The Milky Way illuminated clearly over the East Branch Penobscot River. Silhouettes of the woods and landscape line both sides of the river. The Milky Way and the bright stars reflect onto the serene river.
View of the Milky Way from Lunksoos picnic area.

NPS / Gin Majka

International Dark-Sky Association Logo, a dark purple and blue gradient filled circle with the letters I D A on the bottom and starbursts and small spheres mimicking stars inside the large circle.

Starry nights at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument are exceptional. This national monument is a Dark Sky Sanctuary, with night sky readings that prove the monument and its surrounding neighbors have some of the darkest skies east of the Mississippi. Within its 87,564 acres there are no commercial power sources, and no electric powered lights operated during the night. The national monument is actively monitoring and working hard to protect this natural resource. Learn more about light pollution and what you can do to make a difference.

International Dark Sky Sanctuary

In 2020, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary by DarkSky International. The Sanctuary designation was the second of its kind in the National Park Service and distinguishes the monument for the exceptional quality of its naturally dark night skies. Katahdin Woods and Waters was the first International Dark Sky Place certified in the state of Maine and in New England. The Natural Sounds and Nights Skies division of the National Park Service has determined that Katahdin Woods and Waters has some of the darkest nights skies east of the Mississippi River.

NPS Rangers and volunteer astronomers at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument help measure the darkness of the night skies in northern Maine. Light readings are taken with a Sky Quality Meter. The meter measures how much light strikes the sensor and then converts that amount of light into units of magnitudes per square arc-second. Larger numbers indicate a darker sky. The highest reading so far at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is 21.84!

If you'd like to help collect data on dark skies during your visit to the monument or from your own backyard, go to DarkSky International's website for more information about measuring light pollution.

Light pollution map of the east coast of the United States illustrating light pollution. A red pin marks a dark spot in Northern Maine where the monument is located. The color scale indicates there is very little light pollution in this area.
Located in northern Maine, Katahdin Woods and Waters NM is home to some of the darkest skies in the eastern United States.

Jurij Stare,

When visiting Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, notice how dark and quiet it is at night! New research further illustrates the impact that noise & light pollution have on birds and other wildlife. Learn more about how noise and light affect the wildlife by watching this webinar.

Front cover of the Junior Ranger Night Explorer book showing a child's hands holding a pencil and an image of the night sky.
Front cover of the Junior Ranger Night Explorers book.


Tips For Night Sky Viewing

  • Bring a red headlamp or flashlight so that you can safely walk about without hurting your night vision. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to darkness.

  • Check the local weather. Clouds can block your view and make for poor stargazing.

  • Check the moon. For the clearest stargazing experience, visit during a new moon for darkest skies. It will be helpful to know the times of moonrise and moonset before your visit.

  • While stargazing can be done year-round, summer is considered the best time to view the Milky Way.

  • Be aware that wildlife are often active at night. Be cautious and alert.

  • Bring a planisphere or a constellation app to assist in your stargazing experience. There are different visible constellations for summer and for winter months.

Programs & Activities To Consider

Be a Junior Ranger Night Explorer!

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is an amazing place to explore the night skies and its constellations. Check out the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Booklet to learn more about the dark skies that are protected by the National Park Service. Once you complete the activities, send it in to earn a Jr. Ranger Night Explorer patch!

Download your own copy of the Junior Ranger Night Explorer book [4 MB PDF] before arriving at the park!

Stars Over Katahdin

The Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters host an annual Stars Over Katahdin event, the group’s celebration of the unparalleled night skies of the Katahdin region. Each year, star enthusiasts and Volunteers-In-Parks (VIPs) astronomers gather to observe the stunning celestial objects above the monument.

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    Last updated: May 14, 2024

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