Good place for stargazing in Acadia? Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Bubble Rock in Acadia National Park helped prove the Ice Age

Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As

If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our new page linking in one place all the Q&As.

I will be there in early November. Are there any specific areas to set up my telescope at night. Thank you. Les

Dear Les,

You must be an avid stargazer to come to Acadia National Park in November! While it’ll be chilly this time of year, there will be fewer people – but just as many constellations for stargazing in Acadia, and the possibility of even more special celestial events than usual the next week or so.

stargazing in acadia

The aurorora borealis, or Northern Lights, may be visible in Acadia through Nov. 12, 2015, according to AccuWeather.

Through Nov. 12, it may be possible to see the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, in Acadia, although reports from last night, Nov. 3, suggest it’s not as brilliant a show as it was earlier in the year. The shimmering lights created by the geomagnetic storm may even be visible as far south as Virginia and West Virginia, in locations far away from city lights and under clear night skies, according to AccuWeather.

And if you don’t catch the Northern Lights, Les, tonight and tomorrow night, Nov. 4-5, should be peak viewing opportunities for the South Taurid meteor shower, according to EarthSky.org. The North Taurid meteor shower kicks in later this month, close to the new moon. While the Taurids aren’t known for a high number of meteors, they are well-known for fireballs, or unusually bright meteors.

Best places to set up telescope for stargazing in Acadia

As you may know, Les, Acadia’s dark sky is celebrated every year during the Acadia Night Sky Festival, in September. Some of the sites used for stargazing during the festival may be good places for you to set up your telescope at night, as would be some favorite locales for night-sky photographers. Assuming you aren’t setting up the telescope for commercial purposes, or for a group larger than 30, there would be no special use permit required by the park.

Acadia night sky

Panoramic view of Milky Way and Acadia night sky. All rights reserved, Acadia Images.

There’s no park pass required to visit the park November through April. Most of the Park Loop Road is normally open through the end of November, but this year, a 4-mile section of the Loop Road, between Cadillac Mountain Road and Jordan Pond, will be closed beginning Nov. 15, to allow trimming of overhead tree limbs and reopening of historic vistas. Plan your stargazing accordingly.

Here are some possibilities for telescope spotting:

  • Cadillac summit – Site of an annual “Star Party” as part of the Acadia Night Sky Festival, Cadillac would be a great place to watch for celestial events, whether meteor showers, the aurora borealis or constellations. The Cadillac Mountain Road is open through the end of November, weather permitting, so it should be no problem driving up after dark to set up your telescope on the summit. If there are other cars up there with headlights getting in the way of your night-sky viewing along the paved summit loop, you can walk onto the pink granite of Cadillac and head down a short way, away from the parking lot. Be sure to step only on hard rock surface, and not on any of the soil or lichen. You can also take the Cadillac North Ridge Trail that leads across from the gift shop, to an open viewing area where the park’s annual HawkWatch is held, just a short distance from the trailhead. Be sure to bring a flashlight or head lamp to help you find your way in the dark. Don’t stray too far from the trail, or if you do, you may want to have a GPS that can help you retrace your steps back to the car, or a compass. While there may be Bates-style cairns to follow if you’re on an official trail like the Cadillac North Ridge, there won’t be if you’re roaming around off the Cadillac Summit Loop. Another nearby spot worth checking out: the Blue Hill Overlook, just below the summit.

    milky way

    Four consecutive shots were “stitched together” to allow the Milky Way and Bass Harbor Head Light to appear in one image. All rights reserved, J.K. Putnam Photography.

  • Sand Beach – Site of the popular ranger-led “Stars over Sand Beach” program in season, this can be a great place to see shooting stars, the Milky Way or any other celestial event. You won’t get the same panoramic view as from atop Cadillac, but you will hear the sound of the surf with your stargazing instead. This is off the part of the Park Loop Road that is closing Nov. 15 for maintenance, so if you’re visiting before then, you can add this to the list of possibilities.
  • Seawall picnic area – Along ME 102A on the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island, the Seawall picnic area is also scene of an annual “Star Party” during the Acadia Night Sky Festival. There’s plenty of pink granite along the shore to set up your telescope, and plenty of parking as well.
  • Jordan Pond – While not one of the sites for the Acadia Night Sky Festival, Jordan Pond is a perennial favorite for photographers who specialize in the night sky. You can set up your telescope either on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House, or by the boat ramp off the Jordan Pond North Parking lot. Again, it wouldn’t be as open a night-sky panorama as if you set up your telescope on Cadillac, or even at Seawall picnic area, but photographers have captured some amazing night-sky images here.
  • Schoodic Peninsula – About an hour from Mount Desert Island, this part of the park on the mainland was the setting for one set of night-sky photo workshops held as part of September’s Acadia Night Sky Festival. There would be some good stargazing through your telescope here, if you happen to be over on Schoodic Peninsula.

Enjoy the night skies of Acadia in November, Les! And may you catch a glimpse of a falling star.

metero

A meteor fireball at Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park. All rights reserved, Brent L. Ander.

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