The County 2017 | Aroostook County Tourism - Page 37

THE SOLAR SYSTEM & THE NIGHT SKY UP HERE, THE NIGHT IS YOURS FOR THE TAKING. One of the rewards for being so far away from the light pollution of major cities is that The County is home to some of the darkest night skies in the United States. MAINE SOLAR SYSTEM MODEL Aroostook County is home to the largest three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world. Located along a 40-mile stretch of US Route 1, between the University of Maine at Presque Isle campus and the Houlton Information Center at the end of I-95, this unique project was built by UMPI’s Northern Maine Museum of Science and dedicated in 2003. Built on a scale of one mile representing the 93 million miles from the Earth to the sun, each galactic replica is to scale and spaced at appropriate distances. The system includes the sun, the nine planets from Mercury to Pluto, moons for Earth, Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto, and three dwarf planets. Two models of Pluto recognize its past status as a planet and its new status as a dwarf planet since 2006. * Most of the three-dimensional models are mounted outdoors on 10-foot poles, easily viewable by car. The sun is located inside Folsom-Pullen Hall at UMPI, and the first Pluto is inside the Houlton Visitor Center. Travelers wishing to stop for a selfie with their favorite planet can access the pullouts found at most of the sites. When weather permits, stargazers visiting The County are rewarded with a crystal clear view of the many stars and constellations, many of the nearby planets, meteors and meteor showers, as well as eclipses, the International Space Station, and other deep-space objects visible from Earth. Those with an abundance of luck might even be able to experience the eerie glow of the Northern Lights. WHEN TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS The beauty of the North Lights, also called the Aurora Borealis, is almost indescribable—shimmering waves of multi-color light in the night sky. The phenomenon is caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, making them glow. As one of the nation’s top dark-sky resources, Aroostook County is a terrific place to view the lights, which occur two or three times a year, usually in the winter. News outlets often report when the lights might be active. Head away from town, turn off your car lights, and raise your eyes to the sky. For more information about stargazing in the region visit our website or call Judy at 888-216-2463. 35