February 19, 2018
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Moonlight Madness at Penobscot Narrows Observatory

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Saturday, September 1st provided a beautiful moonrise for those who arrived at Penobscot Narrows early in the evening. Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect was open from 8-10pm for it‘s once-a-year Moonlight Madness event. The moon began it’s ascent over the Verona Island horizon at 7:28pm as a spectacular orange ball. One could not help but think of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, who recently passed away.

The Moonlight Madness event at the observatory was cancelled for Friday, August 31, due to clouds and the threat of a thunderstorm. Had the weather cooperated, it would have been the prime night to watch the moonrise: it was a full moon, a Blue Moon and the day of the memorial service in Cincinnati for Neil Armstrong. The second full moon to occur in the same month is called a Blue Moon by one of a few definitions. This will not happen again for about another two and a half years, giving the Blue Moon it’s fairly rare status.

Visitors were allowed through the main gate of Fort Knox before 8pm and directed to the parking lot for the observatory. The staff were courteous and professional as always. After a 1-minute smooth elevator ride up 420 feet, visitors found the observatory either a lively place or a peaceful place to be Saturday night, depending on when they arrived. Visitors included children who probably weren’t yet born when the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory was built to adults who were children when the now historic Waldo-Hancock Bridge was newly built.

One man was just “passing through“ and stopped to see the bridges and observatory. He marveled at the engineering of the new bridge. Another talked of the sadness he felt over plans to take down the Waldo-Hancock Bridge, which is scheduled to begin October 1, 2012; he recalled time spent with his friends on it as a child and also paying a 10-cent toll. Tolls were collected at the bridge for over 20 years to help pay for the cost of building it.

A couple, recently moved to the Lincolnville area from out of state, were compelled to leave the coziness of their campfire when they heard about the bridge being open Saturday night. Children excitedly wanted to see the moon from their lofty location. A woman visiting Maine from Florida noted the difference between a fort in her home state that was used for its intended purpose and Fort Knox, which was never occupied for the reason it was built. For a while, the observatory was quite full of people talking, laughing, taking photos of the night view and photos of each other. Then a large number of people left at once and it was quiet once again. Both atmospheres were enjoyable.

Several people commented on the glare on the many windows inside the observatory which made it difficult to get a good view of the night sky and landscape or take good photos. The glare was caused by a white-light rope light strung along the handrail – used for the first time – and flashlights placed in corners on the observatory floor. The glare was brought to the attention of the staff with the suggestion of using dimmer lighting, such as amber, and place it along the stairs at foot-level for reduced glare and better viewing next year.

From seeing the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory lit up at night, watching the moonrise, seeing 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape, looking down the bridge’s long cables and the traffic below to seeing the lights of Bucksport and beautiful Penobscot River, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Overall it was a spectacular experience to be out on a Saturday night in Maine in the tallest public bridge observatory in the world.

For more information on the observatory and Fort Knox, please refer to the website fortknox.maineguide.com.