Believe it or not, only 10 percent of Americans have seen a true dark sky. Call it an unfortunate side effect of urban life or a necessary casualty of industrialization. Either way, the city lights have overtaken our view of the stars in many places in the U.S. But not here at Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, PA.
Our grandparents remember what dark skies looked like—and at Cherry Springs State Park, you can experience the sky as they did. One of the top dark sky destinations in the world (and the “Gold Level Dark Sky Park” designation from the International Dark Sky Association to prove it), Cherry Springs presents skies for studying, gazing, or gaining a better understanding of our place in the universe.
Beautiful Stargazing at it’s finest…
About 60-85 nights a year lend themselves to ideal stargazing conditions in Cherry Springs. Depending on your luck and the degree of cloud cover, you may catch a glimpse of these:
- Venus (the Evening Star)
- Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights)
- Omega Nebula
- Meteor Showers
- Andromeda Galaxy
- The Milky Way
- Zodiacal Light
- The Space Station
- Other celestial bodies
- Lunar Viewing like nothing else
Gather up a few items…
You don’t need much to enjoy “The Greatest Show on Earth” in Cherry Springs, but having these items on hand can help improve the experience:
- Warm clothes/layers (even on summer nights, our mountain air can be brisk!)
- A flashlight with red filter or cover (to protect your night vision)
- Binoculars (7 x 50 power is recommended for stargazing, though 7 x 35 also works)
- A blanket or camping chairs for comfy star-watching
- A constellation guide or app for your device
The best times to visit:
The night sky can be frustratingly random. In the end, the stars, planets and clouds don’t really care very much about our stargazing wishes down here on Earth. But here are a few times when your viewing potential is better than others.
In Fall and Winter
The stargazing field at Cherry Springs is open year-round (as are our Astro Cabins, which have their own private stargazing fields). But the best seasons to visit are fall and winter. It may be chillier then, but the lessened humidity and extended night-time hours create excellent stargazing opportunities.
In Spring and Summer
Cherry Springs State Park comes alive in Spring and Summer with warmer temperatures and the new summer sky. The Milky Way comes alive every night. The evenings are times when memories are made, marriage proposals are brought forth and young and old gather to share once in a lifetime memories.
New Moon and Full Moon
Lunar viewing is excellent from Cherry Springs Park. The best time to view the Full Moon may not be ideal for star gazing. Stars become more prominent as the New Dark Moon approaches. Regardless, we will show you many more stars than you have ever seen, weather permitting of course.
When skies are clear (of course)
Check out the Cherry Springs Clear Sky Chart for up-to-date look at how the skies are shaping up for your visit. Look for dark blue squares in the row marked “Cloud Cover” — dark blue means clear skies for optimal viewing conditions.
During the Star Parties
Another great time to visit is during the twice-yearly Star Parties held at Cherry Springs. Both events brings hundreds of professional astronomers to the area—and culminate in a public viewing event with high-powered telescopes and astronomy talks from experts. The first, the Cherry Springs Star Party, is held in June by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg. The second, the Black Forest Star Party, happens in September, thanks to the Central Pennsylvania Observers.
Have a look around our site for more information about stargazing, Coudersport, and at Cherry Springs State Park—including restaurant recommendations and day trips. In the meantime, here are a few more quick tips for an optimal stargazing experience.
- If you come to Cherry Springs for the Cherry Springs Star Party or Black Forest Star Party, consider reserving your lodging or campsite up to 4 or 5 months in advance. It books quickly!
- Keep an eye out for Coudersport and Potter County wildlife! Our residents include deer, turkey, coyotes, black bears, bobcats and, in southern Potter County, elk.
- Always use a red filter or cover on your flashlights to help your eyes adjust to night vision.
- Don’t give up on the stars too soon! Your eyes need 15 minutes to adjust for the full spectrum of stars.
The astronomer’s forecast.
At a glance, it shows when it will be cloudy or clear for up to the next two days. It’s a prediction of when Cherry Springs State Park, PA, will have good weather for astronomical observing.VISIT WEBSITE