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First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW

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#1 SeptemberEquinox

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:55 PM

I drove about an +hour away from home to get to the darkest sight at around 6000 ft high. I have gone to this locations many times on my bicycles during the day and been there with my telescope, but never on a new moon. All I can say was wow. A friend of mine was complaining about her work as we were getting close to our destination and when we were getting out of the car her complaining stopped and all she said was "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god", at least 30 times. I have never seen a night sky like this ever.

I had all my gears, but I could see the storms coming in and it started to snow, so we just set there for about 20 mins and left. It was hard for me to recognize the constellations, even Orion was hard to see, because of so many bright stars.

I do have one question, I've only done observing in very light polluted areas, what should I expect when I'm observing in last nights condition?


it was really beautiful

#2 City Kid

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:13 PM

I do have one question, I've only done observing in very light polluted areas, what should I expect when I'm observing in last nights condition?

Expect to have your mind blown.

#3 csrlice12

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:16 PM

Sounds like the viewing wouldn't be all that great as it sounds like a front was moving in (clear to snowing in 20 minutes?). Probably turbulent air overhead. It is really WOW though the first time you see all the stars at a dark site. Its not all just about clear skies, there is a lot more to it than that (unfortunately). If the stars "twinkle" more than once or twice a second--the air is turbulent, and you'll see it in your scope on bright objects. The two things affecting the views is Transparancy and Seeing, Transparancy is basically how clear is the air, Seeing is a little more confusing as it involves not only the clear air, but also the wind (air turbulance), where the Jet Stream is, the temperature, and a whole slew of other stuff. That night you are describing, for that 20 minute period, it sounds like transparancy was good, but seeing was probably a mess...

#4 Starman1

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:21 PM

You can get easily spoiled by observing under skies like that. Your scope sees so much more and behaves as if it's several times larger. The same objects you barely see at home are large and bright and detailed.
You should make it a plan to try to make it to a site like that about once a month on the New Moon so you can observe the fainter stuff you can't see in the city.

I spent the entire night on Saturday looking at galaxies and planetary nebulae when I was out in the desert. Conditions were magnificent because all the light from Los Angeles was suppressed by heavy clouds over the city. What you can see is just SO much more than in the city.

Send me your email in a private message and I'll send you my list of the 500 best deep-sky objects. There are, of course, a lot more than 500 objects visible in your 6" under dark skies. I've viewed all of these with a 5" Maksutov.

Now you know why we travel so far to get to dark skies. Pretty soon, you'll start using the light pollution maps to look for even darker points from which to observe. It's a lot cheaper than getting a bigger scope and often more effective. However, a bigger scope AND darker skies............ :foreheadslap: :lol:

#5 bob irvin

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:50 PM

I do have one question, I've only done observing in very light polluted areas, what should I expect when I'm observing in last nights condition?


it was really beautiful


You'll be able to galaxies (maybe for the first time) :jump:

b

#6 Starman81

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:59 PM

SeptemberEquinox, where was the dark site you went to located? Just curious...

#7 GeneT

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:14 PM

Where did you go to view?

#8 zippeee

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:54 PM

It was hard for me to recognize the constellations, even Orion was hard to see, because of so many bright stars.


I know this feeling exactly, it's a bit of a perspective reality check.

#9 SeptemberEquinox

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 12:54 AM

Near Palomar Observatory, maybe quater mile away from the Observatory.

#10 Starman1

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:36 AM

There are sites NE and SE of Palomar that have skies between 0.5 and 0.7 magnitudes darker than Palomar.
But, though they are darker and more impressive, they will not have the visceral impact going from a coastal city to Palomar will have. That is probably 2.5-3 full magnitudes, and that is impressive.

When I go from my home to Desert Center, I gain 4-4.5 magnitudes, and that is so profound I cannot describe it in words. WOWWOWWOW is probably as good as any.

#11 SeptemberEquinox

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:44 AM

There are sites NE and SE of Palomar that have skies between 0.5 and 0.7 magnitudes darker than Palomar.
But, though they are darker and more impressive, they will not have the visceral impact going from a coastal city to Palomar will have. That is probably 2.5-3 full magnitudes, and that is impressive.

When I go from my home to Desert Center, I gain 4-4.5 magnitudes, and that is so profound I cannot describe it in words. WOWWOWWOW is probably as good as any.


LOL, I think I kinda know where you are talking about pass the Lake Henshaw drive towards to Julian. I've ridden my bicycle there multiple times, but I never remember the street name. Riding my bicycle gave me a chance to discover this sight I go, but hey if they got better sights, I'm gamed to find out where it is.

#12 BrooksObs

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 06:38 AM

The truly sad thing in all of the above is that the kind of skies being talked about with such awe and wonder were a nightly feature for anyone living more than 15 miles, or so miles, outside even major U.S. cities in the 1950's and early 60's. Even for a decade after that it required significantly less than an hour's drive, even from NYC, to get such views. Today it's a five hour trip one way...at best.

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#13 Saint Aardvark

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:01 AM

I visited my parents last summer and had the same experience. I saw M101 through binoculars. I can't see M101 through an 8" Dob from where I usually observe. It was absolutely amazing.

#14 leviathan

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:53 AM

No surprise. People nowadays is so used to the grey sky of big cities that views of Milky Way just paralyzes them. :)

#15 mikewirths

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 02:46 PM

A few old observing buddies of mine came up with a non numerical subjective (and silly, possibly slightly offensive to those who do not like crude language) for differing degrees of telescopic views. It could just as easily be applied to naked eye views of the summer milky way.

Attila put it up on his Danko expletive scale of astronomical observing:

http://cleardarksky....etivescale.html

I think its very applicable because lots of people use swear words when confronted with amazing views!

cheers

Mike

#16 Mike B

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 04:51 PM

People nowadays is so used to the grey sky of big cities that views of Milky Way just paralyzes them.


A couple of years ago we had a local star-party, out on the fringes of town- mag ~6 skies. But was dark enough that the MilkyWay was very evident, including detail in its structure. Many there, unfamiliar with the MW's true glory, looked up & thot it was a band of fog moving in from the coast. :lol: Funny... but sad at the same time; folks don't even know what they're missing, or even that they ARE missing anything! :bawling:

what should I expect when I'm observing in last nights condition?


The veil that lifted from your natural eyes, when viewing bare-eyed at a truly dark site, is lifted telescopically as well. So as was stated above, it's like adding inches to your scopes aperture... in some senses. Basically, lots more faint stars come popping out where there was just "grey" in the eyepiece back at home!

Galaxies & faint nebula that were "invisible" in the grey can now be seen... galaxies that were "faint" before now, sometimes, are seen to have companion galaxies attending them. :woot:

It's a lot cheaper than getting a bigger scope and often more effective. However, a bigger scope AND darker skies............


This has a tendency, for some, to get expensive...
:foreheadslap:

#17 Qwickdraw

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 05:07 PM

I do have one question, I've only done observing in very light polluted areas, what should I expect when I'm observing in last nights condition?


it was really beautiful


You'll be able to galaxies (maybe for the first time) :jump:

b


even a naked eye galaxy

#18 Tony Flanders

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 05:10 PM

The truly sad thing in all of the above is that the kind of skies being talked about with such awe and wonder were a nightly feature for anyone living more than 15 miles, or so miles, outside even major U.S. cities in the 1950's and early 60's. Even for a decade after that it required significantly less than an hour's drive, even from NYC, to get such views.


Having grown up spending 9 months a year in NYC and 3 months a year in upstate NY, I am exceedingly skeptical of that statement. To be generous, I will interpret that as 1 hour drive from the outer boundary of NYC -- remembering that from some parts of the city it's almost an hour drive just to get to the boundary.

By the early 1970s the suburbs within 1 hour of the NYC boundary were already quite built up -- probably at least 75% of the current population. Even inside Bear Mountain/Harriman State Park, probably the darkest place within that range, I doubt the skies ever got as dark as magnitude 21.0 per square arcsecond -- which isn't exactly wonderful.

I don't have detailed measurements from my country home a half hour from Albany, but my memory is that the skies there were just about the same in the early 70s as they are today. Which is to say that the Milky Way is readily visible summer and winter but definitely lacking in sparkle and snap.

In fact in one way the skies are better now -- the single biggest light source, the GE plant in Pittsfield, closed shop. A disaster for Pittsfield but good for the skies.

#19 leviathan

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 12:58 AM

People nowadays is so used to the grey sky of big cities that views of Milky Way just paralyzes them.


A couple of years ago we had a local star-party, out on the fringes of town- mag ~6 skies. But was dark enough that the MilkyWay was very evident, including detail in its structure. Many there, unfamiliar with the MW's true glory, looked up & thot it was a band of fog moving in from the coast. :lol: Funny... but sad at the same time; folks don't even know what they're missing, or even that they ARE missing anything! :bawling:

It's sad indeed.

#20 BrooksObs

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:28 AM

The truly sad thing in all of the above is that the kind of skies being talked about with such awe and wonder were a nightly feature for anyone living more than 15 miles, or so miles, outside even major U.S. cities in the 1950's and early 60's. Even for a decade after that it required significantly less than an hour's drive, even from NYC, to get such views.


Having grown up spending 9 months a year in NYC and 3 months a year in upstate NY, I am exceedingly skeptical of that statement. To be generous, I will interpret that as 1 hour drive from the outer boundary of NYC -- remembering that from some parts of the city it's almost an hour drive just to get to the boundary.

By the early 1970s the suburbs within 1 hour of the NYC boundary were already quite built up -- probably at least 75% of the current population. Even inside Bear Mountain/Harriman State Park, probably the darkest place within that range, I doubt the skies ever got as dark as magnitude 21.0 per square arcsecond -- which isn't exactly wonderful.

I don't have detailed measurements from my country home a half hour from Albany, but my memory is that the skies there were just about the same in the early 70s as they are today. Which is to say that the Milky Way is readily visible summer and winter but definitely lacking in sparkle and snap.


Tony, while I cannot speak with any authority as to the stability of dark skies above Albany, be advised that you are dramatically in error about the conditions that prevailed years ago in Westchester and further north. Those were the days of tungsten illumination and the skies just outside major cities were darker than can be found today 75-100 miles away. Night skies immediately outside White Plains NY in the early 60's allowed naked eye detection of 11-12 Pleiades any clear night and up in Dutchess Country at that time sky darkness rivaled Palomar and McDonald Observatories. I know because I had occasions to compare all three myself. Younger hobbyists like yourself honestly have no concept whatever of how dark skies were, and had been for ages, before the coming of Mercury Vapor (and then Sodium Vapor) outdoor street lighting I'm afraid.

BrooksObs

#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:53 AM

Be advised that you are dramatically in error about the conditions that prevailed years ago in Westchester and further north. Those were the days of tungsten illumination and the skies just outside major cities were darker than can be found today 75-100 miles away. Night skies immediately outside White Plains NY in the early 60's allowed naked eye detection of 11-12 Pleiades any clear night and up in Dutchess Country at that time sky darkness rivaled Palomar and McDonald Observatories.


Sorry, when you said "even a decade later," I assumed you were talking about the 1970s.

I imagine some people could see 11 Pleiads outside White Plains in 1960 -- though that has a lot more to do with visual acuity than sky brightness.

And I'm quite sure that parts of Dutchess County then were darker than Palomar now. First of all, Palomar isn't very dark. In addition, the northeast corner of Dutchess is pretty dark right now.

Younger hobbyists like yourself honestly have no concept whatever of how dark skies were, and had been for ages, before the coming of non-tungsten outdoor lighting I'm afraid.


Umm, I'm not exactly a spring chicken. Everybody's childhood seems to have stretched for an eternity, but those "ages" that you're talking about were in fact not very long.

Obviously, skies everywhere were dark before electric lights. But the time lapse between the advent of widespread rural electrification and metal-vapor lights was shorter than between the advent of metal-vapor lights and now.

#22 csrlice12

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:05 AM

Yup, I'd say the skies I had in small town Indiana (Pop 4,000) in the 60s were at least equal to a blue zone dark site now. I can only imagine what New Mexico/Arizona skies were like then. I will say, the darkest I've seen was when I was in Thule, Greenland (no light pollution there).

#23 BrooksObs

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:14 AM

Again, Tony, I must point out that you are just a kid in the hobby compared to my tenure (starting in '54) and undoubtedly never saw the skies in the urban pre Mercury Vapor era. Those just outside White Plains, NY, in the early 60's were NELM 6.5+ and in Dutchess County 7.5+, the latter quite comparable to Palomar at that time. The Gegenschien was a nightly feature of the heavens, sometimes together with the Zodiacal Band. Who can even claiming seeing them anymore? The Milky Way to the naked eye was as sharply structured as many of today's photos when I permanently moved to southern Dutchess in 1970.

Considering that Mercury Vapor lighting and its successors have been with us almost exactly 50 years, then yes the tungsten era lasted only a little longer. However, tungsten was far, far less objectionable and damaging to sky darkness then what came later. Only those still around who were practicing amateur astronomers in that era can truly appreciate how bad things have become.

BrooksObs

#24 Starman1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 11:27 AM

Sigh.
In the late '50s and early '60s in my home town of Terre Haute, Indiana (a city of 80,000 at the time), a mile and a half from downtown i could see magnitude 6.2 stars at night on clear nights (not too common in TH). I'd say it was the equivalent of today's "green zone". Not too bad for being in the city.
Moreover, the city used to turn off all the downtown lights after 11pm (can you imagine that today?) and there were no shopping centers or brightly illuminated car lots at the time.

10 miles outside the city, the skies were as dark as any I've seen in the desert southwest.

I left in Jan.1977 for sunny Southern California.

I went back in 1995, and the population had dropped to 67,000, but there were shopping centers and car lots and brightly illuminated gas stations galore. And mercury vapor lights on every farm and rural yard.
Though I didn't do a magnitude estimate, the Milky Way was no longer visible 5 miles outside of town and only a handful of stars were visible in town.

At least for my home town, night had been banished for its children. People would no longer grow up with the Milky Way overhead and no longer see most of the constellations--ever.

In pursuit of daylight at night, we have robbed our children of the night.
I would hope that everyone reading this thread is already a member of the International Dark Sky Association. They are one of the few organizations effectively fighting for the night skies.

#25 SeptemberEquinox

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 07:11 PM

What can we do to have darker skies??








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