Mining the sky

As evident from the enormous response to the annual Acadia Night Sky Festival, people are eager to celebrate one of Down East’s most pronounced natural resources – a stellar view of the majesty and wonders of the night sky. Publicizing how folks can connect with this inspiring part of nature, hidden from view in the light-polluted skies of Southern New England, provides potential visitors with yet another reason to come here on vacation. To that end, area communities are now “mining” the night sky to improve our local economies.

Three Mount Desert Island towns have detailed night sky ordinances and nearby communities, such as Ellsworth, have tightened their developmental regulations to lessen light pollution. But the next step in improving, preserving and protecting the regional night sky view will require a broader effort.

Areas needing the most attention are readily visible from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Looking to the north and east, the insipid orange glow from street lights in Bar Harbor, from shopping center and street lights in Ellsworth, and from some 45 miles away in Brewer and in Bangor, are inescapable. Replacing those fixtures with newer, energy-efficient and night-sky-friendly units will require a concerted effort of communities, the utility and state regulators.

Most communities pay a flat fee per month to Emera Maine for each street light. Installation of newer, LED lights could greatly reduce light trespass and cut energy consumption 40 to 60 percent. Given the energy savings alone, swapping out older units should have a relatively quick payback period.

Downtown Bar Harbor, a relatively compact geographical area, is the perfect place for Emera Maine to test the next generation of energy-efficient street lights that cast little light pollution.

Unlike other activities that have a heavy impact on fragile natural resources, viewing the night sky is totally eco-friendly. Visitors take nothing, leaving only with memories and inspiration.

Strengthening the experience of Down East Maine, both for residents and visitors, should be a top regional priority.



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