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csrlice12
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? [Re: mikewirths]
      #5639082 - 01/23/13 03:16 PM

Just purchase some astronomy equipment and bring it with you. You won't have to worry about viewing then......

Edited by csrlice12 (01/23/13 03:17 PM)


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Gordon Rayner
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: mikewirths]
      #5649516 - 01/28/13 11:45 PM

I have been an astro tourist in Baja. Reaching a dark site there in four hours from LA is not realistic, especially considering a probable long wait in line at the border when returning .
The transborder region east of Tecate is now plagued by the unshielded , but yellow, lights at the prison at El Hongo, southeast across the border from the SDAA site at Tierra del Sol, and by the growth of Tecate and Mexicali( which is an especially bad light emitter for its size).

Given more time, a durable pickup or other reasonably high clearanced vehicle ( 4WD not needed, but would be useful/almost essential at one place enroute to Laguna Hanson from the north, for example. My 2WD high clearance pickup slipped and slid uphill on granite in two attempts, southbound, at what I recall to be El Zapo), Laguna Hanson NE of Ensenada, some sites east and southeast of Ensenada, enroute to San Felipe, darker fields around Ojos Negros, if fallow ( habla Espanol ? ( with the tilde on the n)) are some possibilities.

I have not explored off the road to San Felipe after leaving Ojos Negros, except briefly in the daytime, but did not return. There are some deserted ranchy looking sideroads, and little traffic on the main road. There is a dark site, Pino Colorado, listed east of Ojos Negros on the Clear Sky Charts website http://cleardarksky.com . Not as high as Laguna Hanson, but closer to Ensenada( whose light pollution is negligible at that distance, and is often covered by marine layer clouds at night).

If visiting Laguna Hanson, there are many camping and observing sites with unimpeded views. But weekends can be well-used by campers from Ensenada, or well-wheeled Tijuanans coming on the rougher road from the north. Weekdays are practically deserted. Once I did not see even a ranger, on a weekday. There are ample sanitary facilities, but no food that I recall. I think that there was water available. Migratory birds and resident birds use the lake, usually a broad, multi-lobed pond . I watched merlin falcons chasing magpies (? I have forgotten)for sport only, for over an hour.

On the road from Ensenada to Tecate, one can leave the road after it climbs out of the Guadalupe valley. At Ejido Ignacio Zaragossa, turn east, climb on a gravelled road, to the summit. Friendly rancher said "no problem". But many cattle odors. One would choose to sleep in or atop a vehicle, as I did after observing at a more cattle-free, but lower site between the summit and the Ejido.

The road to San Pedro Martir Observatory is paved nearly all the way. Camping at Vallecitos, at 8000 or 9000 feet will give skies extremely dark, with big open clearings for nearly unimpeded views to the south, darker than very dark ( except for residual glow low in the NE from Mexicali) Laguna Hanson ( about 5500 feet). But there can be snow remaining in the meadows below San Pedro Martir observatory in late winter . You might see a zoo-raised condor. I saw two, with big mounted binoculars,gliding high to roost and be fed, above the Meling Ranch, which is not far from the astro/horse rancho of Mike Wirths(in this thread) and his wife. The aspens at high altitude in the fall, between Rancho Meling and the Mexican National Observatory, are shimmering gold.

At the southern end of the Peninsula, hotels,etc. are a lighting problem. Todos Santos can be foggy/marine layery.
I was on a bus and/or bicycle, and only briefly, several times. I suspect that good dark views of Crux and Eta Carinae, are available on the hopefully yet undeveloped dirt(?)road near the shoreline between the East Cape region and San Jose del Cabo. In season , all of Crux can be seen with a clear view to the south around San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, or the East Cape , but it is near the horizon.

A topographic problem is the E-W lying transverse ridges in the region south of La Paz. They block the view to the south from otherwise suitable inland telescope/binocular/camping/ rental sleeping places. Alpha and Beta Centauri may be up sufficiently, but the bottom of Crux might be hidden. The best part of Scorpio , the western part of the bottom of the "tail", is well up.


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careysub
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Gordon Rayner]
      #5669385 - 02/08/13 04:40 PM

The most interesting looking area in the Baja map for getting a good southern horizon view appears on Google Maps as El Conejo (24.075697,-111.006289) on the coast.

It is on the coast south of Highway 1 on the way to La Paz, but actually slightly south of La Paz, in the zone that looks black on the satellite light map.

Although the coast at El Conejo itself faces west if you went up or down the coast from there a a mile or so to get away from strictly local lighting you would be on south-facing coast. Going north on this road from El Conejo would put you deeper into the black zone.

Does anyone know anything at all about this area?

About all I find on-line is this:
"El Conejo is located in Mexico's Baja California region. It's not much of a tourist destination, and other travel spots such as Cabo San Lucas may be more interesting to explore in this area of Mexico."

For astronomers this by itself is a good thing, but some site where you can camp at least is necessary.

It is a long drive from LA or even San Diego, but it looks like in April you could see all of Crux, Alpha Centauri, and Eta Carinae above the horizon, and with Omega Centauri and Centaurus A (etc.) high in the sky. Looks a like a good location for week-long trip.

Edited by careysub (02/08/13 04:56 PM)


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: careysub]
      #5670355 - 02/09/13 09:29 AM

Carey:

I would like to see a light pollution map of the area, do you have a handy link?

My best friend lives in Todos Santos which is somewhat further south between La Paz and Cabo, it's right on the tropic of Cancer. I have never been down there but I will be going sometime soon.

If you haven't driven the road between Tijuana and La Paz, it's a different experience than driving the US two lane roads. Five or six years ago, my friend and his wife were somewhat south of Gruerro Negro and a drunk driver lost control after making a pass and they were hit essentially head on.

I made a rush to rescue them from a Motel room... The roads are narrow, most places there are no shoulders and the road bed is elevated. There are a lot of trucks and their side is just barely wide enough for a truck so you really have to be careful.

As far as camping, I am not sure what it is like now, 40 years ago before drugs were a big thing, you could camp just about anywhere but things have changed.

Jon


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mikewirths
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5670758 - 02/09/13 01:28 PM Attachment (9 downloads)

Gordon, Jon and Carey,

The trouble with any area between La Paz and Cabo is that the best you are going to find is a grey zone, that said the Laguna moutain biosphere reserve has some good altitude sites by the looks of it in the Baja Almanac (plate 52) there is a ranger station right in the heart of the sierra at 1600M (no idea what the horizons might be like though). El Conejo looks easy to get to but its still in the grey zone and has very little elevation.

There is a fairly large strip of black class skies south of Loreto on the east side of the penninsula located in the sierra La Gigante, although the altitude is nothing like the sierra San Pedro Martir, still the stretch of road that leads SW of Loreto passing through San Javier appears to have many sideroads leading into the mountains. This region looks promising for future exploration.

Edited by mikewirths (02/09/13 01:50 PM)


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careysub
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5670831 - 02/09/13 02:14 PM

Quote:

Carey:
I would like to see a light pollution map of the area, do you have a handy link?




I am going by the same satellite data derived map used in an earlier post on this thread. I had previously download the same map (complete) from:

http://www.lightpollution.it/download/global_northam_Vb.zip

Its colors do not exactly match the "color zones" others use to characterize sites, but it should be a good relative guide at least. I suspect that even the "dead black" areas in the map have their darker regions.

Quote:


My best friend lives in Todos Santos which is somewhat further south between La Paz and Cabo, it's right on the tropic of Cancer. I have never been down there but I will be going sometime soon.

If you haven't driven the road between Tijuana and La Paz, it's a different experience than driving the US two lane roads. Five or six years ago, my friend and his wife were somewhat south of Gruerro Negro and a drunk driver lost control after making a pass and they were hit essentially head on.

I made a rush to rescue them from a Motel room... The roads are narrow, most places there are no shoulders and the road bed is elevated. There are a lot of trucks and their side is just barely wide enough for a truck so you really have to be careful.

As far as camping, I am not sure what it is like now, 40 years ago before drugs were a big thing, you could camp just about anywhere but things have changed.

Jon




Thanks - the road conditions were pretty much what I expected to hear (places get reps for a reason).

Unfortunately astronomy vacations involve bulky, heavy, delicate equipment and it is hard and expensive to travel by air with it - so the motivation to drive if possible is strong.

I'll have to get some Baja camping guides (there are a number that are fairly recent). I note that the State Department does not have a travel advisory Baja California Sur. All the problems (in Baja) are in the inhabited areas along the border.

There is a useful video here:
http://www.bajainsider.com/driving-baja/baja-road-report.htm
of a drive from La Paz to Loreto that crosses the same stretch just above La Paz to get to El Conejo. This stretch at least looks about the same conditions (2-lane paved, shoulderless) as 395 to China Lake 30 years ago (my wife and I always traveled by the full moon if he had to go at night) or the Ortega Highway today (I avoid it).

I can't possibly be the only amateur astronomer in Southern California who has thought of going there. I'll have to ask around the RAS to see in anyone knows anything.


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careysub
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: mikewirths]
      #5670917 - 02/09/13 03:28 PM

Quote:

Gordon, Jon and Carey,

The trouble with any area between La Paz and Cabo is that the best you are going to find is a grey zone, that said the Laguna moutain biosphere reserve has some good altitude sites by the looks of it in the Baja Almanac (plate 52) there is a ranger station right in the heart of the sierra at 1600M (no idea what the horizons might be like though). El Conejo looks easy to get to but its still in the grey zone and has very little elevation.

There is a fairly large strip of black class skies south of Loreto on the east side of the penninsula located in the sierra La Gigante, although the altitude is nothing like the sierra San Pedro Martir, still the stretch of road that leads SW of Loreto passing through San Javier appears to have many sideroads leading into the mountains. This region looks promising for future exploration.




Thanks, hearing that the black-map area near the border in "only" gray is what I suspected. Various sources claim that this map matches the Bortle zones, but the match seems approximate comparing Don's descriptions at various sites to the map coloration using Google Earth.

There is only one below the northern counties of California that is black on the map, the Mesquite Springs/Scotty's Castle area in Death Valley. Yet Don describes the area as "grey".

The point of going all the way down to El Conejo, instead of enjoying the dark skies around the Mexico National Observatory much closer to the border, is to see the southern band of sky south of -40, not visible (or not well seen) from home. So getting the absolute blackest skies is less important than getting a view of the southern horizon, and there should be "dark dome" over the ocean. Higher altitude is good, but only if you have a southern horizon view.

The Winter Star Party seems popular even though they view at sea level. El Conejo is about 3.5 degrees farther south. Around El Conejo getting up out of an ocean haze layer at least seems possible if any exists.


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Crazyhorse1876
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: AlaskaIsCold]
      #5671397 - 02/09/13 08:40 PM

If you are going to be stuck just in the Southern California area around L.A./Orange County or the Inland Empire you may want to try "The Greater Orange County Astronomy Starparty" near Lake Elsinore at what they call the Alder Observatory. Also Mt Palomar Observatory and the campgrounds there are about a 25 minute drive south off the I-15 from the Lake Elsinore area. Not at all the dark sky's you may be looking for but just to give you an option if you can't travel far for a day or two while you are in the So Cal area.

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Jon Isaacs
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: careysub]
      #5671971 - 02/10/13 08:44 AM

Quote:

This stretch at least looks about the same conditions (2-lane paved, shoulderless) as 395 to China Lake 30 years ago (my wife and I always traveled by the full moon if he had to go at night) or the Ortega Highway today (I avoid it).




I think the difference is that Baja 1 is the main road so there can be a lot of traffic and there are a lot of trucks. Trucks going the other way can be scary, long lines can buildup behind trucks so a lot of hairy passes by oncoming cars and trucks, you have be ready to drive off the shoulder.

Jon


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Starman1
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5672870 - 02/10/13 06:58 PM

Note:
In SoCal, "marine-layer" clouds often cover the coastal areas at night and suppress light. When that happens, sites to the east get a lot darker.
Under similar optimum conditions, I've seen mag.21.85 at Mt. Pinos, 21.89 at Desert Center and 21.78 at Joshua Tree Nat'l Park (east side)
Those sites are now averaging 21.3, 21.6, and 21.45 respectively.
This seldom happens in Death Valley because the major light polluters are almost never covered by low clouds.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5673769 - 02/11/13 10:21 AM

Quote:

Note:
In SoCal, "marine-layer" clouds often cover the coastal areas at night and suppress light. When that happens, sites to the east get a lot darker.
Under similar optimum conditions, I've seen mag.21.85 at Mt. Pinos, 21.89 at Desert Center and 21.78 at Joshua Tree Nat'l Park (east side)
Those sites are now averaging 21.3, 21.6, and 21.45 respectively.
This seldom happens in Death Valley because the major light polluters are almost never covered by low clouds.






At our place in eastern San Diego county, when the marine layer covers San Diego and clouds cover El Centro-Mexicali to the east, it can be dark, dark.

Jon


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csrlice12
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5673900 - 02/11/13 11:42 AM

"The trouble with any area between La Paz and Cabo is that the best you are going to find is a grey zone"

Oh, the agony, the best you can do is a grey zone....


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Whichwayisnorth
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5674558 - 02/11/13 06:06 PM

I am a member of SDAA and RAS but haven't yet to the SDAA site. I just don't seem to ever have time. For my dark skies I am typically limited to a once a year trip to Mt. Laguna, Borrego Springs for Nightfall (Oct 31-Nov 2nd 2013), and the RAS site at GMARS. I really like Mt. Laguna but it only has restrooms. I don't recall there being showers there. Borrego Springs Palm Canyon Resort for Nightfall is nice in that it is a hotel and camp ground that goes dark for the event even changing out the lights with red lights. Having a nice room with heat/air and hot showers is always a plus. GMARS is nice because there are cement pads available most of the time, there is plenty of room to sleep indoors or camp outdoors. Full kitchen, hot showers and AC power at the telescope. Lots of light domes though.

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Starman1
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Whichwayisnorth]
      #5674585 - 02/11/13 06:28 PM

It's been my experience that Astronomy Clubs tend to pick sites that are a little too close to cities to get the darkest skies. The reasons are many, and often involve what facilities can be installed. But the primary reason is that having a site farther out, where the skies are darker, discourages people from driving the distance to get there.
The GMARS site near Landers, the Anza site of the OCA, and the Lockwood Valley site of the LAAS are good examples.
Each of these sites could have been significantly darker with an additional 50 miles.

The Central Coast Astronomical Society has a couple sites; one of which is close to town, and brighter, the other of which is farther out and WAY darker. Guess which site gets all the traffic, even though the distant site is still ridiculously close by SoCal standards.

So it's always a compromise, it seems.

As an individual, though, you have the ability to travel nearly anywhere. But, even there, the desire to drive the extra distance for an over-nighter may be lacking. I go to the East side of JT Nat'l Park because the West side is just too light-polluted. But 35 additional miles east, the skies are darker. Yet, I often avoid the extra 70 miles round trip just because of the extra time I'd spend on the road. So we each draw our lines at different places.

Mt. Laguna is so close to San Diego, I'd go there all the time if I lived in SD.
Mt. Pinos is the closest dark site to LA, and it's at least 90 miles from West LA. And the slow creep of light pollution is killing that site. Future generations will not experience the darkness we took for granted a generation ago. I expect to see a day fairly soon where the nearest dark sites to LA are a 4-5 hour drive. People will still be going to the closer, more light-polluted, sites because of the distance.

To those contemplating getting away from the city to observe, my advice is to get away from the city. Look at the light pollution maps and consider the blue zones to be as poor as you should accept, and if you can, choose a grey zone site (there are no black zones in SoCal). The difference is profound.


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Whichwayisnorth
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Starman1]
      #5674613 - 02/11/13 06:51 PM

In the case of GMARS it used to be really dark out there. That club has had that sight for a very long time. Very hard to abandon such a developed site. Providence Mountain state preserve and the Mojave National preserve are really dark but those state parks have been closed down so there are no camping locations that I know of.

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Starman1
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Re: So. California Dark Sky Sites, Share your opinion? new [Re: Whichwayisnorth]
      #5675128 - 02/12/13 01:22 AM

Try Afton Campground and Amboy Crater as two sites with dark skies:
http://cleardarksky.com/c/AftnCyCCAkey.html?1
http://cleardarksky.com/c/AmbyCtCAkey.html?1
Both are grey zone sites.


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