The Acadia Night Sky Festival, five days of all things celestial, will kick off its sixth annual event Thursday, Sept. 25. It will run through Monday, Sept. 29, in and around Acadia National Park. Events and activities are scheduled throughout the day and night for the length of the festival, which was founded by the Bar Harbor Conservation Commission in 2008 as a way to preserve and celebrate Down East Maine’s clear night skies.
Much of the festival’s events are free and open to the public. They include stargazing on Sand Beach from 8 to 9 p.m. Sept. 25, a “Star Party” complete with local experts and binoculars and telescopes set for 8 to 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at Seawall, and a Star Party on Cadillac Mountain from 8 to 10 p.m. Sept. 27, with interested stargazers meeting at the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center between 7:30 and 9:30 for a free shuttle up the mountain. The festival concludes with sunrise on Cadillac at 5:55 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29.
Speakers throughout the weekend include Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 25, at Mount Desert Island High School; astronomer and naturalist Tyler Nordgren at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 26, at the Southwest Harbor Public Library; physics professor and specialist in solar astronomy Rich Wolfson at 2 p.m. Sept. 27, at the Jackson Laboratory; and Wally Funk, one of 13 women who trained for NASA’s Mercury 13 program, at 4 p.m. Sept. 27, at the Jackson Laboratory.
There are three “celestial cinema” screenings, including “Zathura” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26, in Agamont Park in Bar Harbor, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at 2 p.m. Sept. 27, at Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor, and the light pollution documentary “The City Dark” at 2 p.m. Sept. 27, also at Reel Pizza. You can also view the cosmos in the daytime, with morning solar viewing sessions using specialized solar telescopes, set for 11 a.m. Sept. 27 on the Jackson Laboratory front lawn and 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at Sieur de Monts Nature Center in Acadia.
Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School have arranged two free climbing and hiking trips for festival participants, including a night climb of Otter Cliffs at 7 p.m. Sept. 26, and a night hike of Chaplain Mountain at 7 p.m. Sept. 27. Those who wish to participate in either event should meet at the Climbing School at 228 Main St. in Bar Harbor before 7 p.m.
Some of the few not-free events during the festival include two boat cruises, set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28, on a Bar Harbor Whale Watch catamaran, with a soundtrack of “celestial” music and informative guided talks from Passamaquoddy educator George Neptune and naturalist Zach Klyver; the cost is $26 adults, $20 seniors and $15 for those 14 and under. The cruises launch from 1 West St. in Bar Harbor. There are also a number of astro-photography workshops with photographers Brent L. Ander and Bob Thayer, set throughout the weekend and priced at $45 per person.
For a full list of all Acadia Night Sky Festival events, visit www.acadianightskyfestival.com.