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Maine's Katahdin Woods And Waters Wins Rare 'Dark Sky Sanctuary' Designation

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press/file
In this Aug. 9, 2017, file photo, stars rotate in the night sky over the East Branch of the Penobscot River, in this time exposure at the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Patten, Maine.

If you want to see the night sky in all its pristine dark glory, you could go to Antarctica. But if you can't, the International Dark-Sky Association says the next best place is Maine's Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.The association has designated the state's newest federal park an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

"We've already known that the Katahdin Region is a wonderful place in all four seasons," says Andrew Bossie, executive director of the group Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. "But what this does is say that there's 24-hour activities that you can do to enjoy the great outdoors here in Maine and we're really excited to keep sharing that with the world."

Bossie says Katahdin Woods and Waters is just the 12th location on the planet to win the dark sky sanctuary designation, and the only one in the eastern United States. "We can see the light from distant galaxies in the universe that you can't see in other parts of the country - or even the world."

Bossie says the designation brings with it a responsibility to keep light pollution down so visitors can enjoy the majesty of a dark, starry sky.

"Not only is this good for the economy of the Katahdin region, because astro-tourism will come," he says, "but it's also good for health, good for wildlife, and, it's, quite frankly, good for energy consumption too.  Using light more sparingly, and where it's needed, means we're consuming less unnecessary energy."

For the past six years, the "Friends" group has held a celebration, "Stars Over Katahdin," to highlight the exceptional stargazing possible in the park. Bossie says alternative plans might be needed for this year's event, scheduled for Sept. 12, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.