Learn about lunar impact craters and ejecta, cracks, lava channels, and the moon’s orbit, phases and its impact on Earth’s tides.

4:00-6:00 p.m. Gallery Opening: Art in Space

Blum Gallery, COA, 105 Eden St., Bar Harbor

Come enjoy an opening presentation of night sky inspired artwork by Jane Runyeon and Josh Simpson, joined by Josh’s wife, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. As they discuss the “Art in Space.”

Jane’s expressionistic paintings are fueled by the meteor showers and the thousands of asteroids that both circle the sun and are heavily concentrated in a very wide belt between the orbits of Mars’ 2 moons and Jupiter’s 63 moons. These mammoth rocks swirling with extreme temperatures and speed have inspired a provocative theme in her work about the mysteries of outer space both known and unknown.

With Josh and Cady, it is clear that you can’t have art without science, and that wherever science takes you, you can’t help but find art as well. Join Josh on his journey through his series of glass planets, as he takes us places we would never find on our own, and Cady as she shows us the the endless possibilities that the space programs brings back to earth. The vehicles that take us on these extraordinary journeys can be marvels of engineering, or our very own imaginations.

6:30-9:00 p.m. Celestial Cinema

Village Green, corner of Main Street & Mt. Desert Street, Bar Harbor

Bring your picnic dinner and enjoy a family space film under the stars. This year featuring “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Free popcorn provided by Camden National Bank.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

6:30-9:30 p.m. Photography Workshop with Bob Thayer

Acadia National Park, MDI

Capture the night sky with local photographer and naturalist Bob Thayer. This workshop is intended for experienced digital photographers with their own equipment. $45/person. Reservations are required via http://ansf9-27-13photo.eventbrite.com

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

6:30-7:30pm – Astronomy 101

Common Good Soup Kitchen, 566 Seawall Road, Southwest Harbor

“Astronomy 101″ a presentation by Ron Thompson, takes you from the “Big Bang”, up through to where we are today in this magnificent Universe. We’ll travel through the far reaches of Space, near the edge of time, to our Galaxy and the Solar System we live in today on our “Blue Marble” called Earth. We’ll talk about the Sun, Our Star, the Planets and Deep Space objects we can view using our eyes and through binoculars or telescopes. You will get some insight on how to observe the night sky using various tools and sky charts. Join us for a 13.5 billion year journey though space and time. The cafe will be open for dinner 5:30-7:30 p.m., for a suggested donation of $7/person, $12/couple, and $15/family.

For cafe information, call 207-244-3007.

6:30-9:00 p.m. Night Sky “Under the Stars” Boat Cruise

Bar Harbor Whale Watch, 1 West St., Bar Harbor

From using constellations in navigation and storytelling to the supernatural healing powers of the elusive Star People, the Wabanaki have worked with the stars for over 12,000 years. Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune will share information and stories about the Passamaquoddy and their relationship with the stars as the boat cruises into Frenchman Bay. Limited to 125 passengers. $26 Adults, $15 Juniors (14 and under). Rain date will be Sunday, Sept. 29.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

Call 207-288-2386 for reservations.

7:00-9:00 p.m. Night Climb at Otter Cliff

Acadia National Park

Acadia Mountain Guides will provide all the proper climbing equipment and instruction. Participants should bring their own headlamps.

For reservations, please call 888-232-9559

8:00-10:00 p.m. – Star Party at Seawall

Acadia National Park, Seawall Picnic Area, Route 102A, Southwest Harbor

Rangers, volunteers, and local astronomers will point out constellations and other night sky features visible with the naked eye, binoculars, and through telescopes. Dress warmly and please minimize flashlight use to preserve night vision.

Weather permitting, call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

Saturday, September 28th

11:00am-2:00 p.m. - Celebration of the Sun

Acadia National Park, Sieur de Monts Nature Center, Bar Harbor

A variety of family friendly activities will challenge you to see the sun in a whole new way. Weather permitting; observe features of our closest star though equipment specifically designed for safe solar viewing.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

1:00-3:00 p.m. – Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters

Abbe Museum, 26 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor

This program will begin with a reading of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters, a children’s book about the Micmac tale that tells of the creation of what is now known as “the Big Dipper.” Museum Educator George Neptune will be teaching children how to make woven paper stars — inspired by a Wabanaki craft! Choose your own colors to weave a beautiful star to decorate and take home at the end of the day. Free and open to the public. Call 207-288-3519.

1:00pm & 3:00 p.m. Starlab Planetarium

MDI YMCA, 21 Park St., Bar Harbor

Learn about the night sky inside a portable planetarium. Programs limited to 60 people every hour, with shows at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Entry to shows is on a first-come first-serve basis.

2:00-3:00 p.m. Greeks, Gears and the Universe

MDI YMCA, 21 Park St., Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Jon Thomas presents a program about a geared mechanism built more than 2000 years ago that could show and predict the motion of the Sun and Moon among the stars, including lunar phases and eclipses. The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in 1901 in a shipwreck and only recently has been studied in detail to reveal its incredible workings and the extraordinary knowledge of the universe possessed by its creators.

2:00-3:00 p.m. Film: Solarmax

Reel Pizza Cinerama, 33 Kennebec Place, Bar Harbor

This film tells the story of humankind’s struggle to understand the sun. $3/adults, children under 16 free.

3:00-4:00 p.m. Astronomy 101

Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor

“Astronomy 101″ a presentation by Ron Thompson, takes you from the “Big Bang,” up through to where we are today in this magnificent Universe. We’ll travel through the far reaches of space, near the edge of time, to our galaxy and the solar system we live in today on our “Blue Marble” called Earth. We’ll talk about the sun, our star, the planets and deep space objects we can view using our eyes and through binoculars or telescopes. You will get some insight on how to observe the night sky using various tools and sky charts. Join us for a 13.5 billion year journey though space and time.

3:00-4:00 p.m. Stars and Stories of the Stars

Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor

Join us at the library for songs and stories about the sun and stars and moon. For kids 7 and younger. Star-themed refreshments served!

3:00-4:00 p.m. Stories in the Sky: Hercules, Orion, Perseus and More!

Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor

The stars tell many stories. Join us at the library to explore the tales and myths that are charted in the stars, and maybe even write your own. Star-themed refreshments served! For kids 8 and older.

4:00-5:00 p.m. Meet the Telescopes

Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Bert Probst presents an overview of different types of telescopes and their pros and cons. Program will conclude with time for questions and hands-on practice with each of the three main varieties of telescope.

6:00-7:00 p.m. - Rick Hauck: Human Spaceflight — Where Have We Been and Where are We Going?”

Jackson Laboratory Auditorium, 600 Main St., Bar Harbor

Join former Astronaut, Captain Rick Hauck as he discusses both the past and future of human spaceflight. "In the '60s and '70s the United States celebrated the success of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, highlighted by the mission of Apollo 11 and its crew of Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong, the latter two stepping on the moon. During the next four decades the space shuttle flew 135 flights before its retirement in 2011. In May 2012, the first commercially built and operated rocket docked with the International Space Station (ISS), and in June of this year the Chinese sent three “taikonauts” to their own orbiting space station. Meanwhile NASA is paying the Russians $60 million to launch each of our astronauts to the ISS. What (if anything) is next for the United States manned spaceflight program?"

Call 207-801-2566, ext.802 for more information.

6:30 p.m.-8p.m. – Possessomuk Ckuwaponahkik: Stars of the Dawnland

Abbe Museum, Sieur du Monts Spring, Acadia National Park

The Wabanaki have relied on the land and water of this area for 12,000 years — but how would you describe their relationship to the sky? From using constellations in navigation and storytelling to the supernatural healing powers of the elusive Star People, the Wabanaki have many stories to explain the distant world above us. Join Museum Educator George Neptune for this outdoor program just after sunset. Free and open to the Public. Call 207-288-3519.

6:30-9:30 p.m. Photography Workshop with Bob Thayer

Acadia National Park, MDI

Capture the night sky with local photographer and naturalist Bob Thayer. This workshop is intended for experienced digital photographers with their own equipment. $45/person. Reservations are required via http://ansf9-28-13.eventbrite.com

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

8:00-10:00 p.m. – Star Party on Cadillac Mountain

Acadia National Park, Cadillac Summit (Shuttle departs from Hulls Cove Visitor Center)

Drop in as park rangers and local astronomers point out constellations and other night sky features visible with the naked eye, binoculars, and telescopes. Park at Hulls Cove Visitor’s Center for the free shuttle service; parking at summit restricted to handicap accessible only. 7:30-10:00 p.m.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

Sunday, September 29th

2:00-3:00 p.m. Film: Eat the Sun

Reel Pizza Cinerama, 33 Kennebec Place, Bar Harbor

This film follows Mason, a modern "sungazer" on an unbelievable and often hilarious cross-country tour into the little known world of sungazing. $3/adults, children under 16 free.

An all-day star-studded Sunday at SERC

Schoodic Education and Research Center Institute at 64 Acadia Drive, Winter Harbor, will offer a variety of family friendly activities all day that will challenge you to see our universe in a whole new way. Call 207-288-1310.

The events at SERC include the following:

11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m. Art in Space

Moore Auditorium

Come enjoy an presentation of night sky inspired artwork by Jane Runyeon and Josh Simpson, joined by Josh’s wife, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. As they discuss “Art in Space.”

Jane’s expressionistic paintings are fueled by the meteor showers and the thousands of asteroids that both circle the sun and are heavily concentrated in a very wide belt between the orbits of Mars’ 2 moons and Jupiter’s 63 moons. These mammoth rocks swirling with extreme temperatures and speed have inspired a provocative theme in her work about the mysteries of outer space both known and unknown.

With Josh and Cady, it is clear that you can’t have art without science, and that wherever science takes you, you can’t help but find art as well. Join Josh on his journey through his series of glass planets, as he takes us places we would never find on our own, and Cady as she shows us the the endless possibilities that the space programs brings back to earth. The vehicles that take us on these extraordinary journeys can be marvels of engineering, or our very own imaginations.

1:00-2:00 p.m. The Sun and Its Domain

Eliot Hall

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Jon Thomas presents a program about the most dominant object in our solar system — the sun. It keeps hold on the planets and provides a life-sustaining environment for the Earth, but the sun is also quite violent in an unpredictable manner — a source of solar flares, magnetic storms, material ejections, and sunspots. Learn about the energy emitted in the visible, ultra-violet, and X-rays region of the spectrum and their impacts on the Earth.

1:00-4:00 p.m. Celebration of the Sun

Eliot Hall Courtyard

A variety of family friendly activities will challenge you to see the sun in a whole new way. Weather permitting; observe features of our closest star though equipment specifically designed for safe solar viewing.

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

3:00-4:30 p.m. Meet the Telescopes

Eliot Hall

Acadia National Park Astronomy Volunteer Bert Probst presents an overview of different types of telescopes and their pros and cons. Program will conclude with time for questions and hands-on practice with each of the three main varieties of telescope.

5:00-6:30 p.m. Celestial Supper

Schooner Commons Dining Hall

Enjoy a dinner prepared by the SERC kitchen. Reservations required by noon on Friday, Sept. 27. Call 207-288-1310. Cost is $15/adult; $7.50 ages 12 and under.

7:00-8:00 p.m. – Doug Rich: Supernova Hunter

Moore Auditorium

Amateur astronomer Doug Rich talks about the particular challenges of being a supernova hunter in Maine. He explains how his search program evolved from simply looking for these rare stellar explosions visually – through an eye piece – to capturing thousands of galaxy pictures with a digital camera coupled with a fully automated telescope system. His power point presentation includes a look at his home observatory and equipment used for supernova hunting, methods for patrolling the night sky, notable discoveries, along with some supernova history and trivia.

8:00-10:00 p.m. – Stars Over Schoodic

Rockefeller Hall Back Patio – park at Moore Auditorium

Weather permitting; call 207-200-1536 for event updates.

Monday, September 30th

5:53 a.m. Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain and at Schoodic Point

Cadillac Mountain Summit, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island or Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Winter Harbor

Witness the daily ritual of nighttime starlight giving way to our daytime star, the sun. No formal program.

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Comments

Alan Woods's picture

The dark sky is valuable

When guests visit us in the Downeast Lakes region, they always remark about the outrageously beautiful night sky. We have marveled at the Milky Way, watched many a meteor shower and the northern lights. We even witnessed the Shuttle Atlantis separate from the International Space Station in 2011. All this magic without so much as binoculars!

It's easy to ignore and undervalue the dark sky when you have had it all your life. But considering the pace at which mankind is growing and expanding, the dark night sky and undeveloped natural areas will only become more valuable. Let other states take their natural assets for granted. If Maine can hang on to hers, Maine tourism will be the mainstay of the economy forever!

 's picture

Maine's Dark Skies Must Be Protected

I grew up on a farm in northeastern Maine and remember how incredible those dark skies were, year round, with the addition of the delightful splash of the Northern Lights. Alas, less than a mile from my boyhood farm, 7 miles of ridges were blasted away and now an array of huge ugly wind turbines of the Rollins Wind project light the night sky with their required aviation warning lights. It is the same now for Acadia, as across Frenchman's Bay, clearly in view of this national treasure is the Bull Hill array of 479 ft tall wind turbines with the red aviation lights. Even worse, more are being constructed clearly within sight of the park and soon to be on the doorstep of Baxter State Park according to plans by First Wind. This evil, greedy company developed both of these wind projects. They do not care about destroying Maine's natural resources or scenic vistas, the dark skies included. All they care about is reaping taxpayer subsidies and selling Enron-inspired RECs.

There is a huge value to the dark night skies. If the onslaught of industrial wind turbines in Maine continues, there will be hundreds of miles of destroyed Maine uplands with thousands of wind turbines that ruin the scenic values both day and night. The brilliant night skies will bring tourists to Maine and have a greater economic impact than wind turbines we don't need. Maine should become a designated "Dark Sky Sanctuary", something that helps define Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia.

 's picture

Great story. Maine's dark

Great story. Maine's dark night skies are a treasure most of us take for granted. It's unfortunate that our darkest and most undeveloped areas are being targeted for industrial development. Hundreds of 500 foot tall turbines strung along our ridgelines and mountain tops will soon fill the sky with flashing red lights. Enjoy the night skies while they still belong to the moon and stars.

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