Is Stargazing Better As a Social Activity?

People converge in the absence of light pollution

Would you rather look at the night sky alone, or with friends?
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There’s something inherently compelling about the nighttime sky seen with little to no light pollution. It’s one of the reasons dark sky parks and regions have grown in popularity in recent years. For my part, I can say that I genuinely gasped one night in Pennsylvania when I looked up and saw far more stars in the sky than I ever had before; factor in the atmospheric and weather conditions that can allow for stargazing and you have the makings of a challenge on your hands.

Is that challenge better with other people along for the ride? A recent NPR article suggests that it is. As Scott Neuman writes, dark sky parks in Pennsylvania have begun holding events designed to give a pursuit that’s historically seemed solitary a more social component.

The article points to a biannual occurrence at Pennsylvania’s Cherry Springs State Park, where stargazing enthusiasts make their way to northern Pennsylvania from all over the country to take in the sights. According to NPR’s report, 550 people signed up for one of this year’s events, with almost as many getting their names on the wait list.

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According to one of the attendees cited in the article, the age of attendees is getting younger, which bodes well for the tradition holding up. There’s an unsettling side to that as well, though — some of the attendees Neuman spoke with made their way to Pennsylvania due to increased light pollution at their stargazing spots closer to home.

Cherry Springs State Park isn’t the only spot where stargazing has a social component, either. New Mexico’s Sky Railway offers a stargazing package that includes venturing out into the desert by train to take in the night sky — all with food and drink served. It might not involve camping out in a field, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of that, either.

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