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Which star party has THE best skies?

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#1 Rich56

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 08:19 PM

I know this can be a loaded question and in many ways subjective but here goes.

Which star party has consistently THE best skies?

Now I'm not talking about the one or two nights you experienced at a party back in the day where the nights were exceptional, I'm talking about overall consistency today.

Any opinions?

Thanks,

Rich

#2 dmdouglass

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 08:33 PM

Oh good.
This will be fun to watch !!

#3 City Kid

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 08:47 PM

Are you asking which star party has the darkest skies when it's clear or are you asking which star party has the most nights of clear skies?

#4 David Knisely

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 11:35 PM

Well, in terms of sky quality when the sky is clear, the Nebraska Star Party is at a site that is Bortle Class 1 to 2 depending on the local weather. The skies will often show stars as faint as from 7.4 to even 8.1 to those with sensitive eyes. The site is in the Nebraska Sandhills at an elevation of around 3000 ft with no major towns or cities within a 90 mile radius. In terms of weather, here is a summary for all the NSPs to date:

. . . . WEATHER HISTORY OF NEBRASKA STAR PARTY SKIES . . . . .
. . . . . . . . (1992 to 2012, 7 nights total run) . . . . . . . . .

For the rankings, "mostly clear" means that about 80% or more of
the sky was clear for 3 hours or more; "partly cloudy" means that
observing was possible, but not over very large parts of the sky or
not for at least 3 hours; and "cloudy" means that, other than some
brief "sucker hole" periods, observing was generally not possible.

NSP-1: 1 night cloudy, 0 partly cloudy, 6 mostly clear.
NSP-2: 1 night cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 5 mostly clear.
NSP-3: 2 nights cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-4: 2 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-5: 5 nights cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 1 mostly clear.
NSP-6: 2 nights cloudy, 0 partly cloudy, 5 mostly clear.
NSP-7: 3 nights cloudy, 2 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-8: 2 nights cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-9: 2 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-10: 2 nights cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-11: 2 nights cloudy, 2 partly cloudy, 3 mostly clear.
NSP-12: 1 night cloudy, 4 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-13: 1 night cloudy, 2 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-14: 2 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-15: 0 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-16: 2 nights cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 4 mostly clear.
NSP-17: 1 night cloudy, 1 partly cloudy, 5 mostly clear.
NSP-18: 2 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
NSP-19: 2 nights cloudy, 3 partly cloudy, 2 mostly clear.
-------------------------------------------------------

APPROX. 7-night AVERAGE: 2 nights cloudy, 2 partly cloudy, 3 mostly clear.

RANKING: (2 points for each clear night, 1 for each partly cloudy night,
and 0 points for each cloudy night.

#1 NSP-1: 12 points.
#2 (tie) NSP-2, NSP15, NSP-17: 11 points.
#3 (tie) NSP-6, NSP-13: 10 points.
#4 (tie) NSP-3, NSP-8, NSP-10, and NSP-16: 9 points
#5 (tie) NSP-11, NSP-16 and NSP-12: 8 points.
#6 (tie) NSP-4, NSP-9, NSP-14, NSP-18, and NSP-19: 7 points.
#7 NSP-7: 6 points.
#8 NSP-5: 3 points.

STATISTICS:

Percentage of Mostly Clear nights:
NSP-1: 86%, NSP-2: 71%, NSP-3: 57%, NSP-4: 29%, NSP-5: 14%, NSP-6: 71%
NSP-7: 29%, NSP-8: 57%, NSP-9: 29%, NSP-10: 57%, NSP-11: 43%
NSP-12: 29%, NSP-13: 57%, NSP-14: 29%, NSP-15: 57%, NSP-16: 57%
NSP-17: 71%, NSP-18: 29%, NSP-19: 29%
AVERAGE: 47% of NSP nights mostly clear.

Percentage of Partly cloudy nights:
NSP-1: 0%, NSP-2 14%, NSP-3: 14%, NSP-4: 43%, NSP-5: 14%, NSP-6: 0%
NSP-7: 29%, NSP-8: 14%, NSP-9: 43%. NSP-10: 14%, NSP-11, 29%
NSP-12: 57%, NSP-13: 29%, NSP-14: 43%, NSP-15: 43%, NSP-16: 14%
NSP-17: 14%, NSP-18: 43%, NSP-19: 43%
AVERAGE: 26% of NSP nights partly cloudy.

Percentage of full cloud-out nights:
NSP-1: 14%, NSP-2: 14%, NSP-3: 29%, NSP-4: 29%, NSP-5: 71%, NSP-6: 29%,
NSP-7: 43%, NSP-8: 29%, NSP-9: 29%, NSP-10: 29%, NSP-11: 29%,
NSP-12: 14%, NSP-13: 14%, NSP-14: 29%, NSP-15: 0%, NSP-16: 29%,
NSP-17: 14% NSP-18: 29%: NSP-19: 29%
AVERAGE: 26% of NSP nights cloudy.

#5 Rusty

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 11:57 PM

I'd agree, having been to about 15 different star parties. Two of the other top contenders (TSP and Okie-Tex) I haven't been to, but my 6 trips to the NSP have been very satisfying.

And David isn't exaggerating about 7+ mag being visible unaided.

#6 Doc Willie

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 08:04 AM

No data, but my brother, who has been to several says Texas Star Party had the darkest sky.

#7 Rich56

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 08:13 AM

David,

Well, in terms of sky quality when the sky is clear, the Nebraska Star Party is at a site that is Bortle Class 1 to 2 depending on the local weather.


Considering how flat Nebraska can be, doesn't wind become a factor at this party?

With nights this clear and with Nebraska's flatness, I would imagine that horizon to horizon of stars would be truly amazing!

Rich

PS...also judging by all your stats, are you a member of the NSP promotion team? :lol:

#8 George N

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 09:10 AM

What about seeing?

I've never been to one, but supposedly one of the "features" of the Florida star parties is the frequent excellent seeing.

#9 Tom Polakis

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 10:49 AM

What about seeing?

I've never been to one, but supposedly one of the "features" of the Florida star parties is the frequent excellent seeing.



The seeing at sites in the Western U.S. is best if you can be located above the surrounding terrain. I doubt that many sites do this better than the Oregon Star Party. That site has a great combination of darkness, altitude, and steady seeing. It would be interesting to learn if there is similar weather data as David showed for the Nebraska Star Party. The wildcard at OSP is the possibility that the summer has been too dry, and wildfires in the Cascades are pouring smoke over the Ochocos.

Tom

#10 Rich56

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 11:31 AM

Tom,

Being from So.Calif I've been interested in checking out some of the better star parties in Arizona.

Might you be able to recommend a few of them that have the best skies?

Sorry if this questions a bit off topic.

Thanks,

Rich

#11 Stacy

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 12:17 PM

The seeing at sites in the Western U.S. is best if you can be located above the surrounding terrain. I doubt that many sites do this better than the Oregon Star Party. That site has a great combination of darkness, altitude, and steady seeing. It would be interesting to learn if there is similar weather data as David showed for the Nebraska Star Party. The wildcard at OSP is the possibility that the summer has been too dry, and wildfires in the Cascades are pouring smoke over the Ochocos.

Tom


Concerning OSP I hear 2010 was great, the last year I went, (2011) the smoke (most of it) had cleared but the seeing was terrible. I read reports that said last year was never completely smoke free. I am going this year and hoping for better results, but one good year out of the last three doesn't fill me with confidence.

I went to Table last year and while we had some clear nights, the seeing was ho-hum. Being at 6,400' didn't seem to provide much of a benefit.

#12 David Knisely

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 12:44 PM

David,

Well, in terms of sky quality when the sky is clear, the Nebraska Star Party is at a site that is Bortle Class 1 to 2 depending on the local weather.


Considering how flat Nebraska can be, doesn't wind become a factor at this party?

With nights this clear and with Nebraska's flatness, I would imagine that horizon to horizon of stars would be truly amazing!

Rich

PS...also judging by all your stats, are you a member of the NSP promotion team? :lol:


I actually am on the NSP planning committee (I am the Beginner's Field School Coordinator), but the data is pretty accurate. As for wind, like many of the western star parties, the wind can be a problem at times, although not all the time by any means (helps keep the mosquitoes at bay). That part of Nebraska isn't very flat, as Merritt Reservoir sits in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills, a region of rolling fixed grass-covered dunes that individually can be from 100 to as much as 300 feet in height. Clear skies to you.

#13 Tom Polakis

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 01:21 PM

Tom,

Being from So.Calif I've been interested in checking out some of the better star parties in Arizona.

Might you be able to recommend a few of them that have the best skies?

Sorry if this questions a bit off topic.

Thanks,

Rich




Rich,

The largest one in Arizona is only a week away. The Grand Canyon Star Party is a week long, and meant for the public, but they disappear well before midnight, and the site is plenty dark.

Other that, the Phoenix clubs have a Messier Marathon and the All-Arizona Star Party in March and October, respectively. They are held at a low desert site that's about an hour east of the CA border along I-10.

Tom

#14 rboe

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 01:36 PM

The Wickenburg folks have a monthly (for the most part) public outreach star party (this Saturday will be the last until September or October due to heat and the monsoons).

Pretty much darker than the old All Arizona Star parties held at Farnsworth Ranch and almost as dark as the new site. Seeing is always the biggest issue and I have yet to see it excellent (one night at Farnsworth being the benchmark I have yet to see any night equal it) and is dependent on the jet stream. But we've had some pretty good nights.

#15 LivingNDixie

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 09:36 PM

For the big star parties... Texas Star Party
For small star parties... Cathedral Gorge Star Party (hosed by the LVAS about 3 hours NE of Las Vegas, NV at Cathedral Gorge State Park).

I have no been to the Nebraska Star Party, but I would think haze could be an issue being it is held in the summer.

#16 David Knisely

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 01:10 AM

For the big star parties... Texas Star Party
For small star parties... Cathedral Gorge Star Party (hosed by the LVAS about 3 hours NE of Las Vegas, NV at Cathedral Gorge State Park).

I have no been to the Nebraska Star Party, but I would think haze could be an issue being it is held in the summer.


Generally, low-level summer night haze is not much of a problem at NSP. The humidity on clear days is usually moderately low up there much of the time, with the only "haze" one is likely to see is in the form of occasional high altitude cirrus clouds. The temperature can be 100F during the day and then go down to the upper 50's that same night, which is one reason we tell people to be sure and bring a coat. I recall my first drive from my home (1327 ft elevation) up to Merritt Reservoir (~3000 ft elev.: the site of NSP) in the summer and marveling as how the daytime sky gradually turned a somewhat deeper blue during my trip, especially as I drove through Broken Bow and climbed past the 2500 ft elevation level. At night, clouds are black against the starry night sky, and those who have been to the Texas Star Party say that NSP skies are often on-par with those at TSP. Clear skies to you.

#17 Doc Willie

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 07:48 PM

What about seeing?

I've never been to one, but supposedly one of the "features" of the Florida star parties is the frequent excellent seeing.

I would agree. The sky at the Winter Star Party is steadier, and Texas has the darker sky. Florida probably has more cloudy nights.

#18 MikeBOKC

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 08:50 PM

Either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope did an article a few months back listing what they ranked as the ten best star parties. Okie Tex, Texas and I think Florida were all on the list. A search would probably turn up the article.

#19 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 09:35 PM

The seeing at the Winter Star Party can be superb but it doesn't have extremely dark skies.

Dave Mitsky

#20 Rich56

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 09:45 AM

Mike,

Either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope did an article a few months back listing what they ranked as the ten best star parties. Okie Tex, Texas and I think Florida were all on the list. A search would probably turn up the article.



I remember reading that article and there were more than a few star parties that left me scratching my head wondering why they would include some and exclude others.

I guess they incorporated star parties that were close to populated areas for convenience even though the skies were so-so.

What I'm talkin about on this post are the parties with the best skies, not the closest. :)

#21 astronomania

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 03:28 PM

Mount Bachelor star party at Brothers.
http://www.mbsp.org/

#22 square_peg

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 12:57 AM

The seeing at sites in the Western U.S. is best if you can be located above the surrounding terrain. I doubt that many sites do this better than the Oregon Star Party. That site has a great combination of darkness, altitude, and steady seeing.


Hard to beat the darkness and elevation of OSP. On a good night the constellations just disappear in a sea of stars. And if you never went out at night and just enjoyed the Ochoco National Forest by day it would still be worth the trip. Drawback is the infamous 'Mars dust'.

#23 Bernie Poskus

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 10:58 PM

I have been to the Nebraska Star Party, Okie-Tex and Texas Star Pary, each more than once. I would not want to say any of them have better skies than the other. All three are well worth attending.

My only complaint with Nebraska was the heat and the bugs, but the sky there is incredibly dark, and there are NO light domes, as Valentine (the nearest town, with a population of under 3,000) is about 27 miles away. It's a very mellow, laid-back star party.

Okie-Tex is also without light domes, and is incredibly dark. It does have some wind issues (in '07 or '08, they had an incident which forever christened that year as "Blokie-Tex" since several scopes blew over). But I've had some incredible nights there.

Texas Star Party is also without light domes, and of the three, in my experience, has the most consistent clear skies. I am saying that even after my first TSP, which was in '07, and had only one good night. The other four times I've gone, I had at least 3-4 good nights, and one time, every night of the week was spectacular.

Like I said, all three are worthy of your attendance.

Clear Skies.

#24 omahaastro

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:52 PM

I do wish sometimes NSP were held during the spring or fall... and the heat/bugs would not be an issue. But one of the things that makes NSP such a great star party, is in catering to the whole family, as a summer vacation. Merritt Reservoir is an absolutely fantastic lake for recreation... you literally have your own, hundred foot stretch of sandy beach (fine, soft Sand Hills sand), there is a great children's program, the Valentine High School is a wonderful, air conditioned venue for speakers, Niobrara River has been ranked one of the ten best canoe/kayak rivers in the nation, it really is more than a star party with incredibly dark skies.

Another option is to tie it in to a trip to nearby Black Hills/Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park.

#25 Rich56

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:00 AM

Although I've heard a lot about TSP, doesn't it have high humidity?






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