Travel: One Place That Still Has Stars
How dark is it at night outside your window? If where you live is anything like where I live, night time is kind of bright with street lamps glowing, cars driving by, and neighbors’ motion detector spotlights blinking on and off. I’ve gotten so used to it I sleep with the curtains open but my daughter brings along her own black-out curtains whenever she visits.
Light pollution, sometimes referred to as photo pollution or luminous pollution, is taking over the cities and suburbs. Installing outside lights here and there might add to protecting our homes and making us feel physically safer; however, it diminishes what we see in the sky and could also affect our sleeping patterns. That pollution could also make us forget what a beautiful starlit sky really looks like.
Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine is often referred to as one of the few place that has real stars on the East Coast. The Seventh Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival takes place September 10-14, 2015. They offer a full schedule of organized events with workshops, nationally recognized speakers and hands-on experiences including operating telescopes, arts and crafts activities, and kayaking under the stars (). There truly is something for everyone from families to the serious amateur astronomer. You do not have to attend the whole weekend or be into physics or astronomy to enjoy the amazing views.
What’s particularly important to note is that the communities surrounding the park consciously support reducing light pollution. This is a community celebration of its beautiful celestial night skies.
This year’s speakers include Dr. John Grant, III, a geologist with the Smithsonian’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum. He was part of the Mars Exploration Rovers team selecting the landing sites. Don Barry was a NASA astronaut on three space flights, four spacewalks and two trips to the International Space Station.
The highlight of the weekend is hoping that the weather cooperates and getting outdoors to enjoy the night sky with the help of park rangers and astronomers. Becky, age 69, lives in New York City but was born and raised in Bar Harbor and shows up for the Night Sky events every year. “These are the skies I grew up with. We used to play a game, who could name the most constellations the fastest. My oldest brother always won.”
A perennial highlight are the Star Parties, particularly the one on top of Cadillac Mountain” (Saturday, September 12, 8 to 11 p.m.). Star gazers meet at the Mount Desert Island High School, 1081 Eagle Lake Road for the bus shuttles up the mountain, accessible to all. Additional Star Parties will be held on Thursday and Friday nights. Most of the events are free and the programs are facilitated by devoted astronomers who love helping others see what they see.
Visit Acadia, where the beautiful, really dark skies are the way celestial skies used to be. Acadia is made for walking. Plan at least a day for hiking the park’s trails and carriage paths with a naturalist who informs you about the ecosystems, wildlife and springtime wildflowers. Be sure to make time for the great shopping and delicious lobstah dinners. Consider enjoying the festival like a local by signing up to volunteer.
Have a great time!