When 80% of the world’s population looks up at night, their view of the stars is obscured by light pollution. That’s the stark fact that highlights the importance of what the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has achieved here in Maine.
A 76,000-acre area in the Maine woods, which is protected by the AMC, has received an international designation as one of the very best places in the world to view the star-filled night sky. Officially, it is an International Dark Sky Park, a designation bestowed by the International Dark Sky Association. Even cooler, this region of the AMC’s land is the first in New England to receive that title.
“There’s an awe that you experience looking up at a truly dark night sky,” said Jenny Ward, AMC Maine Brand Strategist—and lead on the effort to earn the Dark Sky designation. “And unlike so many other conservation projects that we work on, this is one that you can experience yourself. You don’t know how limited your experience of the night sky is until you come view it from our Dark Sky park.“
An International Dark Sky region is almost the opposite of what the name implies: there are so many stars that the night sky is lit up more brightly than most of us have ever seen. But to achieve that, we need to have very little light pollution from below, thus the “dark sky.” To earn this designation, the region has to exhibit an “exceptional quality” of starry nights.
The most important aspects of being an International Dark Sky Park are in education and outreach, as well as providing access for people to enjoy the dark sky and learn about light pollution. To maintain their designation, the AMC must also regularly submit a report back to the International Dark Sky Association to update them on all the ways in which they’re supporting and advocating for dark sky conservation.
“It’s an issue that isn’t just about a view of the stars,” said Nina Paus-Weiler, Senior Manager of Communications for AMC. “Light pollution is a waste of energy, which connects to climate change and sustainability of the way we live. Luckily, this is a problem with an incredibly reachable solution.”
HOW CAN YOU JOIN IN?
Solutions to limit light pollution are something that you can literally reach out and do for yourself. Here are just a few ways you can help to darken the skies near your home.
- Look at outdoor lights around your house. Are they providing light you need, or are they just on? Make it a habit to turn off any lights when you’re not using them.
- Check your bulbs and fixtures. For bulbs, a warmer color is better (2700k or lower, to be specific). For fixtures, any light source that leaks above the horizontal is dimming your view of the night sky. Luckily, your local home hardware store likely has full cutoff, or fully-shielded lights, to stop any illumination from going where it’s not necessary.
- Become an advocate. If you become a member of the AMC, you can directly help them in forwarding their dark sky conservation efforts.
- Educate yourself and others. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) is a great resource for all things Dark Skies.
- Go and experience the Maine night sky for yourself. Nothing can help you better understand the importance of this project then viewing a star-strewn sky for yourself.
WHERE DOES ALLAGASH COME IN?
So why are we, a brewery, writing about it? Because we’re a group of people that love to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of our state of Maine. So far, we as an organization have donated $7,500 to the Dark Skies Initiative, in addition to sponsoring events and promoting the Dark Skies to our fans. And a fun fact: the starry Maine sky actually inspired our design for North Sky, our smooth and silky year-round stout.
For us, a pure view of the dark night sky provides an intense feeling of perspective: how small we truly are. And also a sense of wonder: how many mysteries are there out in the vast universe around us. We feel so lucky to have that experience here in Maine that we want to share the experience with folks like you! The truth is that we can only say so much about it; you really do have to experience it for yourself.
And lucky for you, there are Dark Sky events happening year-round. For more events here in Maine, just head to this site. And for more information on AMC’s Dark Sky initiatives or learn how to book your stay, you can head to their site: https://www.seethedark.org/ or https://www.outdoors.org/