BAR HARBOR — The tenth annual Acadia Night Sky Festival (ANSF), five days of events and activities around Mount Desert Island celebrating the age-old human affinity for pondering the stars and planets and people’s place in them, is set for Sept. 5 – 9.
Events include an outdoor “star party,” performances, lectures, demonstrations and hands-on activities. There are chances to learn from and with scientists, park rangers, artists and more.
The festival grew out of communicty enthusiasm over the 2009 adoption of a local ordinance that required ‘night sky friendly’ outdoor lighting on all new construction in the town of Bar Harbor, in an effort to prevent light pollution to our local skies. That same year, the inaugural festival was held.
The current ANSF planning committee is made up of representatives from Acadia National Park, Beal’s Lobster Pier, The Jackson Laboratory, Jesup Memorial Library, Mount Desert Island High School and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s hard to believe this is the tenth year of the Acadia Night Sky Festival,” said Chamber of Commerce director Martha Searchfield. “It has grown so much since 2009 and we’re extremely proud of how the community’s support of the festival has encouraged that growth. We hope the festival will continue to draw more and more guests who take our mission of celebrating the dark skies home to their own town or city.”
This year’s keynote event is a music, spoken word and visual art performance by the group Galileo’s Daughters Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Criterion Theatre. “Perpetual Motion: Galileo and His Revolutions” describes a key moment in the history of science and astronomy, with narration by science writer Dava Sobel.
Galileo’s Daughters was founded by soprano Sarah Pillow in 2001 to provide “a different kind of early music recital,” according to the group’s website. Pillow is joined by Mary Anne Ballard on viola da gamba, with other special guests.
Nighttime gatherings with rangers, local astronomers and volunteers, known as “star parties,” are among the most popular events in the festival. Star partiers will gaze at Acadia’s night sky as a park ranger takes them on a tour of the stars, complete with stories and science.
The Cadillac Mountain Star Party will be held on Saturday, Sept.8, from 8-11 p.m. Volunteer astronomers will point out constellations and other night sky features.
Parking at the Cadillac Mountain Summit will only be available for vehicles with persons with disabilities. Cadillac Summit Road will be closed to all other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists at 6:45 p.m.
Parking for the event is only available at MDI High School by ticketed reservation. Reservations are $5 per vehicle. A free shuttle service begins at 7:30 p.m. The last shuttle will depart the high school at 9:30 p.m. and the last shuttle will depart Cadillac Mountain at 11:15 p.m.
No pets or folding chairs. Buses will be heated (if needed). The Summit Center gift shop and restrooms at the top of Cadillac Mountain will be open during the event.
For all the star parties, organizers recommend dressing warmly and wearing comfortable shoes. Minimize flashlight use and use a red night vision flashlight or cover a standard flashlight with red cellophane (volunteers will provide cellophane if needed).
Night sky cruises
On Sept. 5, 6, 7 and 8, from 7 -9:30 p.m., an “Under the Stars” boat cruise will be offered by the Bar Harbor Whale Watch, 1 West St., Bar Harbor. Guests will cruise Frenchman Bay aboard the 130-foot catamaran Atlanticat.
John Bear Mitchell, University of Maine professor of Wabanaki and multicultural studies, will share Maine native stories about the night sky. Whale watch naturalist Zack Klyver will discuss the principles of celestial navigation. Local expert naturalist and amateur astronomer Lynn Havsall will identify and describe constellations, planets, stars and distant galaxies.
Passengers will look at the night sky while listening to star-themed music, including the themes to “Superman” and “ET,” “Bolero” by Ravel and selections from “Star Wars” by John Williams.
The trips are weather dependent. For pricing and reservations, call 288-2386. Trips are limited to 150.
Below is a partial schedule of ANSF events. Visit acadianightskyfestival.org.
Thursday, Sept. 6
Dr. Shawn Laatch, Director of the Emera Astronomy Center, will give a talk at 4 p.m. at the Northeast Harbor Libary called “Observational Observatory.”
Laatch has more than 25 years of experience in planetariums, having directed facilities in Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland as well as managing the construction and installation of a number of facilities in the U.S. and abroad. He is responsible for all operations and management of the Emera Astronomy Center. Laatch serves as President of the International Planetarium Society, the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals and is a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador.
Pluto strikes back
Scott J. Kenyon, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will give a talk called “Pluto Strikes Back” at 7 p.m. at the Jesup Memorial Library.
Kenyon will show images from the New Horizons flyby of the Pluto-Charon binary planet and will discuss how these results help us understand how all planets form. He uses observations and numerical simulations to study the formation of stars and planetary systems.
Friday, Sept. 7
Jon Thomas will give a presentation on “The Antikytherea Mechanism” 10:00 a.m. at the Northeast Harbor Library.
In 1901 an ancient scientific instrument was discovered off the coast of Antikythera, a Greek island located of the coast of Antikythera. Only recently has the mechanism been studied in detail to reveal its incredible workings. More than 2000 years old, the geared mechanism could show and predict the motion of the sun and moon among the stars, including lunar phases and eclipses. Discover the extraordinary knowledge of the universe possessed by ancient Greek Astronomers and how they incorporated that knowledge into the mechanism. Jon Thomas is a Acadia Night Sky Astro VIP.
Biology of Light
The Jackson Laboratory will host Dr. Joe Bass at noon for a talk about the molecular mechanisms through which the circadian clock regulates metabolism in cells and organisms.
Bass is a professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Chief of the Division of Endocrinology.
Bar Harbor paper artist Sherry Rasmussen presents a star-themed art workshop from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at ART on West in Bar Harbor. Participants will create a hand-sewn ledger booklet decorated with stars. All materials supplied. $10 fee is donated to the Acadia Night Sky Festival. Call (207) 288-9428 to reserve.
At 5 p.m., the Southwest Harbor Public Library will host an event called “Our Place in Space” with Bob Reichman. This event will take place at the American Legion Hall on Village Green Way, behind the library.
“Earth’s return address in the Universe wouldn’t easily fit on an envelope,” event organizers said. “Confirm your understanding about some of the big concepts of time, size and scale, phases, eclipses and tides, rotation versus revolution, astronomical units, light years, and more!”
Contact the library at 244-7065.
Saturday, Sept. 8
Science writer Dava Sobel at 1:30 p.m. will discuss her most recent book, “The Glass Universe”, and the steps that go into creating a book-length work of nonfiction, at 1:30 p.m. at the Southwest Harbor Public Library.
Sobel is the author of “Longitude”, “Galileo’s Daughter”, “The Planets,” and “A More Perfect Heaven,” and has co-authored six books, including “Is Anyone Out There?” with astronomer Frank Drake. A long-time science contributor to Harvard Magazine, Audubon, Discover, Life, Omni, and The New Yorker, she currently writes for the online Aeon. Contact the library at 244-7065.
Sunday, Sept. 9
Jesup library events
The Northern Stars Planetarium will present their inflatable planetarium for “Our Family in the Sky” at 9 a.m. In this show, which is suitable for kids in kindergarten through second grade, Mr. Sun guides children through a tour of the Solar System. Learn about planets, comets, asteroids, the Moon, and a constellation.
At 10:30 a.m., “Exploring our Solar System” is geared toward children in grades 3-8. Learn more about planets and “dwarf planets,” both as seen in the night sky and as visited by space probes.
While both of these programs are geared towards children, they are suitable for all ages. Both are limited to 55 participants and there is no admittance once the show begins.
At 1 p.m., Wally Funk will talk about her time as one of the “Mercury 13” and how she keeps her dream of space travel alive.
The “Mercury 13” was a group of 13 women who underwent the same physiological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959 for Project Mercury. However, none of these women went into space. Funk was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and the first Federal Aviation Agency inspector. After the Mercury 13 program was canceled, she became a Goodwill Ambassador, flying over 80,000 miles throughout the world.
She was the first woman to finish the FAA General Aviation and has over 19,000 flight hours. She has taught more than 3,000 students how to fly.
At 2:30 p.m. Bob Veilleux will give a talk about meteorites. Veilleux will have numerous meteorites on hand and encourages attendees to bring along any suspected meteorites to have them verified. Veilleux has been an amateur astronomer and photographer of the night sky for over thirty years and some of his pictures of the Northern Lights were published in both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope.
Finally, at 3:45 p.m., Astronomy Volunteer in the Park Jon Thomas will speak on “Beyond Hubble.”
“Soon after the Hubble Space Telescope became operational in 1994, astronomers began work on its successor,” event organizers said. “Now known as the James Webb Space Telescope, it will be larger and have instruments that are sensitive to longer wavelengths. The Webb Telescope will search for the first stars and galaxies in the very early universe and investigate the potential for life. This talk will discuss the key components of the Webb Telescope, the reason for its unique location in space and some of its major scientific goals.”
Contact the Jesup at 288-4245.