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Viewing conditions Westchester County NY

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#1 Ken M.

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 04:32 PM

I am a beginner and have been looking at scopes and I spoke to a local amateur who said that in this general area (Northern Westchester 45 miles north of NYC) the skies are only clear in winter when its very cold outside. For the rest of the year and especially in the summer conditions for decent viewing are very poor. I only really started paying attention to the skies at the start of the winter and i was impressed by how clear the sky was and this started me thinking about pursuing this hobby. The advice given to me has made me question my purchase of a telescope so i'd be interested to hear from someone who can confirm or refute this information given to me.

Thanks,
Ken

#2 Tony Flanders

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 04:41 PM

I am a beginner and have been looking at scopes and I spoke to a local amateur who said that in this general area (Northern Westchester 45 miles north of NYC) the skies are only clear in winter when its very cold outside. For the rest of the year and especially in the summer conditions for decent viewing are very poor.


Westchester County's no different from anywhere else in the Northeast -- except that it doesn't get the lake-effect clouds that plague areas along Lake Erie and Ontario.

Winter generally has good transparency (clear air) when it's not cloudy -- but so do September and October. And good transparency is not especially rare in any season, except July and early August.

As a rule, the most transparent nights are the coldest ones, when a Canadian air mass is coming in from the northwest. But there are exceptions; occasionally you get warm winter nights with good transparency, too.

For viewing the planets, transparency (clear air) is irrelevant; what matters is how stable the air is, for high-powered viewing. As a rule, the seeing (technical term for stable air) is best in mid-summer, when the transparency is worst. But there are plenty of exceptions.

#3 taki53

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:51 PM

Hey Ken,

I live in southern Dutchess not too far from you and I have to say there are great observing nights throughout the year. Maybe you are experiencing light pollution especially if you are near White Plains or Yonkers. Up the Taconic there are some good state parks that you can go observe at. I think one is named Fahnestock State Park still in Putnam. The closer you get to darker skies the better your observing will be. Have fun, it's worth a little travel time.

#4 Dennis_S253

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:07 AM

Are you familiar with the night sky? You don't need a telescope to go outside and look up. Heck you don't even need bino's. Have you downloaded Stellarium? It's free, lots of eye candy, as some people say. The best thing to do is go outside and look up. Give your eye's a few minutes to adjust and see what you can see.

#5 Dennis_S253

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:08 AM

oh, I forgot...Welcome to CN...

#6 BrooksObs

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:06 AM

As someone intimately familiar with observing in NY's Hudson Valley at locations from the northern Bronx to just south of Albany over many decades, let me offer the following perspective regarding conditions.

For anything more serious than casual observing (and other than the planets) southern Westchester is an almost hopeless situation due to light pollution and atmospheric pollutants. Whereas several consecutive nights of clear skies could be counted on following the passage of cold fronts in autumn and winter 30-40 years ago, today one typically gets 24 hours, sometimes even less, of truly clear skies before noticeable deterioration begins.

Northern Westchester and Putnam County, although obviously better than areas further to the south, are somewhat darker with a NELM of ~5.5 on the best of nights. The atmosphere also tends to remain a bit clearer longer than areas to the south. While skies at places like Fahnestock Park might impress folks who have never been out of heavily light polluted areas far to the south they still maintain a relative bright background from massive light pollution to the south (NYC).

Southern Dutchess County slipped into the significantly light polluted category beginning about 20 years ago because of progressive urban sprawl. Best nights south of Poughkeepsie rarely exceed NELM of 5.7 and the sky glow of NYC and its suburbs is still very evident to the south. Serious observing is possibly mainly after midnight as some of the lights begin to be turned off. However, weather circumstances have deteriorated significantly over the years and completely cloudless skies, especially before midnight in winter, have become far less common. Even so, an almost continuous thin high altitude haze is prevalent most days (as it probably is over 90% of the populated NE) and long strings of clear nights, once fairly common, are gone except on rare occasions.

Reasonably dark skies are not truly reached until one is well north of Poughkeepsie. Wilcox Park off the TSP, frequented by the Mid Hudson club, probably is the first real location with truly good skies and a NELM of 6.0 or a bit better. Sites with skies between Bortle class 3-4 (NELM of ~6.5 or a bit better) are not reached until one is in lower Columbia County, about 100 miles north of NYC. Unfortunately, this region is also well within the Mid Hudson's "snow belt" coming off Lake Erie and often suffers excessive cloudiness in winter. Much north of here the lights of Albany begin to dilute the darkness of the skies.

Brooks Obs

#7 REC

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:45 AM

Here's another idea. Take the bridge west over the Hudson to Bear Mtn. Park. There are numerous place you can find and right near the Bear Mtn. bridge, there is a road that takes you all the way to the top and you can see forever from that spot up there. Many more on the way up too. Take a ride some day and look around in daylight or check out the area with Google Earth.

#8 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:56 AM

Take the bridge west over the Hudson to Bear Mtn. Park.


From most of northern Westchester it's more practical to go north. The Bear Mountain Bridge is a tough approach from the east, traversing some of the most rugged (and scenic!) terrain east of the Mississippi. And I betcha that Fahnestock is darker than anywhere in Bear Mountain/Harriman.

But from a backyard in northern Westchester with no directly visible lights shining in your face, the stargazing should be pretty respectable. Better than for most people on Cloudy Nights.

The worst thing is that the brightest glow is exactly where you don't want it -- due south.






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