F&M Stories

Students Stargaze at Cherry Springs Retreat

Franklin & Marshall students, faculty and professional staff attended a recent weekend retreat to Pennsylvania’s Potter County and Cherry Springs State Park for two nights of stargazing in September. Night sky enthusiasts flock to the Cherry Springs – often called “the darkest spot east of the Mississippi” – for its views of the Milky Way, planets and other astronomical phenomena. 

The trip was sponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Mindfulness at F&M, a program promoting well-being and compassion across campus. 

F&M junior Ella Peeples (pictured below) sums up the experience.

Ella Peeples '25

Ella Peeples ’25


I have never been in such darkness, quite so cold, or in so much awe. In Ulysses, Pa., Ryan Trainor (associate professor of physics) and two of his students, junior Delaney Adair and sophomore Menelaos Raptis, set up telescopes so we could see Saturn and a ring nebula. Professor Trainor talked us through what constellations we could see, answering questions about space and stargazing. I learned that red lights do not use the same parts of our eyes as white lights, so we could use red lights without impacting our night vision. I saw the Milky Way splayed out across the sky.

The next day we went on a hike in Leonard Harrison State Park, down into what is called the "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania," walking past stunning waterfalls and listening to birds chirping. Later, we headed to the main event: a night at Cherry Springs State Park. I saw the SpaceX Starlink satellite cross the sky, dwarfed by the thousands of stars that made up my field of vision.

Thank you to Joe Pritchett (director of faith & meaning), Louise LoBello (digital & special collections librarian) and Professor Trainor for organizing this amazing trip that has changed the way I look up at the sky and down at my feet. 

See Ella's full story for The College Reporter


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