Every once in a while reporter Ted Nesi adds a tidbit to his valuable “Saturday Morning Post” that doesn’t seem to fit with the news from Rhode Island and yet fits everywhere. This link from the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), a “national journal of literature and discussion,” is one such example.
Amanda Petrusich writes in part, “Darkness is a complicated thing to quantify, defined as it is by deficiency. … Unihedron’s Sky Quality Meter is the most popular instrument for this kind of measurement, in part because of its portability (about the size of a garage-door opener) and also because it connects to an online global database of user-submitted data.
“According to that database, Cherry Springs State Park — an eighty-two-acre park in a remote swath of rural, north-central Pennsylvania, built by the Civilian Conversation Corps during the Great Depression—presently has the second darkest score listed …
“The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a nonprofit organization that recognizes, supports, and protects dark-sky preserves around the world, designated it a Gold-tier International Dark Sky Park in 2008, only the second in the United States at the time, following Natural Bridges National Monument in San Juan County, Utah.
“Earlier this year, I drove the six hours to Cherry Springs from New York City to meet Chip Harrison, the park’s manager, his wife, Maxine, and a park volunteer named Pam for a 4:30 p.m. dinner of baked fish. Afterward, Chip had promised, we’d go see stars. …
“On a clear night, from the proper vantage, watching constellations emerge over Cherry Springs is like watching a freshly exposed photograph sink into a bath of developer, slowly becoming known to the eye: a single crumb of light, then another, until the entire tableau is realized. Pam pointed the telescope toward Jupiter, which had risen over the east end of the field. The four Gallilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto—were clearly visible through the lens. …
“When I got back to New York, I visited with Matt Stanley, a beloved colleague at the university where I teach. Stanley … has a particular interest in how science has changed from a theistic practice to a naturalistic one. He leads a seminar called ‘Achilles’ Shield: Mapping the Ancient Cosmos,’ and another called ‘Understanding the Universe.’
“ ‘I’ve found that probably 95 percent of my students come from either an urban or suburban environment, which means they can only see a dozen stars at night, and no planets,’ Stanley said. ‘When you say the Milky Way to them, they imagine a spiral galaxy, which is fine, but that’s not what the Milky Way looks like — it’s a big, whitish smear across the sky. I have to do a lot of work to orient them to what human beings actually saw when they looked at the sky. They don’t know that stars rise and set. Their minds explode.’ ” More here.
In Rhode Island, New Shoreham offers a pretty good look at the night sky. There are shooting stars in August. I feel lucky about that and hope that the five nearby offshore wind turbines don’t change anything.
Photo: Gary Honis