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Survey, how many miles will you drive for a Dark

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#76 RobbW

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 03:54 PM

Does it have to be how many miles you're willing to DRIVE? Does flying count? I am taking my one and only trip out to truly dark skies in October this year for the Enchanted Skies Star Party in Socorro, NM. So, I will be flying three hours from Chicago to Albuquerque. Then, I will rent a car and drive another two hours to get to the star party in a grey/black zone.

I so can't wait to see the stars under the NM sky!

#77 csrlice12

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 05:33 PM

Does it have to be how many miles you're willing to DRIVE? Does flying count? I am taking my one and only trip out to truly dark skies in October this year for the Enchanted Skies Star Party in Socorro, NM. So, I will be flying three hours from Chicago to Albuquerque. Then, I will rent a car and drive another two hours to get to the star party in a grey/black zone.

I so can't wait to see the stars under the NM sky!


Lived in NM for years. It really IS dark there around Soccoro. When I lived in Edgewood, NM, there was a slight light dome to the west, but not much, because I was on the East side of the mountain where the land gradually rose, the Albq side was like dropping off a cliff. The milky way was fantastic there.

#78 RobbW

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 08:39 PM

Lived in NM for years. It really IS dark there around Soccoro. When I lived in Edgewood, NM, there was a slight light dome to the west, but not much, because I was on the East side of the mountain where the land gradually rose, the Albq side was like dropping off a cliff. The milky way was fantastic there.


Thanks for that insight! Now I REALLY can't wait to get out there!

#79 toepick

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 02:00 PM

It's an hour and 15 minute drive to my local spot - white to yellow. Two and a half to get to a green sky site. And up to 13 hours to get from Detroit to Deerlick Astronomy Village in Georgia.

#80 Avid Astronomer

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:10 PM

I live in a suburb (5 miles from downtown) of Valencia (Spain), a 750.000 people city.

I have to drive NW 45 minutes for a SQM=21.3 site (3600 ft high) and, also NW, 90 minutes (because of very bad roads) for a SQM=21.6 site (4300 ft high).

I've been also at a SQM>21.6 site, 5 hours driving from here (7500 ft high), but this place is too far and too costly (gas is $9/gallon here).

The 21.6 site is dark enough and the 21.3 site is cheap enough to reach ... I can choose what's more important: money or darkness :)


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#81 CapPic

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 10:15 AM

I just realized how good those of us living near I-35 in Texas have it. Most locations have a relatively short drive to a gray zone (or even a blue zone).

I will say that something puzzles me. The light pollution along the east coast makes sense because of the population density. But why is the Midwest so bad? I spent some years in Ohio and Kentucky and recall those states having very large rural expanses. Do all the farmers their point lights at the sky?

#82 Tony Flanders

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 11:46 AM

Why is the Midwest so bad?


It's not. The map is misleading because the color chosen to represent the pretty-darned-dark zone happens to be the color that looks brightest (green). See my blog on the subject.

Having said that, although Ohio is largely farmland, it is also full of medium-sized cities. You can probably see several different light domes from any given spot.

And also yes, farmers are famous for over-lighting their property.

#83 dvb

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 03:39 PM

I'll drive a long, long way to get dark skies, as long as I don't have to drive back home the same night.

Tomorrow I'm driving 200 mi (300 km) in about 3 hours to get to the Merritt Star Quest, which has Black skies.

I could also drive have that time and distance to get to Black skies in Manning park.

The difference for me is being able to leave the gear set up and crawl into my tent after observing until the wee hours (at least until 2:00 a.m., sometimes until 4:00 a.m.). That late, and that sleep deprived, I really don't want to drive anywhere.

#84 SL63 AMG

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 06:20 PM

I'm done driving 1200 to 2000 miles for really dark skies.

I finally just decided to move!

Bortle Class 2 Dark Sky Location

Average SQM Reading 21.57

34° 40' 39" N 112° 32' 31" W

Clear Sky Chart - Space Igloo Observatory

It is truly amazing here. I can walk out side after sitting in front of my monitor for hours and the Milky way is visiable end to end. After about 20-30 minutes, it's unbelievable.



#85 Corky

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:00 PM

ZERO miles for me.
It's just too much hassle, too much time, and too inconvenient to do anything more than wheeling the scope out of the garage.
I guess I'm just not dedicated enough.

#86 JMW

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 06:06 PM

I need to drive about an hour to go from a red/white zone to a gray zone. I will drive 3-10 hours for a several night large star party. Once I make the drive to dark skies I prefer to stay out most of the night. Some day I would like to fly to the southern hemisphere with one of my refractors to enjoy the parts of the sky unseen by those who live in the USA.

#87 csrlice12

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 07:43 AM

You know Jeff, your comment just made another of those random thoughts I have come to mind. An Astronomy based Travel Agency working on a "time-share" trade basis. We could set up a database where Astronomers could list their location, available dark sites, available equipment, etc.; You go onto the site, punch in where you want to go, and it would come up with the places and equipment available; Also, you put in your location and equipment and see if anyone wants to trade places for a specified period of time. This could have benefits in that you wouldn't have to chance the airplane gorillas trashing your equipment; and as most take care of their equipment, chances are you'd end up with something better then what you could have carried with you. Eventually, you could have ratings (i.e. Great Equipment/Dark Skies, Place was in better shape then when I left)kind of like CN Classifieds has. I mean, there's an Aussie out there with a 10" Dob that would love to come to Colorado and have a 10" Dob at their disposal; and I'd LOVE (can't afford) to go to Australia and have a 10" Dob Available. There's always risk, but most people in the hobby I know, would take more care with someone else's equipment then they would their own. Uh, Oh, there's another new industry--Telescope Insurance!

#88 GpB311

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 03:52 PM

If I travel out past Bakersfield on 178, id say I could be to a true gray or black zone in under 3 hours. At least according to the cleardarksky.com light pollution map.

#89 Illinois

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 07:37 AM

Why is the midwest so bad? So many towns! Lot of large towns and many small town so theres no room for open space in Illinois to get dark sky! Few open get green zone and tiny blue zone!

#90 SKYGZR

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 02:30 PM

I travel about 250 miles, for about 5.5 hrs, yet when I do it, I stay for 7-10 days/nights. (Motor Home)

#91 omahaastro

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 12:30 AM

If it weren't for clouds and wind (and cold, although man is slowly changing that it would seem), eastern Nebraska isn't too bad... right on the edge of 'middle of nowhere'. I've got blue within about an hour, grey about an hour and a half, and black is 4 hours towards the Sand Hills where NSP is held. Solid greens all around within a half hour.

#92 krp

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 05:29 PM

The place I usually observe from is in a "good" orange zone and it's 20 miles (30 minutes) away. A green zone is about 130 miles away (3 hours), but I've only gone there once. Next spring I plan to seek out even darker skies. If you like dark skies Illinois is not the place to be.

#93 DocLiv

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 03:28 AM

For dark skies I go to the Deerlick astronomy village. It's about a 2 hour drive for me. It's well worth the trip.

#94 habitforming

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 02:02 PM

So far I'm just getting started and don't have much interest in making a long drive for darker skies. I'm under orange, borderline yellow and know that I'm missing out on a lot. Unfortunately, I don't find many opportunities to make a long trip for observing, especially when considering weather & life cooperating.

#95 Ron Walker

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 03:30 PM

At home I have a dark sky meter reading of 20.4 on average. We have some property in the middle of nowhere that is five hours away (about 250 miles) that gets a meter reading of 21.8. We have a trailer there and will spend up to a week at a time. Beautiful dark sky views as we always time for a new moon.

#96 SubaruB4

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:31 PM

At the most I would do 90 miles depending on what's going on.. if it's something special then I could do 120.

#97 Mustapha.Mond

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Posted 02 March 2014 - 06:25 AM

I just realized how good those of us living near I-35 in Texas have it. Most locations have a relatively short drive to a gray zone (or even a blue zone).


Sorry for bumping a 1.5 year-old thread. Living in Houston, I'm thankful for being closer to the best dark skies in the lower 48 vs people in the Northeast megalopolis/megaregion. It's 1h away to the closest green/blue site; 4h away to gray; and 7-8h away to a black site.

I'll do the 1h/60-mile trip every weekend, weather/work permitting. The gray site (300 miles) once or twice a month. Finally, Fort Davis and truly dark areas (600 miles) I'll go every other month.

I also appreciate my 120mm refractor more. There are several people in this thread who won't make the long drive because of their bigger scopes. A 4.7" refractor under 7.0-8.0 NELM skies is better than a 10-12" lightbucket in an urban area imo.

#98 BrooksObs

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Posted 02 March 2014 - 08:59 AM

I would only point out that willingness to drive vast cross-country distances (mostly on unrestricted highways mind you) to access really dark skies is largely an aspect of the mid-western mentality and to a lesser degree those in the far west, where such trips are often taken as commonplace. While I freely admit it is very difficult to reach a blue/green site from anywhere within the core region of the Megalopolis with just a 60-90 minute drive, only a vanishingly small segment of hobbyists would ever be willing to make a 7-8 hour trip EVEN ONCE A YEAR to gain a Bortle class 0-1 view. Believe me; many of us just as easily reach many "grey" sites with a 300-350 mile trip and even "black" ones in 7-8 hours, in spite of need for largely restricted urban driving much of the way. But how many among us really want it that bad for only a weekend sojourn?!

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#99 Mustapha.Mond

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:36 AM

Hm, I never really thought of my geographic area affecting my driving preference. That's interesting. One of the things I noticed in the NE megalopolis is how close/cramped the area felt. Parking was harder, fuel more expensive, and speeds were much slower.

I didn't know Bortle class 0-1 sites were a 7-8h drive. That's not bad at all. If I lived in NYC, I'd likely drive to Maine every month. You're right about the vanishingly small segment. Once I saw a true dark site, urban observing was dead to me. I became spoiled.

To someone interested in visual astronomy, I'd say dark skies and extra money for fuel and/or airfare to get away from cities is more important than aperture, optics, or quality EPs.

#100 Eric38

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 11:27 AM

It takes an hour just to get to an orange zone from here, Dupage county west of Chicago. That is our "Dark" site. The nearest grey zones are a days drive to northern Wisconsin or northwest Missouri. :foreheadslap:






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