TAKE A DRIVING TOUR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Did you know Maine has a solar system, our solar system, complete with Pluto, which isn’t even considered a planet any more? It’s not a real solar system, of course, but it is the largest three dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world. Even at a 1:93,000,000 scale, the model stretches for 40 miles along Route 1 between Houlton and Presque Isle.
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Pluto is a mere I inch in diameter and can be found inside the Houlton Informa lion Center at the end of Interstate 95. Its moon (yep. even the moons are included) Charon is a halt inch in diameter and sits about 8 inches from Pluto. Traveling north on Route I toward Presque Isle, keep your eyes peeled for the other planets. Jupiter and Saturn are each a couple feet in diam eter and are mounted on posts beside the road. Little old Earth is the size of a golf ball and is mounied on a post at Percy’s Auto Sales, only a mile from the sun. And the sun, even at this small scale, is 50 feet in diameter. Arc sections are mounted in the halls of the Northern Maine Museum of Science.
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On your way north to view the solar system, take a break and stop in at DeLorme in Yarmouth to check out the world’s largest rotating globe of Earth. Eartha is in a large three-story atrium and can actually be seen from 1-295 North. Its motor is programmed to turn the 41-foot“diameter globe at the same speed (scaled down) that Earth rotates, Eartha is even tilted 23.5 degrees, just like its older brother. There’s no charge to view Eartha, but the atrium is only open during Delorme’s business hours.
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LISTEN TO LOONS
The lonely cry of the loon is distinctive and haunting, and Maine is one of the places where you can hear it in the summer. I he unmistakable cry of the loon is more often heard at night, although early morn ings and afternoons the birds often indulge in some communication.
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Loons are shy. They don’t like to be close to people or activity, so keep your distance if you’re observing them, especially if they have chicks. And loons need territory. Breeding pairs will defend around 100 acres of space. Loon numbers in Maine, as elsewhere, have dwin died over the past thirty years due to factors besides development; Mercury contamination, lead poisoning from ingested sinkers, boat collisions, and entanglements in fishing line have all harmed loons.
Maine loves loons. Since 1993, the loon has adorned a conserva tion license plate. And the loon image can be seen in gift stores on T-shirts, pillows, mugs, key chains, and other paraphernalia. Artists and photographers love loons, too.
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JOIN THE CROWD
Take a long ride and raise money for a worthy cause. The annual Trek Across Maine, a three-day tour in June, supports the American Lung Association; and Bike MS: The Great Maine Getaway, held over two days in August, supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Bike Maine is an annual seven-day trek hosted by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine in mid-September. Riders cover an average of 55 miles a day along the rocky coast, through small towns, enjoying great local fare.