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Darkest Sky in Illinois - Weinberg-King (?)

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#26 Starman1

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 12:36 AM

Jim,

I had a chance to work a couple summers at Cahokia Mounds State Park as an archaeological grunt (dirt pusher). It's just across the Mississippi from St. Louis, and down in the river's flood plain, so nice and swamp-like.

What my father said about St. Louis is pretty much the truth--it's where bad people go when they die. In the summer, the temperature and humidity go down every direction you drive away from St. Louis. I vividly remember seeing steam rising from the river more than once.

We experienced the southern Illinois blood-letting called mosquitos (who easily bit through our shirts, which were completely soaked with sweat and stuck to our skins (didn't mind it on some of the girls, but hey, I was young!)) every day, all day.

We told stories to each other as we worked and sweated:
"There are two sizes of mosquitos here: those small enough to come through the holes in the screen door, and those big enough to open it!"
and
"One day I felt some shade and looked up to see two skeeters hovering over my head. One of them said to the other, 'Do we eat him here or just take him with us?' "

Of course, having grown up in a river valley in SW Indiana, I was used to mosquitos. After all, it was the State Bird of Indiana.

It wasn't until I left Indiana that I realized oysters, shrimp, chicken, okra, eggplant, potatos, tomatos, and fish didn't have to be breaded and fried.

But both southern Illinois and southern Indiana, in those days, had some really dark skies. I grew up with skies of magnitude 6.2 in my back yard, and i lived in a city. That really made being interested in astronomy a lot easier than it is now.
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#27 Illinois

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:45 AM

Hope someday Illinois protect some state park for dark sky! Green zone is not that dark but still good for most people from city!

Mosquitos is problem and LOT in upper Michigan where I look at stars in grey zone!

#28 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 01:07 PM

Pensack, I knew there was something else I loved about you.

We're cousins. :lol:

(Sparse population joke; south of Springfield *everyone* is blood more or less.)

It's been awhile since I've been back to that part of the country. I do have plans on being there for the North American total solar eclipse in 2017, and if up to it, the next one too, but full totality appears to be on the other side of the river in Kentucky. I was actually thinking or renting or even buying some property on the path of totality, near the maximum, and hosting a daylight star party. A subsequent North American total eclipse in 2024 will also be well viewed from the same exact location, so assuming I'm still kicking it'd be a two-fer.

Regards,

Jim

#29 VectorRoll

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 05:14 PM

I have a bunch of those dastardly Vampire Insects here at my house in Lincoln IL right now. It really makes going out side for just a few minutes to be hard to do. Not sure why they like my blood so much but it is a pain when I have to do outside work around the house. Getting out to view the stars at night is almost a no go with the swarms of them that seems to eat me alive. For some odd reason the Mosquito population seems a lot thicker this year around here than it has in the past few years.

You know what gets me is that the Masquitoes around our house in Mississippi do not bother me as much as the ones here do. And our house there is right next to some swap land. We have Masquitoes there every year, but they seem to more tame than the ones here. Maybe it is because there is more sources of blood (wildlife) there than here where it is mostly Corn and Soybeans. The ones in Mississippi are probably just full. Come to think of it, that must be the reason why they are bigger there as well. :p


Brings up a question.
What do you all do to deal with the Masquitoes and such when going out to these Dark Sky Sites? Like out in the state parks and such.

The regular Spray On OFF never seemed to work well for me for some reason. But lately I have been testing out one of those Off Clip-On. The seem to work alright but only when the wind is not blowing to much. If the Wind picks up it becomes useless. I had to wear two of them when I was painting my patio deck yesterday just to keep the Masquitoes away. The day before that and today I only needed one to keep them away.
Are there any other products that work well? Some home remedy even? I would like to get some stuff for when I do go out to a Dark Sky site, like a state park or something. Just to be on the side of readiness. :)

#30 KidOrion

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 06:08 PM

You guys complaining about the mosquitoes here in SoIll ought to be here in June for the Giant Horsefly Invasions. I've seen some as big as my thumb sitting on my van while I'm in it, and have refused to get out until they disappear. (They seem to favor silver vehicles for some reason.)

VectorRoll, the Deep Woods Off seems to work pretty well here. I observe a lot in the Crab Orchard Nat'l Wildlife Refuge between Carbondale and Marion, though, and actually the mosquitoes haven't been so bad there. They're actually worse at my house in C'Dale. (Had to use repellent to cut my grass this morning at 11:00.)

#31 Starman1

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 06:13 PM

I use liquid DEET on my clothes (not on the skin) and it seems to work well.
I'm not very tasty to mosquitos, though. Too much hot sauce (you've seen the commercial).
Seriously, here is something from the Smithsonian:
Why mosquitos like some people more than others

#32 KidOrion

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 08:54 PM

If too much hot sauce keeps mosquitoes away, my presence should clear a whole field (hot sauces and pepper cultivating is a hobby of mine).

I've heard that brewer's yeast is supposed to make one unpalatable to them, but haven't tried it.

#33 prostcj

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Posted 16 November 2014 - 01:03 PM

There is this place in the center of the state called Suger Grove Observatory. It is at the Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funks Grove right between Bloomington and Lincoln off Old Route 66 which runs along I-55.

My neighbor is part of the Twin City Amateur Astronomers and he told me of that site. They run it and he said it is open to the public. They have there own little observatory and hold some events there. The place is actually quite nice. I drove up there one day, when I had to go to Bloomington, just to check it out and get an idea on how exactly to get there. It is a very nice place. Not sure how dark it is at night as I never had a chance to get there yet during the night, but from what I have seen when driving between Bloomington and Lincoln at night it gets pretty dark. At least a lot darker than in Lincoln. :) I think it is a Yellow on the scale for that area but it may be darker than that. It is surrounded by Farm land. I was planning to go to one of there events when I get the chance.

Here is a link to the TCAA site with a little map they have drawn up for directions to the observatory. http://tcaa.us/SGO.aspx

That site might not be as dark as the few state parks not to far off to the west of it but it is another site to think of if anyone is nearby it.

The TCAA site has a ridiculous amount of AP Gear.  I'm talking 4 professional level set ups.  CDKs, U16s, etc.  I used some of the gear for my images.  http://www.astrobin.com/users/prostcj/

The site is definitely yellow to green with a light plume extending up almost 30 degrees to the north from Bloomington.  I have been to the Star Party at Jim Edgar state park and it was darker.  Still some light from Jacksonville and Springfield but overhead was amazing.  I am intrigued by Weinberg-King as it is only about 2 hours from Bloomington and appears promising.  I would like a place I could camp for a couple nights at least.  Has anyone tried this park recently?



#34 oldtimer

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 01:59 PM

OK heres one in Illinois no one has mentioned. I know of this spot because I lived in the area for 10 years (1999-2009). Its along the Mississippi river north of {Palisades state park (NW Illinois) Its the old Savanna Army depot which is now closed. The road leading into the depot  (Army Depot Rd.) is open and one can drive in about four miles to a dead end turn around with a center grass field. There are no lights as electricity has bee discontinued with the closing of the depot. It is a blue zone. I have been there many times and have never been bothered by anyone. No camping or facilities but wide open DARK skies.

 

Also there are several hunter parking lots (ungated) that border the west edge of Palisades Park. I have also used these. Occasionally a ranger or county cop has come by but once they seen what I was doing they said "Have a good night" and moved on.


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#35 evilmedic13

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 09:40 PM

 

There is this place in the center of the state called Suger Grove Observatory. It is at the Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funks Grove right between Bloomington and Lincoln off Old Route 66 which runs along I-55.

My neighbor is part of the Twin City Amateur Astronomers and he told me of that site. They run it and he said it is open to the public. They have there own little observatory and hold some events there. The place is actually quite nice. I drove up there one day, when I had to go to Bloomington, just to check it out and get an idea on how exactly to get there. It is a very nice place. Not sure how dark it is at night as I never had a chance to get there yet during the night, but from what I have seen when driving between Bloomington and Lincoln at night it gets pretty dark. At least a lot darker than in Lincoln. :) I think it is a Yellow on the scale for that area but it may be darker than that. It is surrounded by Farm land. I was planning to go to one of there events when I get the chance.

Here is a link to the TCAA site with a little map they have drawn up for directions to the observatory. http://tcaa.us/SGO.aspx

That site might not be as dark as the few state parks not to far off to the west of it but it is another site to think of if anyone is nearby it.

The TCAA site has a ridiculous amount of AP Gear.  I'm talking 4 professional level set ups.  CDKs, U16s, etc.  I used some of the gear for my images.  http://www.astrobin.com/users/prostcj/

The site is definitely yellow to green with a light plume extending up almost 30 degrees to the north from Bloomington.  I have been to the Star Party at Jim Edgar state park and it was darker.  Still some light from Jacksonville and Springfield but overhead was amazing.  I am intrigued by Weinberg-King as it is only about 2 hours from Bloomington and appears promising.  I would like a place I could camp for a couple nights at least.  Has anyone tried this park recently?

 

Some amazing images there.



#36 prostcj

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Posted 20 November 2014 - 10:05 PM

Thanks.  Definitely worth a trip down south for one of our public observing sessions next year.



#37 mikerepp

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 01:39 PM

I stay at Weinberg all the time. I camp there during deer season as I hunt some property within a few miles. They have two sections to the park primitive camping (no elec) and sites with electric. The park is a popular equestrian site which leads us to a problem. the electrical spots are used primarily by the people with horses and we all know what horses leave behind. It is a very dark site and I would recommend the fields that are farthest from the highway. the North and east sides are easy to get to from the camping sites. the west side fields you have to drive down the highway a 1/4 mile or so to where the access road is. I highly recommend the west fields.
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#38 bigdob24

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Posted 07 December 2014 - 12:54 PM

Jim Edger Panther Creek is very accommodating to astronomy.

We have a small star party there for close friends every spring- summer .

I rent the group camp area and there is water, pit toilets, a shelter, electricity and lots of room.

I live in Bloomington and and camp down there because of the dark sky's, we even have observed from the RV campground and had the best night ever with a 22" Starmaster. 

Its usually not very busy there unless it's a holiday weekend.



#39 krp

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 02:07 PM

I visited Weinberg King State Park again last week. This time I camped in the campground (only $8) but I still observed from the northwest field. There was a small light dome under the milky way from the town of Augusta. While the campground would be a decent place to observe, the northwest field area is a bit better for photography. I like this pond: 

 

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While the Frogs Croak by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

 

 

Glow Worm Pond Time Lapse by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

 

 

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Starlit Path by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

 

This was back at the campground before sunrise:

 

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Ghostly Glow by Kevin Palmer, on Flickr

 

Talking to the ranger, he mentioned Cloudy Nights and said he was aware that this place had the darkest skies in the state. He also said the streetlight in the campground mysteriously stopped working since the last time a group came and observed with their "canons". It would be hard to observe from the campground with that light on. There is also a bright light near the entrance that can be seen from most of the parking lots and a couple more lights in the equestrian campground. I might have to send him some information about shielding the lights since it really wouldn't be that difficult. There is a tall communication tower across the street that I expected would be flashing all night, but it didn't.


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#40 Starman1

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 05:50 PM

Since you resurrected this old thread,

try this light pollution map.

http://www.lightpoll...ayers=B0TFFFTTT

It has local lighting (!) showing, so you can avoid mercury vapor lights.

it has proven very accurate in SoCal, and i hope it is equally accurate elsewhere.



#41 EJN

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Posted 22 September 2015 - 06:27 PM

I live at the tip of the arrow so I have great skies :p

 

Attached File  lp.jpg   170.03KB   4 downloads



#42 Illinois

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Posted 23 September 2015 - 06:17 AM

I live at the tip of the arrow so I have great skies :p

 

attachicon.giflp.jpg

 

 

I live just south of Dixon and live in yellow zone. Wish to have a small land close to Green River State Park for me to live is green zone. Green zone is dark for Illinois and blue is so small area near Macomb.



#43 mikerepp

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 04:07 PM

EJN I'm right under your arrow tip so I too have wonderful skies!

 

Weinberg is a very good place to camp and observe from.  Just be careful around deer hunting season.  Lot of yahoos go to that park to deer hunt*.  11/20 - 11/22, 12/3 - 12/6, 12/11 - 12/13, 12/31 - 1/3 and 1/15  - 1/17 are dates to avoid corresponding to the deer seasons here in Illinois. 

 

*Once came back to the campsite from hunting property near by to find a guy walking around the parking lot "hunting". 



#44 17.5Dob

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 08:59 PM

I understand that Northwest Illinois near Galena is pretty dark.

At the Starved Rock Star Party someone measured 22 with his Dark Sky Meter with Lens, pointing up. If it was the without lens model it would have been bad. Really dark skies you cannot see more than a yard in front of you.

 

Yes, I know this thread has been resurrected from the dead, but there's no place in IL that qualifies as a "Black" zone, and even at one, as was pointed out a few years ago, the ground is still completely comfortable to walk around without the assistance of an outside light.

I've had the pleasure to observe from several of the the most pristine sites in the western US, but airglow, starlight , etc. makes the need for any extra light superfluous. I can see the skyline mountain ranges 60-100mi away with no problem.

 

"Pitch Black" is not DARK !

 

Anyways I grew up well outside of Chicago, in the late 60's across the shores from Yerkes Observatory. Those days are long gone and I now live dead center here.

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#45 Starman1

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 11:43 PM

There are vary few pockets of "blue zone" skies in Illinois, and no Gray or Black zones, as far as I know.

Most of the area around Galena is a green zone, per my brother, who has a home there and is an amateur astronomer.

That's still pretty good for Illinois.  There are several star parties held there in even brighter skies, though some are held in darker spots.

There are some darker areas near the Mississippi in western Illinois, but there are much darker areas across the border in Missouri.

A measured 22.0 on an SQM-L in Illinois?  Likely a defective unit.  That would tie with Mauna Kea on a dark night.



#46 magic612

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 09:04 AM

I hadn't seen this thread before - interesting read. I've looked at WK a number of times in my light pollution map searches, I just hadn't made my way down there yet. Good to know that's a reasonable option for Illinois. I know a lot of people go to Green River, as was mentioned previously. That seems to be the "go to" spot for a lot of Chicago area folks that I know anyway, including the Kankakee, Naperville and CAS clubs. Not sure what the observers north and northwest of the city do. 

 

Jim that's good to know you may be back in southern IL for the eclipse. I have quite a few friends and family down that way myself. 

 

As for "decent-ish" skies near Chicago, I live well south of the city myself. Though my little town has three (!!!) car dealerships within a mile of each other, from my back yard I can see 5.0 magnitude stars and about 90 degrees of the Milky Way on a really transparent night. Not great, but not bad for "in town." Better still: There is a pretty good spot near Wilmington IL I have permission to use from the Will County Forest Preserve District when I do astronomy-related Meetup events there. Though there is an obvious light dome from Braidwood to the southwest, and of course the horrible pink/orange glow 40 to 50 degrees up in the north from Chicago / south suburbs, the overhead, east, and south views are all relatively pretty good, given that it's only an hour drive from the Loop.

 

I don't have a light meter, so I can't tell you what reading it would give. But it's better than my back yard and overall it's not bad for a "non overnight" spot. It's certainly one of the best, most accessible sites I've yet to find within an an hour of the city. 


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#47 Pauls72

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 12:51 PM

I went to the Illinois Dark Sky Star Party @ Jim Edger Panther Creek State Park, sky's are reasonable at 6-6.5 magnitude. A little light dome in the SE.

I went to a CAS Star Party @ Matthiesssen State Park which is just a couple of miles south of Starved Rock State Park, it was a total wast of time, my back yard has better viewing. Light domes from Peru, Lasalle and Ottawa dominated the sky. Starved Rock State Park would probably be a slight bit better as it is in a hollow.

 

Central Nebraska is really, dark, but that is a hefty drive. The Nebraska Star Party is held at Merritt Reservoir State Park, skies are magnitude 7.5 to 8.

 

Have you thought about about going up to northern Michigan? They have a bunch of areas in the Blue and the Gray.

There is Headlands International Dark Sky Park at the northern tip.

I am hopping to try Manistee National Forest in west central Michigan.



#48 ChicagoBill

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 03:54 PM

I went to the Illinois Dark Sky Star Party @ Jim Edger Panther Creek State Park, sky's are reasonable at 6-6.5 magnitude. A little light dome in the SE.

I went to a CAS Star Party @ Matthiesssen State Park which is just a couple of miles south of Starved Rock State Park, it was a total wast of time, my back yard has better viewing. Light domes from Peru, Lasalle and Ottawa dominated the sky. Starved Rock State Park would probably be a slight bit better as it is in a hollow.

 

Central Nebraska is really, dark, but that is a hefty drive. The Nebraska Star Party is held at Merritt Reservoir State Park, skies are magnitude 7.5 to 8.

 

Have you thought about about going up to northern Michigan? They have a bunch of areas in the Blue and the Gray.

There is Headlands International Dark Sky Park at the northern tip.

I am hopping to try Manistee National Forest in west central Michigan.

 

Pauls72

 

I spent some time in Michigan’s Manistee National forest in August looking for observing locations. It was quite a challenge; there are remarkably few open areas. The area is beautiful, but filled with high densities of very tall trees. I guess that’s why they call it a forest.

 

I did find two locations, with the help of the local National Forest Service office in Baldwin Michigan.

 

The first is the old gravel pit near Tin Cup Spring. You take U.S. Route 10 east from Baldwin about 7 miles to South Kings Highway. Then turn left and go north for just under a mile to E 40th Street. Turn left and go west about 1/2 mile and turn right on South Kings highway. Continue north about 4 miles to where the road bends to the left. There is a sign saying “Tin Cup Spring”. Continue about another 1/2 mile and on your right is a depressed open space with an entrance on both ends. This is the old gravel pit. I spent most of an successful evening there until the humidity managed to dew up everything. It is a low area so it does trap fog and dew.

 

The second area is the Huron-Manistee Walkinshaw Wetlands Sandhill Crane and Wetlands Management Area. This is a very large open area about 4.5 miles southeast of Walkersville, MI. You have to meander from Walkersville by going south on N. 176th Avenue. While the road does not branch off, it has name changes as follows: N 176th Ave -> E. Deer Road -> N 184th Ave - > E. Polk Road -> E. Fox Road. The Walkinshaw Wetlands are at the east end of Fox Road just before it turns south to become 198th Avenue.  This is a very large open area, but it has some high grass and very limited parking.

 

There may be better locations, but I could not easily find them and the Forest Service employees did not have better suggestions.

 

The NPS said both locations were freely open to the public, including astronomers doing late night viewing, but camping is not permitted in the Walkinshaw Wetlands.

If you find better locations, let me know.



#49 MEE

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Posted 30 September 2015 - 04:55 PM

Speaking of northern Michigan, I remember seeing this post recently: http://www.cloudynig...n/#entry6745685

#50 Illinois

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 06:52 AM

My mother in law live in upper peninsula Michigan and its Grey Zone. Wow! Dark! Problem is not clear night often and so many bugs in July also dark so late as around 11 pm! Someday Winter is so cold and lot of snow! I would like go there in March or October during no Moon week!


Edited by Illinois, 01 October 2015 - 06:53 AM.



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