Stargazing

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Milky Way over Cadillac Mountain
Milky Way viewed from the summit of Cadillac Mountain

NPS Photo/Sardius S. Stalker

 

They say location is everything, and when it comes to night skies that is so true. Out here on the rugged Maine coastline and far from the great eastern metropolises, Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park have clear, bright night skies.

Stargazing at Acadia

The night sky is one aspect of our environment that everyone across the world can experience. It is a resource that humans throughout time have looked to as both a mode of navigation and a realm for the spiritual. Though the night sky at Acadia looks a little different than the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere, everyone has the access to gaze up into what lies beyond our planet. Stargazing is a great way to experience nature, explore science, and ponder history.

 

Stargazing Locations

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    Know Before You Go

    Astronomy can be daunting for beginners, but stargazing does not have to be hard. The two keys to enjoying a gaze up into the cosmos are going out in the proper conditions and arriving prepared.

    Best Stargazing Conditions

    • New moon, before moonrise, or after moonset – Though a very fantastic and powerful celestial body, the moon and its brightness can impede your ability to see the stars in their multitude. Check the phases of the moon and the moonrise and moonset times.

    • Clear skies and good weather – Stargazing is best on a cloudless or minimally clouded night. Check the forecast for inclement weather and cloud coverage before you venture out.

    • An hour or two after sunset – Even after the sun sets, there remains some residual light. Stargazing will be best an hour or two after sunset, when this residual light has dissipated.

     
    Two people use red lights while taking photos at night

    Photo by Ashley L. Conti, Friends of Acadia, NPS

    Stargazing Preparation and Safety

    What to Bring

    • Flashlight/headlight (ideally with a red-light function): It is important to stay safe while navigating in the dark, but the bright white lights of a flashlight can impact your night vision and your ability to see all of the stars. Using a flashlight with a red light preserves your night vision, so your eyes do not need as much time to adjust to seeing the night sky.

    • Blanket, towel, chair, or something comfortable to sit or lie on: These items are recommended to most comfortably enjoy viewing the night sky and to prevent any upward gazing-induced vertigo.

    • Star map or stargazing app: If you are interested in identifying constellations, asterisms, planets, or other celestial bodies, star maps printed from the internet specific for the time of year or stargazing smartphone apps are useful tools.

    • Junior Ranger Night Explorer Book: For National Park Service Junior Rangers out enjoying the night sky, there is an astronomy and stargazing specific junior ranger program to work through.

    Safety First

    • Careful when navigating in the dark, especially when traveling over uneven or rocky surfaces.

    • Careful when stargazing on beaches or coastlines and avoid going in the water at night.

    • Nighttime in Acadia can get colder than you might expect, so bring layers to stay warm.

    • Mosquitos are common during summer months near water sources. Come prepared with proper clothing or insect repellant for the most comfortable experience.

     

    Astrophotography

    Astrophotograhy is a type of photography involving the night skies. Although these images are different than what our human eyes can see, photographers use long exposure shots to capture the beauty of stars, constellations, and the Milky Way in a dramatic and inspiring way.

    Check out the images from various stargazing locations at Acadia and be inspired to create your own.

     
     

    Additional Resources

     
    Milky way over a lake with silhouetted trees and mountains

    Acadia's Night Skies

    Acadia National Park possesses remarkably dark skies for its proximity to Portland, Boston, and New York.

    Graphic showing sky brightness over time

    National Parks and Night Skies

    Learn more about ways the National Park Service protects night skies across the country.

     
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      Last updated: October 30, 2020

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      PO Box 177
      Bar Harbor, ME 04609

      Phone:

      (207) 288-3338

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