Saturday, July 01, 2006


Cherry Springs...WOW!

I've been to star parties in most parts of this country since it became a popular thing to do, starting with Riverside back in the 70s. But, you know what? I had never, ever been to one north of the Mason Dixon Line. Texas, yes (hell yes), California, sure but no Yankeeland venues.

That being the case, when I was invited to speak at the Cherry Springs Star Party way up yonder in Pennsylvania, near the little town of Coudersport, PA, I just could not resist. Well, that wasn't the only reason. This location, Cherry Springs State Park, just over the New York line, is justly famous for the Black Forest Star Party, a long-time fixture of observing life way up north.

The only bad part of Cherry Springs? Getting there. The powers that be just don't expect someone to want to fly from Mobile, Alabama to Elmira, New York (the cloesest airport to the star party). Your poor, old Uncle had to embark on a journey that involved three separate airplanes with stops in Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC. Not only were the U.S. Airways (aka, "Aeroflot") flights...err..."unpleasant," they were late, with me not getting into Elmira till 5pm. Evening coming on in a few hours, it was raining, and fog was rolling in. So, I was a little paranoid about negotiating the 80 miles between Elmira and Cherry Springs, completely unknown territory for me, in these conditions.

I needn't have worried. In this age of online driving instructions, it was simple to find the star party location without a single wrong turn. The only problem Your Old Uncle had was READING the printout of directions with his middle-aged eyes. I rolled into the park at just after 6:30pm (no, I don't often drive the speed limit).

Folks, this is a wonderful site, which features very dark skies (hell, there ain't nothing around), and superb cooperation by the State of Pennsylvania (when was the last time you visited a state park and saw a sign directing you to the "astronomy field"?). The State is also in the process of building domes for bigdobs, wiring the (large) field for electricity, and pouring concrete for observing pads. Upon my arrival, I was able to meet a few of the nice Cherry Springs folks (from the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg) on this evening (Friday, 23 June), but between the rain, chilling (in June!) fog, and me being tired, a little voice inside told Uncle Rod to head his Saturn Ion rent-a-car for the motel in Coudersport. More on that and the star party itself next time...

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