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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cherry Springs State Park Subject Of Feature Story In Columbus

'Dark Sky' parks thrive on minimal light to brighten the sky

By Steve Stephens 
Columbus Dispatch • Sunday August 14, 2016 5:04 AM

COUDERSPORT, Pa. — Cherry Springs State Park is known for some of the best views in the eastern United States.

But you have to wait until dark to see them.

And you have to look up.

Forget Waldo. Where’s the Milky Way? It should be overhead, its dim radiance comprising the sparkle of innumerable suns, marking the center of our entire galaxy.

But according to the National Park Service, the nighttime lights of civilization keep 80 percent of Americans from seeing that delicate spill of galaxy glow.

Granted, civilization is a good thing. But light pollution, not so much.

Beams that light up the night sky waste energy and money, interfere with the migration of birds and the nesting of turtles and wash out the beautiful, mysterious celestial patterns that inspired the earliest myths and stories.

Cygnus the swan, for example, a bright and regal constellation even in light-polluted skies, once swam contentedly in the Milky Way. But now, with no galactic stream in which to float, she just sort of irritably plucks at Lyra the lyre as she flies by. At least that’s my story.

For travelers who make the trek to Cherry Springs in north-central Pennsylvania, though, the Milky Way again becomes a spangled river of radiant specks, a sight that’s all the more impressive to modern observers who realize that each of those uncountable specks is a star, perhaps with planets of its own.

On a map of light-pollution levels, Cherry Springs is one small circle of darkness floating in a bright sea of white and yellow.

The 82-acre park lies within the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest. Cherry Springs also benefits from topography, with ridges blocking the light from the picturesque town of Coudersport and all the other small valley settlements nearby.  Read more...

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