A Month of Fun: Thursday, July 3
Down East Editors' picks for fun ways to celebrate every day this month.
Rangeley (or anywhere high and dark)
The Pine Tree State is blessed in the celestial sense. Practically anyplace in Maine where there isn’t a streetlight will suffice as an adequate spot to survey the skies. Of course, some prospects are better than others. Alan Davenport, director of the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium in Orono, offers some guidance on picking a “stellar” spot. His advice: steer clear of water and head to the hills or a flat field. “You lose sky clarity when you get close to the water because the humidity in the air is fairly high,” he explains. “The mountains have much clearer air. You’re better off in Rangeley than on Monhegan.” In general, he says that a good place is “anywhere that is dry as well as dark, clear, and high up, if possible. You can see more sky if you don’t have trees or hills in the way.”
Once you’ve found your spot (and don’t fret too much — the stellar view from Monhegan still beats that from most other parts of the country), look up. Davenport says there will be a couple of key objects to locate: the Big and Little Dippers, the Summer Triangle, the Milky Way, and Jupiter. “Because it’s a very dark sky, with no moon and no light interference, you can finally see the Little Dipper,” explains Davenport. “It does have the North Star at the end of its handle, which is directly north. Today the handle and the cup will be standing up from the North Star. To the left of the Little Dipper you’re going to be able to see the Big Dipper, which is brighter and larger. It will be standing on its cup, with the handle pointing up in the north-northwest.” Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky, notes Davenport. If Jupiter and the Dippers don’t thrill you, look for a mainstay of the estival sky, the Summer Triangle, a series of three bright stars higher and to the left of Jupiter. Then there’s the Milky Way, described by Davenport as “a long cloudy stripe across the sky right through the triangle.” If tonight’s sky isn’t perfectly clear, don’t worry. You’ll see the same stars in similar positions throughout the month of July. And for the most up-to-date sky information visit www.galaxymaine.com