We periodically publish content from DownEast Magazine, The Magazine of Maine. Dedicated to evoking and illuminating the spirit and culture of Maine at its best.
Looking for a Star Mate?
The Acadia Astronomical Society, a collection of amateur astronomers based on Mount Desert Island, meets at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor on the second Wednesday of every month. The group holds star parties throughout the year, except during the winter. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Other volunteer astronomy groups convene for star parties and viewing events around Maine. Many suspend meetings during the coldest months, but some, like the Penobscot Valley Star Gazers, have been known to brave the cold. Contact the club for upcoming events.
Acadia Astronomical Society (Bar Harbor)
Astronomical Society of Northern New England (Kennebunk)
Central Maine Astronomical Society (Whitefield)
DownEast Amateur Astronomers (Pembroke)
Penobscot Valley Star Gazers (Bangor)
Southern Maine Astronomers (Portland)
Interested in stargazing in Maine? Here are a few tips for exploring the cosmos over Acadia and beyond.
Celestial highlights over Acadia National Park, by season
During the winter in Acadia (Dec. 21–Mar. 19), the air is cold and the humidity is low, which makes for clear viewing. Look for the Orion Nebula; the winter hexagon stars Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux, and Procyon; the Ursids and Quadrantids meteor showers; and the planet Jupiter.
During the spring (Mar. 20–Jun. 20), look for the vernal equinox; the constellations Ursa Major, Cancer, Gemini, and Leo; the planets Mars and Saturn; and a lunar eclipse.
During the summer and fall (Jun. 21–Dec. 20), look for the summer triangle stars Altair in Aquila, Vega in Lyra, and Deneb in Cygnus; the constellations Hercules and Pegasus; and the Perseid meteor shower. The park’s annual Night Sky Festival occurs in September, with four days and nights of star parties, star talks, local star folklore, and other celestial celebrations.
Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks by Tyler Nordgren (Springer-Praxis: 2010) has a chapter on Acadia National Park that focuses on the tidal influence of the moon and sun. For DIY viewing, a rotating star map is available for sale in the Acadia National Park gift shop at the park headquarters. Dwight Lanpher, Maine’s astronomy club liaison and a founding member of the Acadia Astronomical Society, recommends viewing the stars from the Seawall Campground picnic area near Manset, where Lanpher says you can see the Milky Way intersect the ocean at the horizon.
Excerpted with permission from Sara Donnelly’s article in the November 2013 issue of Down East magazine.