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What to do when you can't get to a dark site

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#1 mitaccio

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 08:40 AM

I, like many others, would love to travel to a dark sky site to do my observations. Unfortunately life won't accomodate it. So, I resign myself to viewing in my yard. Problem is, it isn't ideal. Not by a long shot. But I know I am not alone in this, that others have travelled my road.

My question is this: if you can't travel to a dark sky site, what is the next best thing to do at home, and how do you make it a reality?

#2 Pentax Syntax

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 08:53 AM

Like you, I rarely am able to get to a dark site. Here are some of my strategies:

1. Wear an astronomer's vest with hood and "astro goggles". I was shocked how this improved my ability to see certain objects. One soon learns to lift the goggles and wrap the hood. Best purchases I made.

2. Light pollution filters. I have both the Celestron LP filter and the Orion ultrablock. These work reasonably well on emission nebula. Don't expect them to do much for galaxies.

3. High magnification with widefield eyepieces. As many others have pointed out, this is a way to deal with less than ideal skies.

4. Finally, I remind myself to enjoy what I CAN SEE rather than become disappointed about what the light pollution has stolen from me. The important thing is to improve your observing skills and that takes practice. I have been at it for over 40 years and still learning every night.

Curious about what others think. Great thread!

#3 GOLGO13

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:12 AM

The first thing I do is cry :bawling:

Then I focus on the objects which are just as good (sometimes even better) in light pollution. Planets, Double Stars, brighter star clusters like the double cluster, coat hanger, etc...With my 6 inch and 10 inch some deep sky objects are not bad, such as globular clusters M13, M92, etc (120x-200x on those). The Blue Snowball at low magnification can actually be quite blue. Other planetary nebulas are also visible.

And I do all of this from some very light polluted skies. Maybe not the worst, but pretty bad.

#4 Maverick199

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:29 AM

From the time I made my purchase last March and to this day, never thought of going to a dark site. I just resigned myself to my 'city sky dome' and make do with whatever is on offer. I only get a day off so work and family keeps me occupied from thinking of going for a night out. I am sure once I visit a dark site, it would be nothing short of visiting Disneyland in Orlando. :grin:

#5 Achernar

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 09:48 AM

I do the following, since my situation mirrors yours.

1. I look at the objects I can find from home, of which there's quite a good many through my 10 and 15-inch telescopes.

2. I used light screens to block glare from nearby lights, and it makes a big difference.

3. Taking ocassional trips to darker sites where possible.

4. Joining a local club, which in my case has access to a darker site than my drveway, enough to get some good observing of the dimmer galaxies.

That is what I do to get around the light polluted skies of Mobile Alabama.

Taras

#6 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 11:21 AM

Buy a NexImage 5 and take pictures of Jupiter.

This image of Jupiter was taken with a 5" scope.

#7 csrlice12

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 11:41 AM

Cry. :nonono:

If there are lights around, try laying a patio umbrella on its side; this hellps to block street lights, neighbors porch lites, etc...

You can also view double stars, clusters, planets, and the moon, and maybe some of the brighter DSOs.

Was in Oahu a few years ago. Loved the Island. There is a large observatory there on one of the mountain tops (heard it gets cold up there though). But on the drive from the port to another city where they did a play about Hawaii's history (cant remember the city's name) There seemed to be a few streachs of deserted beach....Clear Skies.

#8 Tony Flanders

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:13 PM

I, like many others, would love to travel to a dark sky site to do my observations. Unfortunately life won't accomodate it. So, I resign myself to viewing in my yard.


It's worth pointing out that traveling to dark skies and staying in your backyard aren't the only options.

My city home doesn't have a backyard, and the sidewalk is only suitable for the Moon and planets because of the streetlights. However, the nearest site that could reasonably be called dark is 2.5 hours away.

So I compromise. I usually travel 10 or 15 minutes to a local park. It's well worth it to obtain a nearly unobstructed view of the sky and complete freedom from streetlights.

#9 C_Moon

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:32 PM

So I compromise. I usually travel 10 or 15 minutes to a local park. It's well worth it to obtain a nearly unobstructed view of the sky and complete freedom from streetlights.


Around here parks close at sunset. Is this true for you too, or do you have arrangements with the parks? A dream would be to have a place to go 10-15 min away that is open any night at any hour.

#10 csrlice12

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:41 PM

I think he means local neighborhood parks, or even schoolyards/playgrounds are another place. Kind of creepy, but cemetaries are great for viewing--anyone ever notice cemetaries DON'T have streetlights??? Watch out for those zombies though.

#11 bassplayer142

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:47 PM

Observe later at night when car and heir headlights are at a low. Have fun with planets, the moon, and doubles!

#12 Locoman

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:51 PM

I am fortunate. I live in a small town of about 6,500 people. According to dark sky finder its a yellow zone. The milkyway is cleary seen and stars are abound in my backyard. I'm about 15 mins from a grey zone but I have only ventured there twice. Counting my blessings!

#13 sg6

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 02:04 PM

I simply look at whatever is possible, often a bit unchanging from night to night as the views are limited from where I live. It does however help that the town reduces the number of lights that are on towards midnight so it gets darker quite fast about 11:50.

Next I suppose is a local astro roup, fortunate there is one where I live and they have a reasonable place to observe from on the edge of the town. So darker then my place and as said more dark at midnight.

Without being able to get to somewhere dark, and there really are very few here, you have to make the best of anything you can. The other aspect is realistic expectations, you are not going to see the faintest dimmest DSO's in the NGC.

#14 stevenf

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 02:19 PM

My home doesn't have a backyard, and the front isn't suitable. But I have a nice south facing balcony, and I get a great view of planets and the moon. So I enjoy that and save the DSO viewing for when I'm under dark skies.

#15 chas51

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 06:18 PM

If you can't get to a dark sky site easily, DON'T DO IT! I was warned about doing this several years ago. Yes, you can see with an unaided eye more than you can see at home with your telescope, but as I found out, upon coming home to my sky dome of lights, I just didn't feel like observing for awhile. Once you see the darkness of the sky, it's hard to observe anywhere else, so just stay home and appreciate what you can see.

#16 csrlice12

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 06:50 PM

Oh Chas51, the best filter you can have is the "gas" filter. The in-town skies are still full of wonder. That's when to view the planets and the moon. Jupiter is especially good viewing and Venus in the Morning. Split the double star Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper. There's lots of doubles and even colored stars to see that light pollution doesn't affect much. I know, I live in a White Zone. Just across the neighborhood park from me are skyscrapers. Heart of the Denver Tech Center. Yes, Savour those Dark Sky Trips.....that's the time for galaxies, nebulas, and those other faint fuzzies. There is plenty to view in both types of skies. I originally thought as you, my views are restricted to between 45* and 90* and only to the East and North, but I'm finding things to view. Sometimes I just plug in my 13mm Nagler and Scan the skies for anything interesting--and there's always something interesting...

#17 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:44 AM

So I compromise. I usually travel 10 or 15 minutes to a local park. It's well worth it to obtain a nearly unobstructed view of the sky and complete freedom from streetlights.


Around here parks close at sunset. Is this true for you too, or do you have arrangements with the parks? A dream would be to have a place to go 10-15 min away that is open any night at any hour.


Well, I'm lucky enough to live in a city, where people use the parks extensively night and day. Some of them are technically closed after certain hours, but that rule is hardly ever enforced.

Unused ball fields are a particularly good bet; they're big and treeless.

#18 lamplight

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:03 PM

I do the following, since my situation mirrors yours.

1. I look at the objects I can find from home, of which there's quite a good many through my 10 and 15-inch telescopes.

2. I used light screens to block glare from nearby lights, and it makes a big difference.


agreed. makes a HUGE difference. now that its colder here im kind of glad i have at least _some_ sky views.. and i can take 10 steps to get a fresh hot tea and warm up. mostly can see just east and a little south... last night was able to bag M79, barely! (meaning faintness/ light pollution/ and low altitude).

#19 GeneT

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:59 PM

Just look at the planets, moon, and brighter globulars, and double stars. That's all I can see from my Mag 3 skies from my back yard in San Antonio. I have a site 22 miles from my house that has Mag 4.8 skies where I can see a lot more. I have to travel 90 miles for truly dark skies. I recommend finding a site 10-20 miles from where you live that would be doable with your busy life.

#20 jerwin

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 12:43 AM

There is a book called The Urban Astronomers Guide. He has some tips for trying to find dark places to view, but for me it was nice to just get a list of objects he was able to see within the limits of a larger city. Figured if he could do it then I could find similar objects form the suburbs.

My local astronomy club has a "dark site" about an hour from my home that I try to go to once a month. It's a yellow zone, so not like it's in Arizona or anything like that, but dark enough I can pluck out some galaxies on a good night.

Jim

#21 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 04:32 AM

I, like many others, would love to travel to a dark sky site to do my observations. Unfortunately life won't accomodate it. So, I resign myself to viewing in my yard. Problem is, it isn't ideal. Not by a long shot. But I know I am not alone in this, that others have travelled my road.

My question is this: if you can't travel to a dark sky site, what is the next best thing to do at home, and how do you make it a reality?


I am able to travel frequently to some darker skies but I enjoy stargazing from my backyard as well... I do what I always do, dark skies or not, take what the sky gives and I don't ask for more.

One nice thing about backyarding it is that there is no pressure. Hopes and expectations and effort is tied up in a trip to dark skies and time is limited... if it turns out to be cloudy or the conditions otherwise poor, it can be quite disappointing. From the backyard, you put the equipment away and go to bed...

From my backyard I tend to concentrate of the planets and double stars, both these are essentially unaffected by light pollution. And for deep sky objects, I enjoy viewing anything I can see... clusters are good because they are individual stars so increasing the magnification increases the contrast. Bright Planetary Nebula shine through the light pollution... fainter nebulae and galaxies represent challenges...

One thing that works for me is that I have a number of telescopes, a few are quite fancy but most are simple, basic telescopes I have purchased from Craigslist or Astromart. Using a different scope on different nights adds variety and I find makes it more interesting. One night I might use an 80mm F/11 achromat that is 25 years old, the next my trusty 10 inch GSO Dobsonian.

Jon

#22 izar187

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:04 AM

I've had good results from combining any and all of the countermeasures suggested by everyone. In suburbia screening out intrusive nearby lighting is a big help. A drape over the head or a hood is too. If one can get better dark adapted, then the results can be pretty amazing on nights when there is just less moisture aloft for urban/suburban lighting to illuminate. So anything from hanging a blanket strategically on a clothes line, to constructing portable screens, to some privacy fencing, or even an observatory....all can help. Hunting out local nearby, anything darker and more open observing sites, this helps. As mentioned, sometimes some work better later at night, after traffic is less. I'm inside a suburban forest, with nice neighbors who are all afraid of the dark. My yard is an exercise in frustration due to trees and intrusive light. So I observe pretty much elsewhere these days and am much happier because of it. I find local nearby open horizon places, of successively better darkness the farther afield I go. Multiple optional places to use depending on the sky conditions and my available time.

#23 RTLR 12

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:59 AM

I, like many others, would love to travel to a dark sky site to do my observations. Unfortunately life won't accomodate it. So, I resign myself to viewing in my yard. Problem is, it isn't ideal. Not by a long shot. But I know I am not alone in this, that others have travelled my road.

My question is this: if you can't travel to a dark sky site, what is the next best thing to do at home, and how do you make it a reality?


I am able to travel frequently to some darker skies but I enjoy stargazing from my backyard as well... I do what I always do, dark skies or not, take what the sky gives and I don't ask for more.

One nice thing about backyarding it is that there is no pressure. Hopes and expectations and effort is tied up in a trip to dark skies and time is limited... if it turns out to be cloudy or the conditions otherwise poor, it can be quite disappointing. From the backyard, you put the equipment away and go to bed...

From my backyard I tend to concentrate of the planets and double stars, both these are essentially unaffected by light pollution. And for deep sky objects, I enjoy viewing anything I can see... clusters are good because they are individual stars so increasing the magnification increases the contrast. Bright Planetary Nebula shine through the light pollution... fainter nebulae and galaxies represent challenges...

One thing that works for me is that I have a number of telescopes, a few are quite fancy but most are simple, basic telescopes I have purchased from Craigslist or Astromart. Using a different scope on different nights adds variety and I find makes it more interesting. One night I might use an 80mm F/11 achromat that is 25 years old, the next my trusty 10 inch GSO Dobsonian.

Jon


:waytogo: Me too, Jon...Being on the beach in a fairly dark area and a variety of scopes makes the many nights of viewing I do from home quite enjoyable. Also, being retired I still get to enjoy 100+ days a year at other sites.

Stan

#24 edwincjones

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 11:04 AM

my goal is to have a 30-40" scope on an isolated mountain top in south New Zealand,
and fly back and forth in my private jet, but it is not going to happen

so I observe when I can, where I can
-naked eye
-binoculars
-telescopes

I build an observatory in my yard which helps, in spite of light polution
and just keep going

ONE OBJECT AT A TIME

edj

#25 panhard

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 11:35 AM

efj you and I have a similar dream. :grin:






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