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How much difference between SQM 21.9 and 21.95?

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#1 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 01:02 PM

So, I am thinking of buying some land for a weekend dark sky site to escape my Bortle 7 skies at home.  There is an area (around Centerville WA) with good weather at an elevation of about 500 meters that is about 2 hours from my house where the skies are dark (21.89 to 21.90 SQM) and the dirt is cheap.  There is another area a little further out (around Bickleton, WA) at an elevation of about 1,000 meters where the skies are a bit darker (21.95) and the dirt is cheap, but its about 2 hours 45 minutes from my house in town.  So 45 minutes further of a drive.

 

How much difference is there between 21.89/90 and 21.95 SQM?  I am taking the measurements from the light pollution map site, and I have measured a sampling of several sites from each area and also done a radius measurement and the measurements seem pretty consistent for each area.  I am wondering how noticeable is an .05 to .06 improvement on the SQL scale, as measured from the light pollution map page?



#2 jseivert

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 01:47 PM

I would guess there's no noticeable difference. 

 

One thing to consider is encroachment by civilization.  Are they building homes/businesses in that direction?  If so, maybe go for the one a little farther out to give yourself a few more years without light pollution.  If there's no building I'd go with the closer property.  You'll probably use it a little more without 90 extra minutes of drive time, especially if you're doing one night trips.

 

Jeff


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#3 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 02:16 PM

Thanks!  I don't think either area will see significant development in the foreseeable future, since they are both pretty remote in an area that has not seen a lot of development and is zoned for farm and forest uses, with 20 acre minimum lot sizes.  But if there were any significant development, the value would likely increase substantially, so at that point I could sell and buy something further out, and by then I would be pretty close to retirement.

 

There is one nice site that is a full three hours from home that will never see development since it is between an Indian reservation and 640 acres of government land.  It looks like a nice piece of property both for astronomy and recreation, but its an extra two hours round trip from the area near Centerville, so I probably would not use it as much. 



#4 Redbetter

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 02:21 PM

Light pollution maps tend to overestimate how dark things are in this range.  I have a site that shows 21.89 on the map, but the highest I have ever seen there is in the high 21.7 range, with 21.7 being a good night.  I have another site that shows to be 21.95 on the map, but has only hit the mid 21.8's with an SQM-L from what I recall.  Visually it is noticeably darker than the other site on a typical night. 


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#5 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 04:20 PM

Thanks.  So, maybe the extra hour drive would be worth it if the skies are noticeably darker.  This map shows the Bickleton area as dark grey whereas the Centerville area is dark blue transitioning into light grey.  So, maybe the area around Bickleton is noticeably darker.  



#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:04 PM

Thanks.  So, maybe the extra hour drive would be worth it if the skies are noticeably darker.  This map shows the Bickleton area as dark grey whereas the Centerville area is dark blue transitioning into light grey.  So, maybe the area around Bickleton is noticeably darker.  

There's definitely a significant difference between dark blue and dark gray on that map. Moreover, those maps rarely take elevation into account, so the 500 m elevation difference between the two sites would accentuate the difference.

 

For me, a 2-hour drive and a 2.75-hour drive are much the same thing. A serious investment in time, but not totally exhausting. Now if you were comparing a 2-hour drive versus a 4-hour drive, that would be a different story.


Edited by Tony Flanders, 13 June 2019 - 05:04 AM.

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#7 Ron359

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:04 PM

So, I am thinking of buying some land for a weekend dark sky site to escape my Bortle 7 skies at home.  There is an area (around Centerville WA) with good weather at an elevation of about 500 meters that is about 2 hours from my house where the skies are dark (21.89 to 21.90 SQM) and the dirt is cheap.  There is another area a little further out (around Bickleton, WA) at an elevation of about 1,000 meters where the skies are a bit darker (21.95) and the dirt is cheap, but its about 2 hours 45 minutes from my house in town.  So 45 minutes further of a drive.

 

How much difference is there between 21.89/90 and 21.95 SQM?  I am taking the measurements from the light pollution map site, and I have measured a sampling of several sites from each area and also done a radius measurement and the measurements seem pretty consistent for each area.  I am wondering how noticeable is an .05 to .06 improvement on the SQL scale, as measured from the light pollution map page?

Really?!   These tiny differences are well inside the range of accuracy of a SQM and therefore meaningless.  You might want to read this on-going thread:     https://www.cloudyni...ons/?p=9425815'


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#8 Kendahl

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:40 PM

There is one nice site that is a full three hours from home that will never see development since it is between an Indian reservation and 640 acres of government land.  It looks like a nice piece of property both for astronomy and recreation, but its an extra two hours round trip from the area near Centerville, so I probably would not use it as much. 

If you can afford it, that might be property to snap up now and keep for retirement.



#9 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 12:36 AM

Really?! These tiny differences are well inside the range of accuracy of a SQM and therefore meaningless. You might want to read this on-going thread: https://www.cloudyni...ons/?p=9425815'


Thanks. I will take a look at that other thread. So far in this thread I've got two people saying it's immaterial and two people sating it may be noticeablely darker (based in part on additional data from the dark sky finder website).
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#10 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 12:40 AM

If you can afford it, that might be property to snap up now and keep for retirement.

Yeah, I might just do that, although living there full time might be challenging since there is no power for miles, so I would need to do solar with a backup generator or something. But no power for miles also means no local light pollution from neighbors security lights.

#11 Redbetter

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 12:45 AM

Really?!   These tiny differences are well inside the range of accuracy of a SQM and therefore meaningless.  You might want to read this on-going thread:     https://www.cloudyni...ons/?p=9425815'

If you had actually read the post, you might have noticed that these are estimates taken from a light pollution map.  And from using sites with similar values and differences estimated on the map, there is a visual difference to be seen in the real world.  Contrary to your speculation, that difference is also apparent when using an SQM-L meter as well.  Same has been true for another site in between the other two in map readings...and how that reads on the meter.  Same is also true of a Bortle 3 site I use.  One of the things I have learned from actually using a meter is that it has been extremely self-consistent.    

 

What matters here for the OP is translating those estimates into some sort of estimate of real world difference in site darkness.  It takes more than a single estimate to do that, but looking at the map one can consider other factors (such as local terrain, potential growth, which way one will mostly be pointing a scope, etc.)  It has been commonly noted by various members that the light pollution maps tend to be somewhat optimistic the closer to 22.0 the map estimate is.


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#12 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 01:22 AM

That's exactly correct. I'm trying to translate the estimates from the website to estimates of real world differences in perceived darkness.

I've taken multiple estimates from the website from several miles apart all over each of the two areas I am looking at and the estimates all around each area are remarkably similar, with readings from the Bickleton area all being between 21.94 and 21.96 and the readings from Centerville all being between 21.89 and 21.90.

The Bickleton area does seem likely darker based on local characteristics since it is further from the Portland Bortle 9 light dome and closer to an undeveloped wilderness owned by the Yakama Nation. Both the light pollution map and the dark site finder show a fairly dark area that coincides with the Yakama Reservation. Centerville is closer to Portland and further from the Yakama.

Edited by Ihtegla Sar, 13 June 2019 - 01:23 AM.


#13 jseivert

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 07:37 AM

Original question:

"I am wondering how noticeable is an .05 to .06 improvement"

 

However it's measured I still think this difference is not going to be noticed or missed.

 

I also think there are several other things that would make a much bigger impact on the decision.  Most of these have been mentioned but I'll list them here:

 

Travel time

Civilization encroachment

Local vegetation/growth

Direction of scope/good horizon

Under a flight path to an airport???

+500 meters higher is that much less atmosphere to look through

Roads paved, gravel, dirt

Power/water, etc

 

( BTW, I'm not trying to be disrespectful or antagonistic at all, just my 2c )

 

Jeff


Edited by jseivert, 13 June 2019 - 07:37 AM.

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#14 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 10:05 AM

Original question:
"I am wondering how noticeable is an .05 to .06 improvement"

However it's measured I still think this difference is not going to be noticed or missed.

I also think there are several other things that would make a much bigger impact on the decision. Most of these have been mentioned but I'll list them here:

Travel time
Civilization encroachment
Local vegetation/growth
Direction of scope/good horizon
Under a flight path to an airport???
+500 meters higher is that much less atmosphere to look through
Roads paved, gravel, dirt
Power/water, etc

( BTW, I'm not trying to be disrespectful or antagonistic at all, just my 2c )

Jeff

Not to nitpick, but to clarify for others who may be reading, you cut off the end of the quote that specified how it was measured. The actual original question was:

"I am wondering how noticeable is an .05 to .06 improvement on the SQL scale, as measured from the light pollution map page?"

That's how it's measured for purposes of this thread, by the maps. I haven't done any individual readings.

What I'm asking in this thread is how much weight I should put on slight (but consistent) differences in the light pollution maps for two general areas. The area around Centerville and the area around Bickleton. There is a slight but consistent difference of about .05 in the light pollution map and, as discussed, also a slight difference in color in the dark site finder map in the land all around these two general areas.

You are correct that other factors should also be considered. And I would add an additional factor that hasn't been added to the list: Snow. An area that is more remote at higher elevation is less likely to get plowed in the winter and may only be accessible by snow mobile. So that is one more thing I will investigate before buying any particular property.

But, I am not asking for the purpose of site selection. I am asking for the purposes of narrowing down the general area to begin my search, either around Bickleton or Centerville, both of which are big areas with dozens of potentially suitable sites and a lot of variation among individual sites. Obviously I will look at those factors again as applied to individual sites once I start visiting sites, but first I need to narrow down the general area to begin my search.

It sounds like you are saying I should not give much weight to slight map differences as a factor and should look more to other factors. That's the type of feedback I was looking for, so that's helpful.

But there doesn't seem to be consensus on that point since others have said slight differences on the maps colors/numbers can be quite noticeable. If there are darker sites to be had in Bickleton then it might be worthwhile to begin the search there, even though (or maybe because) it is a little further out.

Edited by Ihtegla Sar, 13 June 2019 - 10:11 AM.


#15 Ron359

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 10:58 AM

If you had actually read the post, you might have noticed that these are estimates taken from a light pollution map.  And from using sites with similar values and differences estimated on the map, there is a visual difference to be seen in the real world.  Contrary to your speculation, that difference is also apparent when using an SQM-L meter as well.  Same has been true for another site in between the other two in map readings...and how that reads on the meter.  Same is also true of a Bortle 3 site I use.  One of the things I have learned from actually using a meter is that it has been extremely self-consistent.    

 

What matters here for the OP is translating those estimates into some sort of estimate of real world difference in site darkness.  It takes more than a single estimate to do that, but looking at the map one can consider other factors (such as local terrain, potential growth, which way one will mostly be pointing a scope, etc.)  It has been commonly noted by various members that the light pollution maps tend to be somewhat optimistic the closer to 22.0 the map estimate is.

Sorry Redbetter, but as usual your reactive nattering about my comment have missed the point when the actual OP says:

 

"How much difference is there between 21.89/90 and 21.95 SQM?" -OP is taking the SQM measurements from a map of the readings.  Which is both the Title subject and asked in the OP!   

 

I'm not quibbling with visual reports of particular sites or maps in the discussion, all of which discuss reasonable variations possible.  But the hair splitting  of SQM values v. Bortle scales or other subjective descriptions in hundreds or tenths of mpas is as outright ridiculous and as meaningless as your response.  The facts of the range of accuracy of the SQM are right from the INSTRUCTION sheet (link provided) you get with every SQM from Unihedron, -that no one in these threads seem to read.  You are free to claim the SQM is far more accurate than even Unihedron claims. But only if you wish to further pump up the vol. of hot-air already surrounding your ability as an amateur 'scientist.'

 

There are all sorts of variations to satellite image based maps of LP, from which generation of satellite and instrument used  to the particular weather, climate and night conditions over a particular area when the image was taken.   When I look closely at my area there are usually many small areas within a particular zone that don't make 'sense' to me,  but I don't use them critically to divide tenths of a SQM reading mpas especially near the borders of those zones.  Who knows what mapping algorithms were used to distinguish or separate the 'color' of one zone from another.  Some of that is published in the professional literature or on their websites.  If you really want to know so you can claim to split hairs of mpas on the SQM rats behind, you should contact those who produce those maps and dig into their data sets and the spectral sensitivity of the instruments on the particular satellites used over your particular locations.  But if I did that I'd never get any observing or imaging done.   


Edited by Ron359, 13 June 2019 - 11:33 AM.


#16 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 12:21 PM

It sounds like you are saying I should not give much weight to slight map differences as a factor and should look more to other factors. That's the type of feedback I was looking for, so that's helpful.

I do think that's the bottom line. There are many light-pollution maps, they're not necessarily consistent with each other, and almost all of them are extrapolated from satellite data using simplifying assumptions that do not hold in the real world. In fact the best of the maps say precisely that if you read the fine print in their descriptions.
 

In practice, the only way to judge a site for real is to go there. Preferably on many different nights. The maps may guide you where to look, but they cannot tell you what you'll find when you get there.

There's no use crying over spilt milk, but it would have saved me a good deal of time if you had said lightpollutionmap.info rather than "the light pollution map" -- leaving me to guess which of the 5 to 10 light-pollution maps you were referring to. And in general I find it much better to refer to the colors of the zones -- which are avowedly map-specific -- rather than using pseudo-numeric data like SQM readings or Bortle classes. That avoids any possible confusion whether you're talking about actual readings obtained in the field using SQM units, actual Bortle-class estimates obtained using John Bortle's criteria, or values guessed by some computer algorithm based on satellite data.


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#17 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 01:31 PM

I do think that's the bottom line. There are many light-pollution maps, they're not necessarily consistent with each other, and almost all of them are extrapolated from satellite data using simplifying assumptions that do not hold in the real world. In fact the best of the maps say precisely that if you read the fine print in their descriptions.
 

In practice, the only way to judge a site for real is to go there. Preferably on many different nights. The maps may guide you where to look, but they cannot tell you what you'll find when you get there.

There's no use crying over spilt milk, but it would have saved me a good deal of time if you had said lightpollutionmap.info rather than "the light pollution map" -- leaving me to guess which of the 5 to 10 light-pollution maps you were referring to. And in general I find it much better to refer to the colors of the zones -- which are avowedly map-specific -- rather than using pseudo-numeric data like SQM readings or Bortle classes. That avoids any possible confusion whether you're talking about actual readings obtained in the field using SQM units, actual Bortle-class estimates obtained using John Bortle's criteria, or values guessed by some computer algorithm based on satellite data.

Instead of "guessing" you could have asked which light pollution map I was referring to and I could have told you. 

 

The only two light pollution maps I know about are the light pollution map (lightpollution.info) and the dark sky finder (darkskyfinder.com).  Those are the two that come up at the top of the google searches.  And in this case they are pretty consistent with each other in how they map the areas I am looking at.  If there is another map that is better you would like to point me to I'd be happy to take a look at it.

 

Again, as I have mentioned many times above, this is not about site selection.  It's about using the maps to find a general area where I should start looking . . . the area around Centerville or the area around Bickleton.  Each of those areas consists of a hundred or so square miles with many different sites to choose from.

 

"Going there on many different nights" is obviously the best way but also a huge time sink, so I am trying to narrow down the general area to look somewhat before I start making long trips out there.  



#18 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 02:32 PM

The only two light pollution maps I know about are the light pollution map (lightpollution.info) and the dark sky finder (darkskyfinder.com).  Those are the two that come up at the top of the google searches.  And in this case they are pretty consistent with each other in how they map the areas I am looking at.  If there is another map that is better you would like to point me to I'd be happy to take a look at it.
 
Again, as I have mentioned many times above, this is not about site selection.  It's about using the maps to find a general area where I should start looking . . . the area around Centerville or the area around Bickleton.  Each of those areas consists of a hundred or so square miles with many different sites to choose from.
 
"Going there on many different nights" is obviously the best way but also a huge time sink, so I am trying to narrow down the general area to look somewhat before I start making long trips out there.

Ah, I forget that not everyone has followed these developments in as much detail as I have. The original light-pollution map was The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness. There have been many since then.
 
My personal favorite is David Lorenz's 2006 Light Pollution Atlas, which underlays the light-pollution maps of the Clear Sky Chart and Dark Site Finder websites. (Note that darksitefinder.com is not the same as darkskyfinder.com!) This is the map that you referred to in your second post. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I like its simplicity. And it does correlate well with my experience in my own local area.

 

I actively dislike lightpollutionmap.info because it is too complex. No doubt supplying all that extra info was well-intentioned, but in practice it only tends to muddy even farther some already very muddy waters.

 

With respect to Lorenz's 2006 map, the difference in zones between Centerville and Bickleton is probably not very significant. Centerville is in dark blue and Bickleton is in light gray (not dark gray), and even assuming that the map were 100% accurate, those are adjoining zones, so the difference between the two sites might be arbitrarily small. If Bickleton were in the dark gray, with one full zone separating it from Centerville, I would put more credence in that fact.

 

But an important factor evident from that map that you may have overlooked is that Bickleton's major light source is Yakima, directly to the north, whereas Centerville's is Hood River-The Dalles to the southwest. The southwestern sky matters a lot more than the northern sky as far as astronomy is concerned.

 

Even so, it can't hurt to make an exploratory trip to each, to refine your further searches. Who knows, you may rule one or the other out entirely based on criteria we haven't even thought of. And trips to new dark-sky sites are always fun. I'm just talking two trips, not dozens.


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#19 Ihtegla Sar

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 02:59 PM

Ah, I forget that not everyone has followed these developments in as much detail as I have. The original light-pollution map was The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness. There have been many since then.
 
My personal favorite is David Lorenz's 2006 Light Pollution Atlas, which underlays the light-pollution maps of the Clear Sky Chart and Dark Site Finder websites. (Note that darksitefinder.com is not the same as darkskyfinder.com!) This is the map that you referred to in your second post. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I like its simplicity. And it does correlate well with my experience in my own local area.

 

I actively dislike lightpollutionmap.info because it is too complex. No doubt supplying all that extra info was well-intentioned, but in practice it only tends to muddy even farther some already very muddy waters.

 

With respect to Lorenz's 2006 map, the difference in zones between Centerville and Bickleton is probably not very significant. Centerville is in dark blue and Bickleton is in light gray (not dark gray), and even assuming that the map were 100% accurate, those are adjoining zones, so the difference between the two sites might be arbitrarily small. If Bickleton were in the dark gray, with one full zone separating it from Centerville, I would put more credence in that fact.

 

But an important factor evident from that map that you may have overlooked is that Bickleton's major light source is Yakima, directly to the north, whereas Centerville's is Hood River-The Dalles to the southwest. The southwestern sky matters a lot more than the northern sky as far as astronomy is concerned.

 

Even so, it can't hurt to make an exploratory trip to each, to refine your further searches. Who knows, you may rule one or the other out entirely based on criteria we haven't even thought of. And trips to new dark-sky sites are always fun. I'm just talking two trips, not dozens.

Thanks much Tony.  That is very helpful and just the type of information I was looking for, and you are right, I am just learning the ropes of the light pollution maps and issues, so that type of basic information is most helpful for me.  I will check out the maps you linked and your point about the southwest sky vs the northern sky is very well taken.  I will take a look at both areas but will probably start with Bickleton and focus there more.  There do seem to be some other factors that I am discovering that also favor Bickleton, like a proliferation of wind farms in Centerville and better recreational opportunities in Bickleton for something to do during the day.  Thanks again.


Edited by Ihtegla Sar, 13 June 2019 - 03:03 PM.


#20 csa/montana

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 04:11 PM

Folks, let's please keep this thread respectful in all replies!



#21 Maxtrixbass

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 06:02 PM

 

But an important factor evident from that map that you may have overlooked is that Bickleton's major light source is Yakima, directly to the north, whereas Centerville's is Hood River-The Dalles to the southwest. The southwestern sky matters a lot more than the northern sky as far as astronomy is concerned.

 

Even so, it can't hurt to make an exploratory trip to each, to refine your further searches. Who knows, you may rule one or the other out entirely based on criteria we haven't even thought of. And trips to new dark-sky sites are always fun. I'm just talking two trips, not dozens.

These are both very good points. I'm on Camano which is a reasonable, for civilization anyway, Bortle 4, but the Seattle metropolis is south. If I could redesign the landscape I'd put all that LP north, or maybe east or west....anywhere but south.

 

And there is nothing like actually being there. It could look really good on paper and have some problem none have us have yet imagined (I once lived a 1/4 mile from a mushroom growing building. Every morning when they turned the, umm, dirt, it was a smell that would make your eyes water.




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