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Death Valley newest Inernational Dark Sky Park

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#1 Dark Sky Scott

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:00 PM

Posted with permission, here is the IDA press release on Death Valley:

Death Valley National Park Designated as Largest International Dark Sky Park

Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North America, is reaching to new heights as today the International Dark-Sky Association announces its designation as the world's newest and largest "Gold Tier" International Dark Sky Park.

The park is distant enough from the large cities of the southwest so that much of the night sky above the desert floor is near pristine and, in many places, offers views close to what could be seen before the rise of cities. The skies there are affected by only the smallest amounts of light pollution classifying it at the highest level of IDA designation and star-filled skies, the "Gold Tier". Astronomical objects seen there are available only to some of the darkest locations across the globe.

"Death Valley is a place to gaze in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way, follow a lunar eclipse, track a meteor shower, or simply reflect on your place in the universe," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "We greatly appreciate the International Dark-Sky Association certification. It illustrates the park's commitment to protect natural darkness and supports the wider mission to protect nightscapes of the entire National Park System."

The park prides itself on the sense of solitude and quiet found there, yet it still attracts nearly a million visitors per year. While Death Valley is comprised of rugged wilderness areas and is famous for its extreme climate, the night skies above the park are as fragile as the land below. The 3.4 million acre park is largely free of its own sources of light pollution but the lights of distant Las Vegas and other cities do have an impact on the park's skies and desert nightlife.

IDA Executive Director Bob Parks says, "Death Valley's night skies are a thing of beauty that everyone should have a chance to see. We hope that the action the park has taken to preserve the night sky within its borders will inspire surrounding communities to follow their example."

Death Valley staff, volunteers, and members of the local astronomy clubs agree. Through the park's public outreach programs they all hope to raise awareness in nearby cities of the need to use quality dark sky friendly fixtures when upgrading lighting.

Death Valley's goals are also engaging the owners of private properties within the park, such as Xanterra Parks and Resorts to improve lighting. Rich Jones, Regional General Manager of Xanterra, stated in his letter of support for Death Valley's application, "...we sincerely believe in the importance of protecting and enhancing opportunities for visitors and residents to see unparalleled sights in the night sky...I see no reason why this initiative would yield anything but positive results." Xanterra plans to continue its lighting upgrades with goals of improving the night sky over Death Valley.

Death Valley IDSP hosts regular astronomy and dark sky awareness events. Coming up is the 2nd annual Mars Fest on March 1-3, 2013. Learn more by visiting http://www.nps.gov/d.../lightscape.htm and IDA's page on International Dark Sky Places www.darksky.org/parks

About the IDSPlaces Program:
IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began four communities, four reserves, and ten parks have also received Dark Sky status.

#2 JakeSaloranta

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 11:59 AM

Nice!

"The 3.4 million acre park is largely free of its own sources of light pollution" - Stovepipe Wells had really badly placed outdoor lights. Hopefully they'll fix that asap.

PS. Double post btw... see mountain monk's post below.

/Jake

#3 Astro One

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:10 PM

Planning on doing more observing in the park. Mesquite Springs campground is a well known place to go, but I am not thrilled about 30 campsites. I'd like to find a site in or near the park which meets my laundry list of criteria. The site should have low horizons, little to none in the way of trees, can be reached in a regular vehicle, is in a black zone, and, is at least two miles (off of the pavement) on a gravel road. Even better is if one can drive out well away from the primary road for solitude. One possible area is in the vicinity of Eureka Dunes. Does anyone have ideas.

#4 gmartin02

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:03 PM

Eureka Valley (Eureka Dunes area) is a pretty darn good place to do some scoping - I've been there a couple of times. Depending on where you are in the valley, you can get a little horizon cut off to the east or west, but south & north are low horizons. Eureka Valley is an "open camping" area of the park, and it is pretty easy to access from US 395 - Death Valley road is paved all the way from 395 until it reaches the valley, then it becomes a maintained gravel road. The 2 times I went I drove on Death Valley Road about 6 miles after the end of the pavement towards the east side of the valley. There is a pull out spot on the north side of the road that is the beginning of a 4x4 road. I just scope there & car camp over night. You could go to the Eureka Dunes campground in the south end of the valley, but that road is pretty washboarded.

Even if you are just off Death Valley road in Eureka Valley, you won't find many cars around. The two times I went there I saw one car each night.

There is another spot I like in Death Valley that is off the beaten path and is about 60 miles closer than Eureka Valley from So Cal: Lee Flat.

Lee Flat is on Saline Valley road, about 9 miles north of CA 190. The road is actually paved from CA 190 until it reaches Lee Flat. (if you can call it that - it hasn't been repaved in 50 years and there are lots of deep potholes, but it is passable in a regular car, just don't try to drive at 50 mph)

Lee Flat is not quite as dark as Eureka Valley (it is in the "gray zone" right on the border of the "black zone"), but it is an hour less driving for me, and since it is up on kind of a plateau (~5300 ft elevation), has fairly low horizons in most directions. Also, this is an "open camping" area with lots of side roads, and almost no vehicle traffic over night.

Attached is a picture from Lee Flat from a couple of years ago. Side note: Lee Flat has the largest collection of Joshua Trees in the park - really a beautiful, relatively unknown place.

Attached Files



#5 mountain monk

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:22 PM

Eureka Dunes is my favorite spot in Death Valley. Very dark skies, solitude, and an interesting hike up the dunes. I first went there in 1967---and it hasn't changed much. Nine bows for that.

Dark skies.

Jack

#6 Illinois

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:55 AM

Thats great and not good in summer! 120's degrees!

What about Illinois?

#7 Astro One

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for your recommendations on sites in Death Valley. Lee Flat sounds very good. Also, I definitely need to get out to Eureka Dunes as I've never seen them. When I do go there I'll check out the site along Big Pine Rd. Also, thanks for the photo of Lee Flat. I determined the elevation there to be 5,300.' In that it is on the edge of a black area I would think the elevation would be a factor to make that site compete well with Eureka Dunes at 2,000' lower, and ditto with Mesquite Springs. To me it is interesting to understand what makes one site better than another. I've heard that down at sea level in the desert one often gets poor seeing. Further, I've heard that ideally you want to locate somewhere between 3,500 to 9,000.' And, though not certain, I think one is better to be in a gray zone that is close to a black zone than being in a grey zone that is more distant from one. When I look at the cross mark on a grey CSC I wonder if some areas of that grey zone are better than others, depending on how far away from brighter areas on the same chart. If any one has ideas on this I'd be quite interested. Also, if there is a mountain between you and the lighter areas I should think that would help, at least it would block out the light dome. Thanks again for the excellent suggestions.
Steve
Yucaipa, CA

#8 csa/montana

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:45 PM

Steve, Welcome to Cloudy Nights! Glad you joined us, and got the assistance you can use!

#9 magic612

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:19 PM

Thats great and not good in summer! 120's degrees!

What about Illinois?


Homer Glen is a Dark Sky Community.

http://www.homerglen...ntlDarkSky.aspx

Also, there is a decent observing site near Braidwood IL, here:

http://www.observing...ds_il.htm#braid

Better, but farther, is Green River:

http://www.observing...ds_il.htm#dixon

#10 Geoff M

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 05:24 PM

Planning on doing more observing in the park. Mesquite Springs campground is a well known place to go, but I am not thrilled about 30 campsites. I'd like to find a site in or near the park which meets my laundry list of criteria. The site should have low horizons, little to none in the way of trees, can be reached in a regular vehicle, is in a black zone, and, is at least two miles (off of the pavement) on a gravel road. Even better is if one can drive out well away from the primary road for solitude. One possible area is in the vicinity of Eureka Dunes. Does anyone have ideas.


Eureka valley Rocks...definitely darker than Death Valley proper. On my first solo Messier Marathon (bagged 106 objects without computer aid), the brightness of Venus was really bugging me(lol), and I kept mistaking the Vegas light dome with sunrise...good times...I always wanted to snowboard the dunes!

#11 mountain monk

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:01 PM

Yes, as I keep saying here on CN, the Eureka Valley is as dark as it gets, IMHO. The upper Saline Valley, too. But they are not for the faint of heart; they are dark and empty and quiet and lonely. I once spent several days there without seeing another person, and I was just at my truck, not backpacking. It is also spooky. Unfortunately, I ended up remembering the colossal irradiated ants of THEM, and then obsessing about columns of THEM coming over the hill, until one night when I was sleeping on the ground I was sniffed by a (I believe Kangaroo?) rat. That was it. Out of here!

Dark skies.

Jack

#12 Illinois

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 07:19 AM

Thats great and not good in summer! 120's degrees!

What about Illinois?


Homer Glen is a Dark Sky Community.

http://www.homerglen...ntlDarkSky.aspx

Also, there is a decent observing site near Braidwood IL, here:

http://www.observing...ds_il.htm#braid

Better, but farther, is Green River:

http://www.observing...ds_il.htm#dixon



I know and I moved to near Dixon. About 25 minutes drive to Green River. My backyard is light orange/yellow zone and I can see 5th mag on good night.

What about Illinois? I mean where is International Dark Sky Park in Illinois? :shrug:

#13 GeneT

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 08:45 PM

Thats great and not good in summer! 120's degrees!



As long as you view at night, its not too bad. :lol:

#14 GeneT

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 08:45 PM

This is great news! :jump:






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