FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 19, 2019
Andrew Bossie, Executive Director
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters
Kala Rush, Education Coordinator
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters
(406) 728 – 5692
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters Highlighting Darkest Skies East of the Mississippi with Stars Event and New Dark Sky Guide
Patten, ME — On Saturday, September 21st Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters (Friends) and Elliotsville Foundation, Inc. (EFI) will host the sixth annual Stars Over Katahdin, showcasing the darkest skies East of the Mississippi for the general public. Friends is also encouraging year-round enjoyment of the dark skies with the release of the newly published Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Dark Sky Guide.
“Our Friends group is working hard to help build a year-round recreation economy in the Katahdin Region,” said Friends Executive Director Andrew Bossie. “The wealth of recreational opportunities and unparalleled night skies of the national monument provide visitors and locals alike with round-the-clock activities to experience our newest public lands in northern Maine. On a clear, moonless night I’ve watched visitors see their own shadow on the banks of the East Branch of the Penobscot River with the only light from the milky way above.”
This year’s Stars Over Katahdin will offer day-time exploration of the national monument lands and an evening of food, campfire conversation, and a guided viewing of the celestial objects above Katahdin Woods and Waters. Attendees will also be the first to receive copies of the newly published Katahdin Woods and Waters National Dark Sky Guide. The guide includes information on suggested viewing sites, stargazing tips, the impacts of light pollution, and the unique skies above the national monument.
“This new, first of its kind, dark sky guide makes clear just how precious our night skies are and especially how worthy of protection they are in the North Maine Woods,” said Friends Executive Director Andrew Bossie. “Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument reads as a 2 of 7 on the Bortles Scale. In non-scientific speak, that means only places like Antarctica have darker skies than us.”
The Dark Sky Guide was produced by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters staff, with the majority of the drafting being done by Summer Fellow Anna Piermattei, a junior at Colby College who brought a growing passion for astronomy to the unique task of building the new guide. The guide will be available for the first time at this year’s Stars Over Katahdin. A paper copy can also be requested from Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters year-round and a digital copy will be added to the Friends website soon.
“Our night skies are becoming a source of local pride for our community,” said Kala Rush, Friends Education Coordinator. “Through educational and interpretive programming, the national monument has elevated awareness of this increasingly scarce resource in our own backyard. Light pollution is growing across the country and what we have here is just so very rare.”
During the week preceding Stars Over Katahdin, local students have learned about the stunning night skies of their hometowns during school programs hosted by the Friends’ program, the Katahdin Learning Project. Over 300 students at Katahdin Elementary, Opal Myrick Elementary, and Granite Street Elementary have learned about astronomy during night sky presentations from John Meader of Northern Stars Planetarium.
To kick off Stars Over Katahdin’s events on Saturday September 21st, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters Deputy Director Sam Deeran will be facilitating a guided day hike exploring the history, ecology, and geology on the trail to Orin Falls. That hike will leave from Sandbank Stream Campsite at 10:30am. Hikers with small children or a part of a family are welcome to meet Education Coordinator Kala Rush for a Family Hike starting at Sandbank Stream Campsite at 2pm.
“This annual event cannot take place without the support of our Friends group and the other contributors, so we hope that people can come to this event to celebrate,” said Tim Hudson, Superintendent for Katahdin Woods and Waters. “They can also see the night sky on every clear night in the monument, so we invite you to do that – with this group or in solitude.”
Saturday evening, astronomers, Monument volunteers, and star enthusiasts will gather at the Loop Road Overlook at Mile 6.4 for campfire chats (s’mores included) followed by a guided telescope viewing of the stars. Acadia National Park Ranger Michael Marion and John Meader will lead the dark sky viewing with the help of National Park Service Volunteer Astronomers. Carpools and a shuttle bus will be leaving from Sandbank Stream Campsite after meeting at 5pm. Friends suggests attendees hoping to tent overnight book accommodations at the nearby Taylor’s Katahdin View Camps or Pine Grove Campground. Other local accommodations and more details on the event can be found on the Friends website.
Stars Over the Katahdin takes place while Friends, EFI, and the National Park Service continue their collective effort to have the Monument designated by the International Dark Sky Association. The efforts to conserve the night skies of the region were previously covered in the Portland Press Herald’s feature “Let there be dark: Advocates push Maine as astrotourism destination” and The County’s article “Dark skies a resource to protect”. Light pollution maps show that this part of Maine is home to a patch of dark skies larger than any other in the United States East of the Mississippi River. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument sits in the heart of the dark skies of northern Maine. With a total eclipse expected to move directly over the Monument on April 8, 2024, dark sky advocates pushing for the International Dark Sky Designation hope Katahdin Woods and Waters can be a major destination for astrotourists from around the world.