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Survey, how many miles will you drive for a Dark

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#101 Tony Flanders

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 12:52 PM

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.


I actually think of it more as a phenomenon of the Far West than the Midwest -- and for good reason. It takes forever to get anywhere in the West!

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.


Actually, the Great North Woods are only about a 4-hour drive from Boston, which is thinkable for a weekend. And the central Adirondacks are about 6 hours from New York.

But if I'm going to make a longer trip specifically for observing, I'm much more likely to fly to the West, where dark sites are ubiquitous and, to misquote the famous song, "the skies are not cloudy all night." I'm vastly likelier to find clear, transparent skies in the great Southwest than in Maine.

#102 aatt

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:27 PM

I drive an hour and 10 minutes to a green bordering on blue zone. This summer I will drive to Spruce Knob West Va-a full day's drive and possibly Northern Maine (5-6hours)

#103 patg43

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 04:24 PM

I recently took a long road trip with astronomical observations being first priority. I found the place I ended up being more beautiful than I could have dreamed during the day, and 1000 times better and darker than home at night. Very low humidity, and a scant cloud population that usually broke up early. I really left home because it would not quit raining, so I took a 1300 mile tour to get to a cancelled star party(It was cancelled for clouds, but I think it was the best sky I had seen with my scope). I will be doing the same at the end of this month, hopefully this party won't be cancelled. Along the way I saw a great many things, and even got to look at the Sun through a Coronado on a tour of Percival Lowell's Observatory, the standard tour, and one by the Mechanic/Fabricator/Everything Fixer Guy, Ralph. I got to check out PL's 118 year old scope, got a bunch of pics too. I got a tour of the telescope part machine shop, where if you can dream it you can build it. Trust me dreams are pretty cool on paper, I saw the blueprints for the DCT. I also saw Venus being chased by Moon from dawn until midday, while I was visiting the Grand Canyon. That was so cool. I busted out the scope when we got to the parking lot at like 7 am. People were milling around it wanting to look, of course I obliged. I gotta say I can reach dark skies here at home but can't do all that stuff too. To reach dry sky without a bit of a tour is about impossible around here, at least for the next few months.

#104 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 01:38 PM

The ASH Naylor Observatory is 10 miles from my home but the skies haven't been very dark there for more than two decades. The closest reasonably dark site that I use is 39 miles distant. Two other sites that I frequent, the closer one being considerably darker, are about 50 and 55-mile drives. Two of the best "local" sites take approximately 75 and 90 minutes to reach. Cherry Springs State Park is a bit more than 160 miles away and Spruce Knob is about 230.

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#105 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 07:47 PM

It is 34 miles to my gray zone mountaintop site. About a 50 minute semi winding drive, with only two stop signs, no traffic sigs, and little traffic.

#106 theritz

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 08:42 AM

I leave The Netherlands twice a year for dark skies (black zone, rural). It's a six hour drive to former eastern Germany. Together with northern France it's the darkest I can get to without loosing a whole day in the car.
In The Netherlands it's really bad. There are green zones one hour away but they do have loads of light domes since it's heavily populated over here.

#107 BrooksObs

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 10:13 AM

Theritz, since you are from the Netherlands, I'd like to ask a question. Just the other day I saw a recent satellite light pollution map of Europe and was struck by the degree of light pollution in your country and Belgium to the south. Based on the satellite image it would appear that the Netherlands and Belgium, by a very wide margin, the most brilliantly lit countries, as a whole, anywhere! There seem to be no areas within its borders that do not suffer severely from light pollution. In all the surrounding countries, once beyond the boundaries of major cities, the sky is indicated to be relatively dark...but not in the Netherlands! Just what manner of program, or civic plan, is in place driving this seeming desire for universal illumination?

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#108 Tony Flanders

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 10:45 AM

Theritz, since you are from the Netherlands, I'd like to ask a question. Just the other day I saw a recent satellite light pollution map of Europe and was struck by the degree of light pollution in your country and Belgium to the south. Based on the satellite image it would appear that the Netherlands and Belgium, by a very wide margin, the most brilliantly lit countries, as a whole, anywhere! There seem to be no areas within its borders that do not suffer severely from light pollution. In all the surrounding countries, once beyond the boundaries of major cities, the sky is indicated to be relatively dark...but not in the Netherlands! Just what manner of program, or civic plan, is in place driving this seeming desire for universal illumination?


It's called the Rhine River. Due to the abundant soil it has deposited, this is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Its only serious rival in Bangladesh, fed by not one but two rivers, each much mightier than the Rhine.

Per capita, the lighting in the area isn't out of the ordinary. In fact, you will note that while it has no dark areas, it also has much smaller super-bright areas than the less densely populated Eastern Seaboard in the U.S.

#109 sparkyht

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 07:29 PM

50 minutes north to a dark yellow zone or 50 minutes south to an orange zone, both are state parks I like to observe from in SE Wisconsin.

#110 BrooksObs

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 10:55 PM

Theritz, since you are from the Netherlands, I'd like to ask a question. Just the other day I saw a recent satellite light pollution map of Europe and was struck by the degree of light pollution in your country and Belgium to the south. Based on the satellite image it would appear that the Netherlands and Belgium, by a very wide margin, the most brilliantly lit countries, as a whole, anywhere! There seem to be no areas within its borders that do not suffer severely from light pollution. In all the surrounding countries, once beyond the boundaries of major cities, the sky is indicated to be relatively dark...but not in the Netherlands! Just what manner of program, or civic plan, is in place driving this seeming desire for universal illumination?


It's called the Rhine River. Due to the abundant soil it has deposited, this is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Its only serious rival in Bangladesh, fed by not one but two rivers, each much mightier than the Rhine.

Per capita, the lighting in the area isn't out of the ordinary. In fact, you will note that while it has no dark areas, it also has much smaller super-bright areas than the less densely populated Eastern Seaboard in the U.S.


Interesting explanation, but I still find it difficult to believe that the blanket illumination in this region is simiply a result of population density, rather than the result of some sort of governmental design, or program.

A simply vast portion of The Netherlands/Belgium is utterly blanketed by the orange color - an unbroken area distinctly larger in square miles than any comparable developed country elsewhere in the world! While the U.S. East Coast may have far more intense consentrations of urban illumination, it is still possible to escape these to areas ranked as at least green in just modest travel time. Not so in heart of either of the European countries mentioned. I think that I'd much prefer to be right here on the outer fringes of the NYC light dome than to be over there, where escape from a bright sky seems a futile effort.

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#111 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 06 April 2014 - 01:03 AM

I'll drive about 35 miles. Takes me about an hour to traverse the winding roads up to elevation level and moderately dark skies, but I only do this about twice a year. I found my light pollution remedy in image intensifiers and good filtering. Just tonight in AT72ED caught Rosette, Horsehead, flame, M81, M82, Orion extending out all the way to running man, multiple clusters. White zone and waxing crescent moon up.

I can't drive away all the time, so I have a rather expensive bandage for LP.

#112 Kevdog

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 10:00 AM

That is, if a green zone is within an hour (which I think it is for 90% of Americans) how much further would you be willing to drive to get to a grey/black zone?


I'm an at-home observer, so I never want to drive to get to a dark sky site. My house is in an orange zone, so it's reasonable, but not great. But I just roll my scope out and am viewing in 15 mins and then I'm out for 1-2 hrs.

We do go camping quite a lot and I take my C11 which gets me to various green-black zones. But it's not a special trip for astronomy, but more like I might get my C11 out one night we're there.

Maybe when my son has moved away from home, (he's 7 now) we might drive out on weekends to get to darker skies.

When I retire I think we're going to move out of the big city to somewhere smaller and darker (maybe Silver City, NM).

#113 17.5Dob

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 06:02 PM

I live in a red zone and "make do" unless the forecast is for excellent conditions and there's no moon. Then I make the short drive, 1-2 X a month.

But I can also get to a grey/black zone, in 1 1/2 to 2 hrs, that I like to do, 3-4 times/yr.

#114 svdwal

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 11:09 PM

In The Netherlands, it is population density partly mixed with greenhouse lightning. In Belgium its population density mixed with a general highway illumination at night.

And maybe people being way too anxious. For example, there is now a program underway to stop illuminating the highways at night. Immediately some people start complaining that there might be elderly people who will now not be able to drive at night because all the lights are off.

All that anxiety is probably the result of people living in brightly lit cities where it is never dark.

#115 csrlice12

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 11:51 AM

Be afraid, be very afraid.....its dark out there and nothing might happen.....

#116 BrooksObs

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 03:02 PM

In The Netherlands, it is population density partly mixed with greenhouse lightning. In Belgium its population density mixed with a general highway illumination at night.

And maybe people being way too anxious. For example, there is now a program underway to stop illuminating the highways at night. Immediately some people start complaining that there might be elderly people who will now not be able to drive at night because all the lights are off.

All that anxiety is probably the result of people living in brightly lit cities where it is never dark.


Very interesting and more logical for the given marginal conditions spreading over such a broad region than population density alone. Guess ya gotta get them bulbs and flowers up and growing as fast as possible (I'm aware of how The Netherlands is the largest flower supplier in Europe and have seen spectacular images of the fields as seen from the air). Still, in spite of all that surrounding beauty, it must make finding dark skies a much greater challenge than it is for folks in most of the rest of the developed world. Thanks for the clarification.

BrooksObs

#117 Philler

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 10:58 AM

About 55 miles to a blue site I use regularly. I can get to a grey area about 75 miles from home.

#118 darknesss

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 02:55 PM

7 miles max

#119 LateViewer

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 07:14 PM

2.5 hours for dark green to blue.

#120 bumm

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 11:26 AM

Ten minutes drive. I figure that most nights, if I have to spend too much time traveling and setting up, observing will just be too cumbersome, and I'll wind up taking quick looks from my yard. I recently did a search using the "Dark Sky Finder" and Google maps, and found a decent Blue zone ten minutes drive to my south. Looking forward to using it. :)

#121 dhumpie

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 12:07 AM

Currently live in Los Angeles (white zone) and do the monthly 30 min drive one way to Malibu for orange rural skies during the colder months, and a 1 hour 15 min drive to the green/blue zone at Mount Pinos during the warmer months (we get snow on Pinos sometimes).

Back in Brisbane, Australia I did the hour drive one way to the blue zone (friends farm), and 2 1/2 hour drive one way to grey zone skies in Leyburn....

#122 GeneT

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 06:37 PM

An hour.

#123 csrlice12

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 09:44 PM

Depends on how far it is to run over the street light... :lol:

#124 TechPan6415

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 10:02 PM

I live in little better than Bortle class 3 and only need to drive about 15-20 minutes to get to class 1.8-2.5. So when my wife and I plan camping trips out of town I like to do that around a relatively moonless night and get it as dark as it can be. We go to Utah at the end of every ski season...

So last week we took off for a weeklong boondock at a killer spot on Utah BLM land that required some rock crawling, GPS and is easily solid class 1, not a headlight or even a headlamp for as far as the eye could see...and that was for over 100 miles, for a week. This was our second time out there, first with a scope, my 16" 4.5.

I love these kinds of trips, large format camera in tow, solar powered, solar shower, off the grid, not a sound, not a soul in sight, totally raw and *awesome* observing...

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#125 mantrain

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 11:53 PM

I live in little better than Bortle class 3 and only need to drive about 15-20 minutes to get to class 1.8-2.5. So when my wife and I plan camping trips out of town I like to do that around a relatively moonless night and get it as dark as it can be. We go to Utah at the end of every ski season...

So last week we took off for a weeklong boondock at a killer spot on Utah BLM land that required some rock crawling, GPS and is easily solid class 1, not a headlight or even a headlamp for as far as the eye could see...and that was for over 100 miles, for a week. This was our second time out there, first with a scope, my 16" 4.5.

I love these kinds of trips, large format camera in tow, solar powered, solar shower, off the grid, not a sound, not a soul in sight, totally raw and *awesome* observing...


Wait a second, last week I was in South East Utah w my 16" 4.5 DOB! Except I had to probably drive a longer distance to get there, well 700 miles from San Diego County.

Otherwise I drive ordinarily 1 hour into a dark green zone at high elevation from my house. Not too bad, from garage to
yop of Mt Laguna, one hour. But it still aint Utah.

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