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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Natural Gas Activity Hurting Cherry Springs Dark Skies

Kevin Bisher
Natural Gas Activity Hurting Cherry Springs Dark Skies


Story by – Kevin Bisher
Images and Video courtesy Gary Honis

Cherry Springs State Park has been growing in popularity throughout the Astronomy community since its designation as a Gold level Dark Sky preserve in 2008. Astronomers from all over the United States, Canada, and other countries visit the park yearly. Many of them numerous times throughout the year. Since its designation as a Dark Sky park, many an Astronomer, their families, and friends have visited, spending money in our area for gas, groceries, and supplies. They also book rooms or sites at our Hotels, Motels, and local Camp Grounds. Many of them enjoy the fine foods and entertainment to be found at our local restaurants.

All of this is being threatened by Natural Gas activities surrounding Cherry Springs State Park. Since the advent of drilling activities related to the Marcellus Shale gas rush, the skies are no longer dark there. Gas Flares and Work Lights from Drilling Sites now light up the evening sky at the park. Some Astronomers have complained, and some feel the park should no longer have its Dark Sky designation.

Many of the Astronomers who frequent the park do so to take pictures of Planets, Galaxies, Nebulae, and other astronomical objects. Cherry Springs’ dark skies make this possible. Some of the objects to be photographed are extremely dim. So dim that they’re difficult to see even with a large telescope. It is the techniques related to the cameras used to capture these amazing sights in our universe and Cherry Springs’ dark skies that make them possible. A little know fact is that most Astronomical discoveries are made by amateur Astronomers.

When Cherry Springs is “lit up” by Gas Flares and Work lights, it greatly reduces the ability for Astronomers to take pictures of Deep Sky Objects. The light from the Well Pads “washes out” the very dim objects making it impossible to photograph them.

An Astronomer by the name of Gary Honis has been frequenting Cherry Springs for over 20 years. Mr. Honis is also well know throughout the Astronomy community for his work with camera modifications that make this type of photography possible. Mr. Honis is well aware of the effects the Gas activity is having on the park. Last year, Mr. Honis took some pictures and made a video highlighting the effects the Drilling activities are having on Cherry Springs State Park.

Below is a picture taken by Mr. Honis in June of last year that shows reflections of Gas Flares and Work Lights from Well Pads to the East of Cherry Springs in the atmosphere around the park. These types of things are devastating to Astrophotographers. Imagine being in the middle of what you feel will be the shot of a lifetime and then a Gas Flare goes off.

Currently there are no light pollution restrictions placed on the Drilling Companies by the State of Pennsylvania. The companies however, could voluntarily cut their light pollution dramatically. Simply by not Flaring at night, and placing reflectors on all of their lighting to keep stray light from going into the sky. The State of Texas has Light Pollution requirements and has been very successful with Gas Companies keeping Light Pollution to an absolute minimum.

Mr. Honis has also put together a video which goes into the problem at Cherry Springs even deeper and really shows what’s happening there due to Gas activities. You can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBpP3uxJ3OY

Unless something is done to protect Cherry Springs’ dark skies, we may lose a precious natural asset as well as the income that visiting Astronomers provide. Please contact your legislators and let them know that the park’s dark skies must be protected and remain so. A lot can, and will be, lost without that protection.

What would hurt the most though would be the loss of the ability to take pictures like the one below taken by Mr. Honis that same June.

You can see more of Mr. Honis’ work from Cherry Springs here http://ghonis2.ho8.com//071212CS/071212CS.html

28 comments :

Anonymous said...

The State has been the one issuing gas permits and the Gov has been right in the pocket of the gas drilling companies and yet the State has been pouring and plans to pour more of our tax dollars into Cherry Springs Park --- what is wrong with this whole picture?

Do you think the State permitting and the Gov are going to change their thinking?

So who you have thought that Potter County and/or Township better get moving to get an ordinance in place for lighting or is it too late?

Anonymous said...

Dark sky designation? A thing of the past drilling, jobs and profits are much more important in this bad economy. This dark sky designation will go the way of the native brook trout. if you want to see these planets look them up in a book

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more.

Anonymous said...

The state built you a million dollar highway, which they can't maintain and ruined my back roads that I used to like to travel... What more do you want??!!? Come here and pay taxes to maintain everything you want??

Anonymous said...

Soon you'll have to look in a book to find a picture of someone NOT suffering from cancer in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

The wind farm planned on fox hill in Ulysses township will add light pollution also. The wind company did there own study and said it won't effect Cherry Springs. Imagine that!!

One wind turbine flashing once every three seconds is 20 flashes a minute X 60 minutes per hr is 1,200 flashes per hr X a ten hour night is 1200 flashes per night x 67 turbines is 80,400 flashes per night.
These turbines will flash all at the same time and will be less then 10 miles from cherry springs.

Cherry spring will be a distant memory in the near future!!

The electricity wind turbines produce is minimal. The things they destroy will be gone forever.
Including Cherry Springs.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Now I Have heard it all. I agree with post 6:17 buy a book I am sure there are already pictures of any planets,stars,or anything else that might concern Mr. Honis

Anonymous said...

They took the airport away,DRILL BABY DRILL !!!OR EVEN PUT SOME WINDMILLS UP THERE !!!!!

Kevin Bisher said...

"...or is it too late?" It's never too late. Light Pollution is becoming a huge problem not just at Cherry Springs, but across the globe.

There are very simple (and relatively cheap) things that can be done to curtail or even eliminate light pollution. Placing shields on lighting that block light going up into the sky for one. That light is wasted anyway. The other is changing the timing of activities that create large amounts of light that can not be shielded from night-time activities to daytime activities.

Here's a link to Google's Blue Marble Nightlights map that shows how serious it actually is across the globe. http://www.blue-marble.de/nightlights/2012

If you move the map and zoom in on Cherry Springs, you'll see that it's not nearly as dark as it was only 2 years ago. You can compare by looking at the same map from 2010. http://www.blue-marble.de/nightlights/2010

You'll also notice on the 2012 map that there are new areas of light near CSSP. Not good.

Anonymous said...

In San Jose street lights are Sodium-vapor because of the nearby observatory. The lights are yellow and give off a lot less light pollution. They also use less energy to run than halogen street lights.

They aren't that expensive and would solve the problem. I think they are easier on the eyes than halogen lights as well because it doesn't hurt your eyes (and run your night vision) to look at them.

My porch light is a yellow LED for mostly the same reasons and it doesn't draw bugs to it either.

Anonymous said...

What the heck are you babling about in this article. I've never seen any lights in the sky at night...and where are all these telescope people you say are visiting the area? There are far more motorcycle folks traveling through this area than people who stare at the sky at night...plus they spend more money.

Anonymous said...

Just a little shout out about flaring of a well.... once it is started you can't just "shut it off at night." If there is such a problem with the gas industry rethink how you heat your home or in some cases how you get your power.

Anonymous said...

we need jobs not telescopes more jobs for local folks will bring much needed money into the area want to view the planets go someplace else the das of big deer hunting is gone also gone is the great fishing in potter county so now bring on the jobs potter county is a boomtown you want dark skies and peace and quier go someplace else

Wendy said...

If you would be better informed of what ordinances your county has... you would know that there is one already in place to deal with the lighting. It is up to your townships to enforce this when they allow the businesses to develop in their area. I just love it when people spout off over things that they have not even researched.... GGGRRRRR !!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah because we NEVER had heat before they started ruining our area did we? And speak for yourself. Some of us arent too lazy to split a little firewood throughout the summer so we can heat our homes. Imagine that! Just go over to your cute little thermostat and turn your heat up so your pansy ass stays nice and warm. We would hate to see you have to do any work.

Anonymous said...

Dark sky's or anybody looking through a telescope doesn't put milk and bread on my table!

Anonymous said...

Kevin,
I can totally understand where you are coming from. On an other note, the "owners" of the mineral rights have the right to produce gas/oil. Yes, it is sad that Cherry Springs is being effect but I recall my astronomy class at Mansfield that was effected by "WALMART"..... So it's everywhere and and by EVERY change/company. When jobs and profits are being created I find it very hard to complain!

Anonymous said...

They flare for extended periods because it's cheaper to burn off the contaminated fluid then to pay to dispose or recycle it because the price of gas is relatively low.

These multi national companies are forcing people downwind to breathe toxins to save money.
I doubt they care about preserving the night sky.

Kevin Bisher said...

Just to be clear, this story is NOT anti-fracking, anti-windmill, anti-any other industry you care to mention. It's simply about an issue with light pollution at Cherry Springs State Park. Nothing more, nothing less. An issue that can be corrected rather easily with some co-operation and respect. As for where are these people? Where are these lights? Ask Chip Harrison. He'll tell you too.

Anonymous said...

Cherry Springs is a wonderful place and it does draw in people to the area. I think too many of us take for granted the little things like this in life that is so important to others. Look at the pictures in books?! Come on! Take the time to go to outside on a clear night and really look at the wonders in the sky. I am originally from Potter County and really miss seeing the Milky Way. When the drilling first started up there the gas companies were cooperating with Cherry Springs to keep the light polution down. It's a shame that they can't find a way to still work with them. Cherry Springs is a little piece of heaven on earth that I think we should all experience and cherish.

Anonymous said...

Some people are so rude.

Kevin,
We have been to Cherry Springs many times and we enjoy the peace and quiet there. I also have taken note of many, many others enjoying the same! There is a peaceful atmosphere there, even when there are over a hundred people gathered in one spot! It is one of few spots in Pa. where the stars are visible the way nature intended. My children love it there as well. We picnic, take walks, view the stars until after midnight and even take a ride down to Lyman Lake for a swim.

We are not the only ones who enjoy this, there are other people who enjoying the darkness of the skies at night. I guess it does not matter to some that Cherry Springs has become a very popular place for star gazers. Those star Gazers do spend money in our area as they travel from all over the Country to view the night sky through huge telescopes at Cherry Springs.

I wish Cherry Springs all the best. It's a push and shove world out there and when it comes right down to it, the good guy seems to get shoved!

I have to disagree with those who think the gas companies are creating great amounts of money from drilling. I have not seen with my eyes any goodness that has come to our hometown communities from all this gas business.

The sensationalism will come to an end and it will be to late. The eco damage has already been done and it will continues with this drilling.



Anonymous said...

Complaining about not getting the money brought to our community by astraunamers is rediculus, the workers of the natural gas company's bring much more revenue than astraunamers. And to those who are complaining about using gas to heat your home instead of wood, where do You think the gas in your chainsaw, truck, splitter, all came from? Not from the trees your cutting down.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i can definitely say that since the gas industry came into town i've gone from rags to riches.

the vague and unfulfilled suggestions by self-interested and unscrupulous individuals in power are MORE than enough for me to totally ignore something that is larger and infinitely more interesting than that abstract number on my ATM receipt.

Who cares about tourism and natural beauty? There might be jobs here someday!

You can do whatever you want to the land around us as long as there might be jobs around here someday!

Who cares about that lazy frackwater driver who dumps his load on the side of the road next to a trout stream so he can squeeze in an extra load and make another lousy buck (that he will give half to the gov't anyway)? The industry needs to cut corners to make sure that there might be more jobs around here someday!

Pretty soon the level of happiness around here will be back to the way it was with Adelphia! Isnt that what everybody is clinging to? Someday there might be jobs here, where we can make lots of money to spend... somewhere else.

SOMEDAY there might be jobs... but in the meantime its ok to ruin whats left of PoCo to make sure there might be jobs.

I really pity some of you, sacrificing your intelligence and dignity to line up like kids at an orphanage on the off-chance you might get chosen (especially since its cheaper to bring in out of state workers who dont have to rebuild a community with their earnings).

However, what i say or think doesnt matter... cuz someday there might be jerbs!

Anonymous said...

What are Jerbs?

Anonymous said...

after a quick google search:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101217153645AA3sw1e

Anonymous said...

12:35 astraunamers???get your dictionary out and start reading... see we need more jobs so we can build better schools so people can spell. there is no need for dark kys here let the "astraunamers go someplace else.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to see this blog/article in regard to Dark Sky Designation for Cherry Springs has become something other than what it was intended for, a preservation act. No one negates the fact that power companies produce jobs and, in turn, income, to help an economy and region grow, but power companies should also assist those regions in preserving areas such as Cherry Springs as the money they make should minimize the cost to them in a preservation act. I have family that lives/lived in PA and to see these "unpolluted" skies is absolutely wonderful since I live in an area that is highly polluted. Whether it be the power company, laborers, amateur astronomers, or people of the region, all can benefit from an influx of "cash" from those that choose to work or visit the area. Both are welcome from business owners. So Hopefully this article can return to it's original intention...preservation of a national Dark Sky Designation site.

Kevin Bisher said...

For those interested, and I'm sure that's not many of you based on most (but not all) of the previous comments, Mr. Honis has put together another video that uses the Google Sky at Night service that I mentioned earlier, to highlight even further how close and how many Gas Wells are in the vicinity of Cherry Springs. Combined, these Well sites can give off a lot of extraneous light that can affect the dark skies at the park if their light sources are not treated. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfJ9KwGKKkM&feature=youtu.be