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I Want a Astronomy Vacation ! Any Tips?

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#1 elisek

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:12 AM

Hi. [Note: I also posted this as a reply in a post on Arizona Expo in the Specialty Forum, so I hope its ok to do this.] I live in Massachusetts, and y'all seem to know alot so here goes: I need to go on a astronomy vacation for 1 person that will be cheap but amazing. Do you have any suggestions? Even if I go soon? I was thinking Arizona (take a plane - then rent a car - go to observatories, etc.) or Florida, Caribbean.... but i'm open to which ever has the most astronomical related places to see, with the least worry. Are there any people who have had a great time somewhere and how'd you travel around? Because I'll be a single travelor are there guide astronomer tours for this sort of thing that'll take care of the driving?. I'm open to all suggestions and places where i can pack light (take only binos, backpack scope, or look through other people's scopes??? yet do all night deep space observing too. Thanks!!

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 08:23 AM

I believe theres an astronomy village forming in New Mexico, belive I read it from another one on these forums. New Mexico would certainly fit the bill for Dark Skies/Dry Weather, and its not an expensive place to live.

#3 MikeBOKC

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 08:56 AM

Why not make one of the big star parties like Texas or Okie Tex? A week at minimal expense in the company of a few hundred like-minded souls. Scopes big, small and huge. Vendors. Lectures. What more could one ask? Total immersion at a guaranteed dark site!

#4 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

True This Is......

#5 Jay_Bird

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:15 AM

I'd suggest reviewing a few resources to find the 'best' star party for you - the star party suggestion above is good. Another option I'll expand is outreach star parties at destinations with a variety of daytime activities or sights.

The star parties folder within Cloudynights forums has a new thread for 2013 star parties with links.

Sky and Telescope's website www.skypub.com has links to star parties, and astronomy clubs by state.

Florida's winter star party season is underway, I think, and that's a fine destination for wildlife, ocean or gulf and astronomy.

Living in the southwest I may be biased but I think that this region is your best bet. How about the Grand Canyon Star Party "GCSP" in early-mid June? There are other star parties or astronomy festivals at SW USA National Parks that would let you view through many scopes, talk with dozens of volunteer astronomers, and stay up with the hardier volunteers for more observing. Aside from the June 8-16 GCSP, there are similar events between May and September at Bryce Canyon in Utah, Great Basin in Nevada and Yellowstone in Wyoming/Montana, just to name a few; spring and fall have 2-day events at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada or Death Valley in California too.

There are astronomy destinations to visit like Lowell Observatory (you can stay for public viewing most nights) and Kitt Peak in Arizona; Griffith Observatory and more in Los Angeles; and Missile Range, Robert Goddard, and Space History museums near White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns near Alamogordo in southern New Mexico.

Tyler Nordgren's book, "Stars Above, Earth Below" is a good companion to National Park astronomy. The National Park service website has links to the growing number of star parties, look under www.nps.gov

I imagine there are some dark sky sites and star parties in your New England area down to PA, VA, NJ mid-Atlantic states, one of those could be used as a trial for this astronomy travel idea if you want.

Flying then driving is a good plan. My family and I drive 500 - 1,200 mile round trips to regional outreach star parties and enjoy the hikes, nature/wildlife views or local museums, culture, food, etc., on these trips. We weave in places to see along the way, and sometimes stock up for birthdays and holidays with local food or gift items from different states.

We've flown with 80mm short refractor and binoculars in carry-on and a solid photo tripod in checked bag; under dark skies portable equipment won't disappoint.

Good luck!

#6 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:45 AM

+1 on New Mexico. Used to have to traverse the White Sands area. Talk about middle of nowhere. Can't remember the exit off I-25, but the Owl Cafe is there (best danged green-chili cheeseburgers in the world). Just go down that road a few miles, there's tons of places to view, plenty of old homesites, etc.....nobody to bother you....of course, it is close to the old nuclear test site....so alien abductions are commonplace......and the road eventually does take you to Roswell.......

#7 StarStuff1

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 05:15 PM

About 15 years ago my wife and I visited the Carribean island of Tobago (T&T or Trinidad and Tobago). Very dark skies, friendly people who speak English, and not expensive other than air fare and that wasn't really too bad. Being at 10° latitude there are many new objects to observe.I took an 80mm refractor and 14x70 binoculars and we had a great time

#8 ScumotheUniverse

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 06:59 PM

You had the right idea to begin with. Fly and rent a car or van. Here is a nice list of observatories in AZ. http://www.go-astron...te.php?State=AZ Besides observatories there a number of places to visit for the scientifically minded, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and Meteor Crater (although highly commercialized today). If you are into pseudoscience you could visit Sedona or even Travis Walton in Snowflake.

For actual observing you might find a dark sky here.
http://upload.wikime...l_Diablo,_20...

#9 GeneT

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 08:59 PM

Drive from Tonapah Nevada to Ely Nevada. Stop anywhere along the way for truly dark skies and excellent desert viewing.

#10 csrlice12

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 08:47 AM

Like that between Taos NM and Las Vegas NM too, no lights, no buildings, just dark.....

#11 Jay_Bird

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 01:11 PM

As I read the OP’s question in a few different forums, they are seeking advice for:

• Astronomy vacation with observing under dark skies or observatory visits

• Flying in to a region then driving a rented vehicle

• Traveling alone, bringing at most a compact scope or binoculars along on trip

• With safety a consideration, seeking a destination with other astronomers and scopes to share -- not a remote roadside pullout

• Longer duration trip (week plus)


Elisek, what were you considering for lodging? ‘Yavapai lodge’ at Grand Canyon offers motel-like rooms walking distance from telescopes at GCSP, and Mather campground is almost as close, with widely spaced tent and RV sites that seem secure (and have some shade too). Some other star parties have cabins to rent ahead of time, otherwise a drive to and from the observing site, or else tent camping (unless you rent an RV) might be required.

1) For all-astronomy event, a observer-focused star party like the Okie-Tex, Texas Star Party, Nebraska Star Party, Enchanted Skies Star Party (westernmost of these, near Socorro NM), etc., will have little or no public outreach and are focused on night time amateur observing, with daytime non-astronomy activities secondary (aside from solar observing, and usually an extensive daytime astronomy speaker program). These locations have very dark skies.

2) For a wider range of activities National Park outreach-focused star parties, with the Grand Canyon Star Party ‘GCSP’ having the longest duration through two June weekends, offer more daytime non-astronomy activity (aside from solar observing and some, but more limited, daytime talks) like hiking, scenic location, etc. Bryce Canyon in UT might be 2nd place at 4-5 days for ‘biggest/longest astronomy festival’ after GCSP; and Great Basin in NV is a more remote and less visited park but their 3-4 day festival has really dark skies. Many volunteers stay set up for hours after the public participants retire for the night, so there are ‘serious’ observing opportunities for hours after ~ 1030-11 PM each night. NV (Great Basin and other locations all more than a couple hours from Las Vegas) and UT (Bryce Canyon, and points east from there in south-central UT) have truly dark skies; and the skies at GCSP on the South Rim in AZ surprised me, exceeding my expectations both for an open horizon and very dark deep sky views.

3) The OP could also or instead go to an observing ‘resort’ like Star Hill Inn, etc., there are several places like this in NM, AZ, and also Baja California (Mexico). These cater to a person or small group who wants to use the resort’s telescope(s).


Observatories or museums, or other regional gems -- like Carlsbad/White Sands/Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge, if going to NM; or Petrified Forest/Painted Desert/Wupatki/Meteor Crater, from GCSP -- can be fit into the trip easily based on either type of star party above.

The biggest star parties, like those listed under 1) and 2) above, are planned for minimal impact from moonlight. In the SW USA, early summer is a safer bet than late summer with greater chance of 'monsoon' afternoon thunderstorms. While these can disrupt camping they don't always spoil an entire night of observing.

#12 Skylook123

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 04:01 PM

Thanks for the commercial about GCSP, Jay_Bird. I'd add a couple of facts about that one, since I've most familiar with it. First, it's a public outreach event at a very dark site at 7000 feet. If you want to associate with a GREAT group of astronomers who are eager to share their experiences and knowledge with each other and the public, it's a good place to go. The statistics continue to amaze me; during the eight night session, we'll have about 110 astronomers for part or all of the week. Average sized scope is about 8" with a range from 10X50 binoculars through 28" truss dobs. Last year we had as many as 1450 visitors a night. The public absolutely loves us. Some of us do solar, lunar, and planetary work in the daytime as well at several locations around the park. Yavapai Lodge is one of five different "hard walled" places to stay, but starting to get a bit pricey at $165 a night. Some of the astronomers choose Bright Angel Lodge, a bit further away but much cheaper. As Jay said, there is also rough/dry camping at Mather campground where about half of the astronomers camp - gorgeous location, and our social center. And there is Trailer Village alongside Mather, with full RV hookups.

The bad news is that lodging fills fast, so if you do intend more than a night or two stay, you'll need to book something soon.

For more about the event, and lodging hints, check the links here:
Grand Canyon Star Party Thread

#13 Skylook123

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 06:12 PM

And of course, if the Southwest in considered, there are so many unique activities available. When they visit the Grand Canyon, I usually recommend that people research Lowell Observatory's excellent visitor opportunities both day and night, Meteor (Barringer) Crater, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater, Antelope Canyon, The Petrified Forest, The Painted Desert, Sedona, and of course the tremedous opportunities at the Grand Canyon are just a few of the realtively near by opportunities. Paria Canyon has an outstanding cultural site of archaeoastronomy with over 3000 years as an observatory shown on many rock panels of Native American (Navajo, Hopi, Paiute, Lakota, etc.) astronomical cultural drawings, and, further east, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico where the Pueblo Culture performed extensive astronomical studies for over 300 years and now has a permanent astronomer presence. Bryce to the west also has periodic astronomers in residence. And, finally, within the Grand Canyon, you can set up a telescope anywhere not restricted as long as you don't impede traffic. Don't be surprised if the occasional visitor stops by, though.

#14 BarbMoore

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:48 AM

We like being in the middle of nowhere NM. Seriously though if you come to Alamogordo/Southcentral New Mexico, the Amateur Astronomers Group hosts monthly star parties at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park which is just 8 miles outside of Alamogordo.

Amateur Astronomers Group

#15 BarbMoore

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 09:16 AM

And the Amateur Astronomers Group specializes in public outreach.

#16 edwincjones

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 06:09 AM

not cheap, but the star party forum has an announcement for an Australia trip next month

Jay Bird,
I donot think that the StarHill Inn is in business now, but New Mexico Skies is an option, also not cheap but great location, optics (I like the 25"), great support from staff.

Camping in the National Parks is a cheap option with beautiful surroundings.

edj

#17 Darenwh

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:11 AM

Don't forget the Big Island of Hawaii. Visit an active volcano, world class observatories, and observe using the many scopes found at the visitor center. Combine that with the rest of what Hawaii has to offer and you really have a great astronomy vacation. Not the cheapest but it can be done for far less than some people believe.

#18 csrlice12

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:32 AM

If you have a military connection, the Navy/Marines have a small site near Volcano Nat'l Park where you can rent furnished cabins...a lot cheaper then hotels, and you are very close to the park, and it's dark up there (not built up, plenty of clear areas to set up a scope)...

#19 rflinn68

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:00 PM

I would love to go to the Nebraska Star Party this year.

http://www.nebraskastarparty.org/






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