As the world continues to be increasingly plagued by light pollution, it’s becoming harder and harder to see the stars. Unfortunately, this pollution has made stargazing more difficult than ever before, and unfortunately, many people have never had the chance to see the majesty of the night sky.
However, if you’re willing to venture out into Pennsylvania’s dark wilderness, you can get a chance to see the Milky Way in all its glory. But can you see it from Cherry Springs? In this post, we’ll explore the area’s unique natural features to see if it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the celestial wonder from this secluded spot.
Seeing the Milky Way at Cherry Springs State Park
Cherry Springs State Park, located in Potter County, Pennsylvania, is one of the best spots in the eastern United States to gaze up at the night sky.
In addition to seeing a whole host of stars, you can see the Milky Way from Cherry Springs State Park. Because of its dark skies and minimal light pollution, the park is an excellent location for stargazing and viewing the Milky Way.
The Milky Way comprises billions of stars and is home to our solar system, which includes the sun, Earth, and planets. It is visible in many parts of the world, but it is stunning and remarkable when viewed from the park.
Cherry Springs State Park is situated at 41.6501 degrees north, 77.8164 degrees west, about 20 minutes from Coudersport, PA, and is approximately 2,300 feet above sea level, making it an excellent place to view the Milky Way. In 2008 the International Dark-Sky Organization officially designated the park as a Dark Sky Park.
The park received the ‘Gold” tier status, which means that it has pristine dark skies that are not impaired by the presence of light pollution. This lack of light pollution allows astronomers to view phenomena such as airglow, zodiacal light, aurora, faint meteors, and the Milky Way.
I wanted to know what the tiers were, so I contacted IDA, and they responded with the following:
“IDA discontinued the tier system in 2018 for a few reasons.
First, we wanted to clearly define the range of night sky quality where visitors can regularly view the Milky Way with the unaided eye. We define this range between 21.2 – 22.0 magnitudes per square arcsecond (mpsas), which is the metric used to quantify night sky brightness at the zenith.
Secondly, we wanted to emphasize that our Dark Sky Places are more than sites to view a pristine night sky. They also promote quality outdoor lighting that reduces light pollution, and Parks and Reserves offer outreach and educational opportunities to further enhance the visitor’s nighttime experience. Plenty of Parks have Sanctuary-level dark skies, but since they have the resources to provide this additional element, they are categorized as Parks instead.”
To maximize your stargazing experience and to get the best view of the Milky Way, visitors should plan to visit the park during a new moon phase, which is the beginning of the lunar cycle. During this phase, the moon is not visible in the night sky as it is positioned between the Earth and the Sun.
This phase makes it the perfect time for stargazing, as the night sky is darker and the stars are more visible to the eye. The lack of moonlight reduces light pollution, allowing for a clearer view of the night sky. As the moon waxes, it will become more visible in the night sky, making it harder to see objects in the sky.
Since the new moon phase results in the entire moon being dark and there being less light pollution, it offers the darkest skies and therefore allows astronomers the best view of the Milky Way.
At Cherry Springs State Park, visitors can take advantage of the park’s Night Sky Public Viewing Area to spend a couple of hours viewing or use the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field for the whole night. From the astronomy field, you get a 360-degree view of the fabulous night skies.
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There is no fee to enter the park; however, there is a fee to use the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field. In addition, stargazing programs are held at the park throughout the summer, weather permitting. A park representative or guest speaker presents a free program; a schedule is provided on the park website.
Stargazers are encouraged to bring their own telescopes and binoculars to get the best view of the Milky Way. If you will be using a flashlight, bring one with a red filter. A red filter flashlight preserves your night vision by reducing the amount of white light that is emitted.
Bring a lawn chair and a blanket or heavier jacket, as it tends to get a little chilly at night, even during the summer. Also, please leave your pets at home as they are not allowed at the park.
The incredible beauty of the night sky at the park is worth the time to make the trip. Whether you’re an amateur stargazer or an experienced astronomer, there’s no better place to view the Milky Way than from the park. The dark skies and high elevation provide an ideal environment for viewing the night sky.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your visit.
The best time of year to visit Cherry Springs State Park for stargazing is during the spring and fall months when the skies are at their darkest. These months provide the best opportunity to observe the Milky Way.
The best time to view the night sky is after the sun sets and before the moon rises. This time is when the skies are darkest and the objects in the night sky are the brightest.
When photographing the Milky Way:
- Use a tripod to hold your camera steady.
- Make sure to use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the night sky as possible.
- Consider foreground elements in your photo.
- Proper exposure length.
- Take multiple shots.
- Experiment with different settings to get the best photos.
Stargazing is one of the most tranquil and awe-inspiring activities one can take part in. On a clear night, there is nothing quite like looking up at the sky and feeling the infinite expanse of the universe, with the stars twinkling in the night sky like a million tiny diamonds set against a velvet backdrop.
When using a telescope, the stars become even more pronounced, revealing a new level of detail and beauty. Being able to identify constellations and planets is a humbling experience, and stargazing is a reminder that we are but a small part of a much bigger picture. In addition, it provides a chance to disconnect from the everyday hustle and bustle and appreciate the beauty of the night sky.
A Gateway to the Heavens
Cherry Springs State Park is an ideal place for viewing the Milky Way as it stretches across the sky. Not only is the location far away from the light pollution of the big cities, but the night sky is also incredibly dark and clear.
You can get a stunning view of the Milky Way with the right equipment. So whether you’re an amateur stargazer or a seasoned astronomer, Cherry Springs State Park is the place to go for unforgettable viewing of the night sky.