BAR HARBOR — The clear night skies over Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park are the shining stars of a weekend-long event that kicks off here beginning Thursday.
The Acadia Night Sky Festival will celebrate the starlit skies in all their glory, with science exhibits, stargazing, speaker panels, art shows and children’s activities. The festival is a first-of-its-kind for the area, one that organizers hope will become an annual event, drawing star-lovers from near and far.
“To come to Acadia (National Park), is one of those awe inspiring, wonderful, jaw dropping experiences, to see that multitude of stars up there,” said Stephanie Clement of Friends of Acadia, who helped put the festival together. “It’s really about enjoying the experience.”
Festival organizers hope to provide multiple educational and sensational events for stargazers of all ages. Most of all, they hope to send families and others home with energy and inspiration for taking what steps they can to help promote and protect dark skies in their own backyards.
“It’s all about fostering individual action to protect our night skies,” Ms. Clement said.
Within the past year, three of the four towns on Mount Desert Island passed lighting ordinances aimed at protecting the night skies. The movements to create such rules were from the ground up, and stemmed out of legitimate desires to protect a dwindling natural resource, the night view, said Peter Lord of the Island Astronomy Institute, who helped draft the ordinances.
The night sky festival is really just an extension of those conservation efforts, he said, and it’s one that should be fun, interesting, and rewarding for everyone involved.
“If you want to understand the world we live in, you can’t ignore the sky,” Mr. Lord said. “There are many, many dimensions as to why this is an important topic.”
ANP officials, chambers of commerce and conservation groups have all worked hard on the celebration.
Park officials, working on a government mandate to include starlit skies as a bona fide natural resource, will unveil interpretive programs, such as ranger-led stargazing atop Cadillac Mountain, that could become programming mainstays. Business owners will speak about the tourism potential of dark skies. Artists will highlight the stars in exhibits of their work.
Much of the daytime activity centers around the Bar Harbor municipal building on Cottage Street. There, children and their parents can enjoy half-hour planetarium shows, handle telescopes, make their own sky guides, explore a simulation of using an astronaut’s glove in space, and view the stunning night-sky photography of Tyler Nordgren.
Daytime activities in several other locations are planned, including the Gilley Museum in Southwest Harbor. Also on Sunday, a self-guided tour of four new “green,” or environmentally friendly, buildings on Mount Desert Island which feature full-cutoff, night-sky friendly lighting, will take place.
A full schedule of every activity, with times, details, directions and other information is available online, at www.nightskyfestival.org.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, festival-goers can take part in stargazing activities led by park rangers and others. Special whale watch cruises will feature interpretive stargazing.
A Jupiter watch at Agamont Park on Friday will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s discovery of Jupiter’s moons. Saturday night features stargazing from the top of Cadillac Mountain, while Sunday’s program includes sky gazing from the Seawall picnic area. Telescopes and binoculars will be available.
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