Stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park


Thumbnail image of a telescope at Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania.

Dark Skies at Cherry Springs

Due to its exceptionally dark skies and the protection of this valuable resource, Cherry Springs Sate Park became the second Dark Sky Park in the world in 2008.

 

A combination of attributes makes Cherry Springs ideal for stargazing and astronomy.

  • The field is at the top of a 2,300-foot high mountain. The surrounding state forest is relatively undeveloped and nearby communities are in valleys, shielding any light that might affect the park.
  • The location of the park, 41.6501 degrees north, 77.8164 degrees west, offers a great view of the nucleus of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • The Astronomy Field offers an excellent 360 degree view of the night sky.
  • All lighting in the park is shielded and all white light has been converted to red.

Whether you view the night sky with telescope, binoculars or the naked eye, here are a few tips to enhance your stargazing experience:

  • It takes a minimum of 15 minutes outside in the dark for your eyes to adapt to the lack of light.
  • Be careful not to look at any bright lights. Cover your flashlight with red cellophane or use a red lens. Red light will not lessen your night vision.
  • The best viewing occurs during the dark of the moon lunar phase that produces the darkest skies.
  • Binoculars at 7 x 50 power are the most popular size for stargazing, but the more-standard 7 x 35 will work fine to get started.
  • Meteor Showers are an excellent time to view the night sky, adding the excitement of ‘falling stars’ as they are sometimes called. The park offers public programming each August during the Perseids Meteor Shower.

    Explore the Calendar of Events page for scheduled programs.

  • Star Hopping is a common method to learn to navigate the night sky and begin to identify constellations.
  • Visible Constellations in the evening sky change with the seasons. These guides show some common and easy-to-find constellations for each season.
  • Star maps and charts will help you learn the position of constellations at different times of the year, and the positions of major stars and constellations, many of which can be seen with the naked eye. One source is: www.skymaps.com/downloads.html

Astronomy Web sites also give up to date information on when the space station and other satellites pass overhead, the time and direction of iridium flares, solar flares, aurora bulletins, and the occurrence of comets and meteor showers.
The Clear Sky Chart for Cherry Springs offers cloud-cover forecasts to help you plan for a successful evening of observing the night skies.
Star Gazer Guides and Videos by Jack Horkheimer
SkyandTelescope.com Podcasts