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Enjoying the Outdoors Isn’t Just for the Daytime

April 20, 2018 02:00 PM

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Most people think about exploring Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests during the daytime, however, exploring at night can be quite rewarding, too!

They offer some of the best opportunities to view the night sky. Whether you are counting stars, looking for constellations, or trying to catch a glance at a passing meteor shower, you won’t get a better view than in the forests of Pennsylvania.

What makes these spots prime for stargazing? The dark skies in our state parks and forests are a direct result from the amount of forested land in the area. Remote areas with limited artificial light and heavy tree cover make the sky even darker, which provides the brightest stars.

In light of International Dark Sky Week (April 15-21), here are some ways you can plan to enjoy Pennsylvania’s dark skies and help mitigate unnecessary artificial light (or light pollution).

Seeking Out the Stars

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If you can brave the cold, astronomers say the sky is at its best on crisp, clear winter nights when there’s no humidity in the air. Summer evenings may produce haze and blur the view. You definitely will want to check weather forecasts and head out on a night when there won’t be a lot of cloud cover.

They also recommend investing in a red flashlight because it doesn’t have the same effect on eyes as a white light. You can create your own red flashlight by covering your flashlight or cell phone or with red cellophane or paper.

No matter when or how you get outdoors at night, be sure to bring blankets or lawn chairs to make your experience more enjoyable and longer.

Dark Sky Opportunities

The Pennsylvania Wilds region is known for its amazing stargazing opportunities, as there are many acres of forest land and not a whole lot of artificial light.

Cherry Springs State Park may be the most well-known in the region for its views and educational opportunities, appealing to both seasoned and novice astronomers, as wells as curious stargazers and campers.

Cherry Springs isn’t the only place in the region to soak in the nighttime. Natural places like Sinnemahoning, Colton Point, Leonard Harrison, and Lyman Run state parks, as well as Sproul, Tioga, Tiadaghton, and Susquehannock state forests are just some of the prime areas in the region.

Pennsylvania state parks and forests regularly hold educational programming about dark skies and stargazing. Plan your next trip to relax under the stars (and learn a little something, too) by checking out DCNR’s stargazing events.

Reduce Light Pollution

The nighttime environment is a crucial natural resource for all life, and the glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars, changing the nighttime environment in certain areas across the U.S. -- and Pennsylvania.

Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. It is a side effect of industrial civilization and an actual form of pollution for which you can help make a difference at home.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Only use lighting when and where it’s needed; if safety is a concern, install motion detector lights and timers
  • Properly shield all outdoor lights
  • Keep your blinds drawn to keep light inside
  • Become a citizen scientist and help measure light pollution

Learn More about Dark Skies

Stargazing education at Cherry Springs State Park

To learn more about experiencing dark skies at Pennsylvania state parks and forests, reach out to the park or forest that you want to visit. They’d be happy to help you. Don’t forget to also check out our stargazing events across the state.

Get outside and experience the state’s dark sky splendor first hand!

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