Cherry Springs State Park


This round structure is an astronomy dome at Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania.

Dark Skies at Cherry Springs

Due to its exceptionally dark skies, Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best places on the eastern seaboard for stargazing and the science of astronomy.

 

Cherry Springs State Park is nearly as remote and wild today as it was two centuries ago. Its dark skies make it a haven for astronomers. Named for the large stands of black cherry trees in the park, the 82-acre state park is surrounded by the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest. The Susquehannock Trail passes nearby and offers 85 miles of backpacking and hiking.

Click here to see the NOAA weather for this park.
Click on the Map It! logo to go to an interative GIS map of this park.



Interested in observing the dark night skies? The following information will help you make the most of your first visit to Cherry Springs State Park.

Short Term Stargazing

If you would like to come out and enjoy the magnificent night sky at Cherry Springs and only wish to gaze for a few hours, you may do so at the Night Sky Viewing area located north of Rt. 44 (opposite the gated Astronomy Observation Field). Public parking lots are located here along with several information kiosks and waysides. You may follow the walkway out to the public program area where benches are located and you will be shielded from passing vehicle lights. There is also a backlit summer sky map wayside located on this pathway. Press the button at the lower side of the display to activate the red light.

Although white light is permitted, a red filter or cover for your flashlight is recommended to preserve your night vision. Please remember to always direct your light downward.

Cherry Springs State Park is located on top of a mountain and the weather generally tends to be on the cool side. It can also be damp. It is recommended that you wear proper clothing and foot gear. Feel free to bring out your own blankets, lawn chairs, binoculars and telescopes when you visit the park.

Check the Calendar of Events for astronomy programs being presented at the park.

Pets are prohibited on the Astronomy Observation Field while astronomers are present.

Getting Started Stargazing

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. Check 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

Long Term and Overnight Stargazing

For information on stargazing overnight on the Astronomy Field, explore Serious Stargazing.