Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Mid-to Southern CA viewing sites

  • Please log in to reply
58 replies to this topic

#1 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 15 November 2018 - 11:08 PM

I'm planning a trip for the December new moon and am looking for a spot.  Ideally

 

1) Dark

2) Good probability of good seeing (thus driving south from N. CA where the viewing is usually bad)

3) A campground where I can set up a tent not too far from the scope. 

4) If compatible with the above, access to an electrical connection to recharge batteries would be welcome.  Otherwise I'm investing in another battery or two. 

 

Right now I'm looking at the Eastman Lake Recreational area which has some sites next to the lake, and which doesn't seem to have a whole lot of trees from the Google Maps satellite feature.  

 

Suggestions welcome.


Edited by John Tucker, 15 November 2018 - 11:10 PM.


#2 Dynan

Dynan

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1293
  • Joined: 11 Mar 2018
  • Loc: NOLA

Posted 15 November 2018 - 11:43 PM

"Watch out for Snakes!" ~ MST3K

 

Watch out for smoke! ~ Dynan

 

Best of Luck on your travels...



#3 Redbetter

Redbetter

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6464
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2016
  • Loc: Central Valley, CA

Posted 16 November 2018 - 01:22 AM

I'm planning a trip for the December new moon and am looking for a spot.  Ideally

 

1) Dark

2) Good probability of good seeing (thus driving south from N. CA where the viewing is usually bad)

3) A campground where I can set up a tent not too far from the scope. 

4) If compatible with the above, access to an electrical connection to recharge batteries would be welcome.  Otherwise I'm investing in another battery or two. 

 

Right now I'm looking at the Eastman Lake Recreational area which has some sites next to the lake, and which doesn't seem to have a whole lot of trees from the Google Maps satellite feature.  

 

Suggestions welcome.

Eastman Lake is a regular observing spot for the Central Valley Astronomers club.  The club observes in the parking lot next to the boat ramp.  It usually isn't busy during the colder months, other than on the Saturday new Moon public star party nights...when weather cooperates.  The site is Bortle 3 and depending on the weather and season/Milky Way position runs between 21.1 up to a max of 21.5 MPSAS (the latter on the driest, most transparent nights with no Milky Way.)  There is no light in the parking lot.   However, there are lights across the lake about 5/8 mile away IIRC the distance correctly.  Those lights are annoying, but for a shorter scope you can use a vehicle to block them and they have surprisingly little impact on the sky darkness overhead. 

 

There should be plenty of camping spots, but I have only camped there once.  When I did I took my scope to an empty group camping spot (with pavilion) to observe--the spot is the one above the boat ramp parking lot.   There are lights at the bathrooms in the campgrounds, so I didn't consider the campgrounds suitable for observing.   

 

Being at low elevation at the edge of the foothills there is often a cold breeze sweeping down along the site and the seeing usually isn't good in winter.  Poor  late Fall/Winter seeing holds true for much of the valley from what I have seen.  Anticipate some dew and possibly frost.   The glow from Fresno is to the south, so far southerly targets are impacted more, particularly with reduced transparency during colder months.



#4 james7ca

james7ca

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6002
  • Joined: 21 May 2011
  • Loc: San Diego, CA

Posted 16 November 2018 - 03:58 AM

And, watch out for Santa Ana wind conditions. Not only the high winds but it usually does a real job on the seeing conditions (as in bad, very bad).


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#5 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 7042
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 16 November 2018 - 07:26 AM

California is a big place......just where are you planning to be?

 

Alex


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#6 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 73009
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 16 November 2018 - 07:29 AM

California is a big place......just where are you planning to be?

 

Alex

:waytogo:

 

At altitude in the winter, it can be cold and it can be windy.  My own choice for winter viewing is in the low desert east of Joshua Tree National Monument.  

 

Joshua Tree March 2017 1.jpg
 
Jon

  • Astronomerforfun, Migwan, John Tucker and 1 other like this

#7 Starman1

Starman1

    Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 39361
  • Joined: 23 Jun 2003
  • Loc: Los Angeles

Posted 16 November 2018 - 12:51 PM

I'm planning a trip for the December new moon and am looking for a spot.  Ideally

 

1) Dark

2) Good probability of good seeing (thus driving south from N. CA where the viewing is usually bad)

3) A campground where I can set up a tent not too far from the scope. 

4) If compatible with the above, access to an electrical connection to recharge batteries would be welcome.  Otherwise I'm investing in another battery or two. 

 

Right now I'm looking at the Eastman Lake Recreational area which has some sites next to the lake, and which doesn't seem to have a whole lot of trees from the Google Maps satellite feature.  

 

Suggestions welcome.

Take a look at some of these sites:

http://www.cleardark...nia_charts.html

Look for blue or darker LP zones.

Mount Pinos would work for points 1, 2, and 3, but not #4.

You don't say how long you'll be there, but it sounds like < 1 week.


  • David Castillo and John Tucker like this

#8 B 26354

B 26354

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 541
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2017
  • Loc: Southern California semi-desert (NELM mag 5.3)

Posted 16 November 2018 - 01:37 PM

Haven't been to Mount Pinos in almost thirty years. In the '70s and '80s, before the climate shift eliminated the usually-reliable five or six feet of late-December snowpack -- and when the only building in the upper parking lot was a seldom-used tool shed -- I taught myself to telemark up there. Back then, even on weekends, there was hardly ever anyone else up there -- winter or summer. Is the parking now as crowded with telescopes and RVs on dark weekends as I imagine it to be?

 

To the OP... heeding Jon Isaac's words might be wise. The upper parking lot at Pinos is at 8300 feet elevation. Not the warmest place, in December... especially in an unheated tent.  shocked.gif


  • John Tucker likes this

#9 Starman1

Starman1

    Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 39361
  • Joined: 23 Jun 2003
  • Loc: Los Angeles

Posted 16 November 2018 - 01:55 PM

Yes, it's busy and crowded, though much less so in December.

It's also cold.  Prepare for 0°F and if it's 20°F, it'll seem warm 20°F is more common.

A lot of my fairer-weather friends do down the mountain to a 500' altitude site called Chuchupate (there is a clear sky chart),

but there is no tent camping there, only a large flat parking lot.


  • John Tucker likes this

#10 B 26354

B 26354

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 541
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2017
  • Loc: Southern California semi-desert (NELM mag 5.3)

Posted 16 November 2018 - 07:54 PM

???   According to the info on Google Maps, Chuchupate Campground (at ~6200 feet elevation) does have tent camping. Still gonna be really cold, though.

 

Joshua Tree would be my choice... but the floor of Death Valley (or even better, Saline Valley, on its northern border) is nice in December, too. If you're coming from north of Sacramento, you could  cross over to the 395 easily enough. Camping in Saline would be completely primitive, and you'd need a very reliable vehicle.


  • psandelle and John Tucker like this

#11 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 7042
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 16 November 2018 - 08:40 PM

If you are thinking of JTree or east of Coachella, consider GMARS. It has the electricity, concrete pads, plenty of space, and just about everything else. The houses may not be open if nobody is there, but that would not stop you from observing.

 

It's free. Close enough to JTree and the rest to visit them, also. 

 

See links to GMARS at  http://www.rivastro.org/index.php

 

But you still have not told us where you will be in California.

 

 

Alex


  • B. Hebert, james7ca and John Tucker like this

#12 dr.who

dr.who

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 11835
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2012

Posted 16 November 2018 - 11:32 PM

Pinos, Chuchupate, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley are going to be bu**as** cold for California during December. Dress warmly and in layers. It can and does get down to 0* F in all of those locations. Coldest I have been at Chuchupate was in the mid teens. 


  • psandelle and John Tucker like this

#13 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 17 November 2018 - 12:36 AM

If you are thinking of JTree or east of Coachella, consider GMARS. It has the electricity, concrete pads, plenty of space, and just about everything else. The houses may not be open if nobody is there, but that would not stop you from observing.

 

It's free. Close enough to JTree and the rest to visit them, also. 

 

See links to GMARS at  http://www.rivastro.org/index.php

 

But you still have not told us where you will be in California.

 

 

Alex

Thanks.  I'm coming from Oakland and am willing to drive as far as I need to. Less would be better.  So Joshua Tree and Death Valley are doable, but less driving would be nice.  

 

On the other hand, anything good I can get detailed info on is great.  The devil is always in the details when you show up somewhere and it isn't quite what you'd hoped. 

 

Thus far I've avoided places where I'm likely to encounter other viewers.  I'm pretty new to this, tend to have problems figuring out what I'm doing and being organized, and have never really set myself up with laptop tents and the like because I'm mainly taking pictures.  For now its nice to use a flashlight when I need one. 


Edited by John Tucker, 17 November 2018 - 12:51 AM.


#14 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 73009
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 05:20 AM

Pinos, Chuchupate, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley are going to be bu**as** cold for California during December. Dress warmly and in layers. It can and does get down to 0* F in all of those locations. Coldest I have been at Chuchupate was in the mid teens. 

 

Joshua tree is about 3000-4000 feet, it can be rather cool but nothing like 0 degrees F.  I have camped there numerous times, mostly on the way back from the Mojave preserve in the winter, I have never seen it freeze.  Even better are lower elevations.  Desert Center which is off I-10 south east of Joshua Tree is at 656 feet and the highway 177 which heads northeast around the east side of Joshua tree has some very dark skies.  

 

The area around the metropolis of Amboy, California (population 4) is also at about 600 feet and while I have never camped right there, I have been through there numerous times, I think there is camping on BLM land and the skies are quite dark.  

 

In the winter, low elevations are good.. In the summer, high elevations are good.

 

Jon


  • psandelle and John Tucker like this

#15 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 17 November 2018 - 07:18 AM

Thanks everybody.  I'll look into all of these.  Sounds like I'll be doing a bit more driving than I planned initially.  Joshua Tree and its neighborhood and the GMARS site look quite good



#16 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 7042
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 08:36 AM

I kinda don't get it. If you are coming from Oakland, a visit to New Melones Lake is a couple of hours away. The Sierra foothills not much further. I do not know that the extra six or eight hours of driving or whatever gets you all that much more, if anything, than those locations. True, it may be a few degrees warmer, but, really, it will be cold (California cold, anyway) anywhere you go in the desert in Southern California.

 

Alex   



#17 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 73009
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 09:26 AM

Thanks everybody.  I'll look into all of these.  Sounds like I'll be doing a bit more driving than I planned initially.  Joshua Tree and its neighborhood and the GMARS site look quite good

 

I recommend investigating just how dark the various sites are.  Some are significantly darker than others. I use an android app called dark sky map .

 

Jon



#18 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 17 November 2018 - 10:30 AM

I kinda don't get it. If you are coming from Oakland, a visit to New Melones Lake is a couple of hours away. The Sierra foothills not much further. I do not know that the extra six or eight hours of driving or whatever gets you all that much more, if anything, than those locations. True, it may be a few degrees warmer, but, really, it will be cold (California cold, anyway) anywhere you go in the desert in Southern California.

 

Alex   

Well, as I noted in the original post, the seeing in Northern California is usually poor as the jet stream runs overhead a lot of the time. 

 

Also, on the DarkSite map, New Melones (a very nice place to be sure!) is in a green zone.  If I were going to stay close to home, I'd probably go to Lake Sonoma which is equidistant and in a blue zone. 

 

But having said all this, seeing is pretty good at Lake Sonoma right now per ClearDarkSky, so maybe this is more a seasonal issue than I realized. 

 

If you have specific suggestions for the Sierras I'm all ears.  When I look at Google Maps Satellite, a lot of the darker areas are heavily forested.


Edited by John Tucker, 17 November 2018 - 10:38 AM.


#19 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 7042
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 10:34 AM

Remember, Mt. Wilson and Palomar have some of the best seeing in the world. (Well, seeing, not light pollution!). But a mere five miles east or north of them the seeing is destroyed by the nice stratified ocean air falling into the desert. And that desert is where many of us are suggesting you head. So, while you may not like your seeing, be careful with that which you travelled eight hours to get to!!!

 

Alex


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#20 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 17 November 2018 - 10:34 AM

I recommend investigating just how dark the various sites are.  Some are significantly darker than others. I use an android app called dark sky map .

 

Jon

 

Thanks.  I'm familiar with these.  The problem is that a lot of places I've gone based on these maps don't have anywhere obvious to set up.  For example, a lot of state parks in California close their day use areas at 10 pm, and the campsites are severely light polluted by campers using LED lighting.  



#21 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 247
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 17 November 2018 - 10:36 AM

Remember, Mt. Wilson and Palomar have some of the best seeing in the world. (Well, seeing, not light pollution!). But a mere five miles east or north of them the seeing is destroyed by the nice stratified ocean air falling into the desert. And that desert is where many of us are suggesting you head. So, while you may not like your seeing, be careful with that which you travelled eight hours to get to!!!

 

Alex

 

Exactly.  Which is why I'm soliciting opinions here.  ClearDarkSky lists 24 hour predictions on seeing, but I'm not aware of any source on typical seeing conditions at different locations other than to ask people in this forum. 


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#22 Starman1

Starman1

    Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 39361
  • Joined: 23 Jun 2003
  • Loc: Los Angeles

Posted 17 November 2018 - 11:12 AM

And there is no website with accurate seeing predictions, even though there are many with seeing predictions.

Clear Sky Charts are among the worst for accuracy there, at least here in SoCal.

MeteoBlue is usually a bit optimistic.  

http://weather.unisy...0&plot=300&t=4p  is a little better


  • Jon Isaacs, psandelle and John Tucker like this

#23 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 73009
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 02:40 PM

Thanks.  I'm familiar with these.  The problem is that a lot of places I've gone based on these maps don't have anywhere obvious to set up.  For example, a lot of state parks in California close their day use areas at 10 pm, and the campsites are severely light polluted by campers using LED lighting.  

 

In the desert , there's BLM land..  Lots of it. 

 

But. . If you're looking for solid seeing , the desert may well be the wrong place for you .

 

My urban backyard generally has stable seeing so I travel for dark skies .

 

Jon



#24 james7ca

james7ca

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6002
  • Joined: 21 May 2011
  • Loc: San Diego, CA

Posted 17 November 2018 - 04:04 PM

Remember, Mt. Wilson and Palomar have some of the best seeing in the world. (Well, seeing, not light pollution!). But a mere five miles east or north of them the seeing is destroyed by the nice stratified ocean air falling into the desert. And that desert is where many of us are suggesting you head. So, while you may not like your seeing, be careful with that which you travelled eight hours to get to!!!

 

Alex

I don't think you even have to go five miles. Seeing is VERY local and the Palomar Observatory Camp Ground seems to have pretty terrible seeing even though it is only about 1.2 miles from the observatory. The problem, I think, with the Observatory Camp Ground is that it sits near to a narrow downslope from the surrounding higher elevations, so there is a funneled current of air that runs down that slope and that pretty much ruins the seeing conditions.

 

Local conditions like this are one reason why seeing predictions are often wrong. If you could observe from a balloon that was suspended 1000 feet above any of the surrounding terrain or buildings then you could probably depend upon the seeing prediction sites a lot more. As it is, they probably represent not much more than a guess at what could be the BEST that you may get if you happen to live in a good location (but move one mile from that "good" location and things could change significantly and always, I suspect, for the worse). However, most of the prediction sites seem to ignore even fairly large and important weather events like the Santa Ana wind conditions that we get fairly often here in southern California. I've yet to see a Santa Ana condition that produced good seeing and yet the prediction sites often show good seeing on those nights.

 

All that said, the ocean is by far the biggest influence in terms of both seeing and cloud cover where I live and that's another thing that these weather prediction sites often misrepresent. I live inland about six miles from the ocean and you can pretty much depend that from spring until the fall that the vast majority of the nights will be 100% overcast, even though the weather sites often say otherwise. Unfortunately, many of our clear nights happen during Santa Ana wind conditions which blow the low clouds and fog out to sea but with pretty severe consequences for the seeing (as well as producing our disastrous fires, which admittedly are a much more serious issue).


Edited by james7ca, 17 November 2018 - 04:31 PM.

  • Jon Isaacs and John Tucker like this

#25 dr.who

dr.who

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Administrators
  • Posts: 11835
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2012

Posted 17 November 2018 - 04:31 PM

Joshua tree is about 3000-4000 feet, it can be rather cool but nothing like 0 degrees F.  I have camped there numerous times, mostly on the way back from the Mojave preserve in the winter, I have never seen it freeze.  Even better are lower elevations.  Desert Center which is off I-10 south east of Joshua Tree is at 656 feet and the highway 177 which heads northeast around the east side of Joshua tree has some very dark skies.  
 
The area around the metropolis of Amboy, California (population 4) is also at about 600 feet and while I have never camped right there, I have been through there numerous times, I think there is camping on BLM land and the skies are quite dark.  
 
In the winter, low elevations are good.. In the summer, high elevations are good.
 
Jon


I used to camp regularly on the BLM land next to Joshua Tree. BLM lets you do things you can’t do in a National Park. It got that cold back in the early and mid 90’s during the winter months when we were out there.

Speaking of driving, there is a bunch of grey sites between Oakland and Joshua Tree that would e spectacular to view from and much better than what has so far been suggested. I would suggest looking at dark sky finder and selecting sites based on it then coming back here and asking about them.
  • John Tucker likes this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics