Katahdin Region to Host Celebration of Darkest Skies East of the Mississippi at Annual “Stars Over Katahdin” Events

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Katahdin Region to Host Celebration of Darkest Skies East of the Mississippi at Annual “Stars Over Katahdin” Events

Patten, ME — An annual tradition of showcasing the dark skies of the Katahdin region will continue this year at Stars Over Katahdin on Oct. 6thand 9th, hosted by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters (Friends) and Elliotsville Plantation, Inc (EPI). Stars Over Katahdin will feature an exhibition of the United States’ darkest skies East of the Mississippi for the general public, while the educational events preceding will provide opportunities for students of the Katahdin region to learn about the stunning nights skies of their hometowns. The events take place as supporters of the Monument push to conserve the extraordinary night skies as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary as designated by the International Dark Sky Association.

As part of the place-based education program Katahdin Learning Project, students at Katahdin Elementary and Myal Oprick Elementary will be treated to presentations on the night skies from Northern Stars Planetarium. John Meader, Director of Northern Stars Planetarium in Fairfield, will be presenting age-appropriate lessons on the stars, planets, and distant galaxies to students inside a large inflatable dome designed for projections of celestial objects. Programs at Katahdin Elementary will take place September 24that 9:45am, 12:15am, and 5:00pm. Programs at Myal Oprick Elementary will take place September 25that 9:00am and 10:15am. These events are closed to the general public, but open to press upon prior request.

“Our night skies are becoming a source of local pride for students and community members alike,” said Kala Rush, Education and Engagement Coordinator with the Friends. “Through educational and interpretive programming, the Monument has elevated awareness of this increasingly scarce resource in our own backyard. This is one case where we’re proud to be in the dark.”

On Saturday Oct. 6th, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters members and Monument Volunteers Eric and Elaine Hendrickson of Presque Isle will be leading a guided day hike exploring the history and geology along the banks of the Wassataquoik Stream north to Orin Falls. Hikers will meet at Sandbank Stream Campsite to carpool at 10:30am.

Hikers with small children or a part of a family are welcome to meet Katahdin Learning Project place-based educator Scarlet McAvoy for a Family Hike at Sandbank Stream Campsite at 2pm with an optional picnic to follow (families provide their own food). Those interested in the Family Hike are invited to RSVP to smcavoy@rsu89.org.

Saturday evening, astronomers, Monument volunteers, and star enthusiasts will gather at the Loop Road Overlook at Mile 6.4 for a campfire program (s’mores included) followed by a guided telescope viewing of the stars. Carpools and a reservation-only shuttle bus will be meeting at Sandbank Stream Campsite at 5pm. Those interested in shuttling to the Overlook should contact Susan Adams at lunksoos@gmail.com to reserve a spot on the shuttle. Event attendees planning to camp out for the night in the Monument should be aware that campsites within the Monument are likely to be full with other visitors that weekend. Friends suggests attendees hoping to stay overnight book accommodations at the nearby Pine Grove Campground or at other local accommodations.

Tuesday, Oct. 9th at 7pm, the Millinocket Memorial Library will be showing an early screening of “Saving the Dark”, a film directed by Sriram Murali about night skies and the increasing effects of light pollution.

“ ‘Saving the Dark’ does a great job of laying out how precious and deserving of conservation our dark are,” said Nancy Hathaway, a Friends member who is volunteering her time to help organize Stars Over Katahdin. “The film is an important reminder of what’s at stake as we work to protect these lands and the skies above.”

Stars Over the Katahdin takes place while Friends, EPI, and the National Park Service continue their collective effort to have the Monument designated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary 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 in 2024, dark sky advocates pushing for the International Dark Sky Designation hope Katahdin Woods and Waters can be a major destination for astrotourists from across the world.

Press Contacts:
Kala Rush, Education and Engagement Coordinator
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters
(406) 728 – 5692

Susan Adams, Recreation Manager
Elliotsville Plantation, Inc.
(207) 852 – 1291