Dark Sky Guide for the International Dark Sky Sanctuary at Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

Why stargaze here?

The skies above Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument are rated 2 on the Bortle Scale, indicating a typical truly dark site where the Milky Way is highly structured to the unaided eye. These are the darkest skies east of the Mississippi River. In 2020, the International Dark Sky Association designated the national monument as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on the eastern seaboard.

The Bortle Scale

Only places like Antarctica offer darker skies than Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Suggested Viewing Sites & TIMES

Annual Meteor Showers

Early January - Quadrantids, Early May - Eta Aquariids, Mid-August - Perseids, Mid-December - Geminids

Total Solar Eclipse - April 8, 2024

Stargazing Tips

1. Invest in a red flashlight or cover your phone light with red cellophane. Blue and white light affect your night vision.

2. Check moon phases before you go - avoiding a full moon is best.

3. Don’t forget a chair or blanket to sit on!

4. Check cloud cover before you go.

5. Bring binoculars or a telescope.

6. Download a stargazing app such as Skyview or Star Walk 2.

7. Bring a compass to help locate certain stars and constellations.

8. Give your eyes 30 to 45 minutes to adjust to the dark.

9. Find the North Star to orient yourself!

Protecting the Dark

What is light pollution?

Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light that eliminates the ability to see the beautiful night sky. One third of the human population cannot see the Milky Way at night due to the glow of artificial light.

Impacts of Light Pollution

Human Health: Blue light disrupts our internal circadian rhythm, hunger, activity, hormone production, body temperature, and other physiological processes. The rise of artificial lighting is thought to increase the risks for diabetes, obesity, depression, sleep disorders, and other health-related conditions.
Energy: Poor outdoor lighting can cost over $3.3 billion in wasted energy and release nearly 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Worldwide, outdoor lighting increased at a rate of 2 percent a year from 2012 to 2016 and is continuing to increase. The IDA says at least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the country is wasted.
Wildlife: Artificial light disrupts nocturnal schedules along with bird migratory patterns, interfering with many animals’ survival behaviors, such as sea turtle hatching in the Gulf of Maine. Insects are drawn to artificial light, resulting in declining populations worldwide that disrupt the entire food web.

How can we help fight light pollution?

There are four ways you can help fight light pollution: 1) Limit the use of LED lights, which emit disruptive blue wavelength light, 2) reduce the amount of time lights are left on, 3) replace dusk-to-dawn security lights with motion-sensing or timer fixtures, 4) encourage towns to switch to full cutoff streetlights as demonstrated below.

Street light options left to right: non-cutoff lights, semi-cutoff lights, and full cutoff lights. Full cutoff lights are far and way most effective in fighting light pollution.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about dark sky places across the world and the efforts to protect them, visit the International Dark-Sky Association's website.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association.

To learn more about Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters and our efforts to support the national monument, please visit our website. You can also call our office at (207) 808 - 0020 or reach out to info@friendsofkww.org

This web-based guide was modified from the first edition of the Katahdin Woods and Waters Dark Sky Guide researched and compiled by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters 2019 Summer Fellow Anna Piermattei. Photographs were provided by Jamie Walter, Craig Snapp, and John Meader.