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

Finding new dark sites

  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 GunArm

GunArm

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 20
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2018
  • Loc: North Texas

Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:37 PM

There aren't any "official" dark sites around me.  I've been to one star party but that's more of a bortle 7-8 meetup.  I've spent a good deal of time looking at light pollution maps and there's one direction I can go and get to a bortle-4 or even 3 in less than two hours.  Of course no known/advertised stargazing sites around there, but I can just drive into that area and look around for a place off the road to set up.  I've done this 3 times, twice coming to a dead end on a long dark country road and setting up there.  This last time I tried to go to a county park but it was closed/gated up for the night and I set up in their 20ft driveway in front of the gate.  Of course over the night I had 5-6 cars come down the road, probably farmers headed to their nearby houses.  Aside from the unfortunate headlights, it's a bit uncomfortable being seen in the middle of nowhere where you clearly don't belong, in the middle of the night, doing something "weird" on the side of the road.  undecided.gif

 

Am I crazy or is anyone/everyone else this "exploratory" in finding sites to set up for several hours?

Given a general vicinity on a map, any tips on finding a space to set up away from lamps, headlights, and trees, where you aren't trespassing in bad faith?  I'd love to find a place I can depend on.


Edited by GunArm, 19 August 2019 - 11:50 PM.


#2 Gary Z

Gary Z

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1392
  • Joined: 26 Jan 2012
  • Loc: New Mexico

Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:42 PM

Where in North Texas are you from?  Maybe we can help locate other areas.


  • PirateMike likes this

#3 aa6ww

aa6ww

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2015
  • Joined: 23 Oct 2011
  • Loc: Sacramento, Calif.

Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:53 PM

I use a combination of google maps, google earth and the light pollution maps and look for paved abandoned cul-de-sacs literally in the middle of no where. It takes time, hrs and hrs, days and days to scan every possible area in the map view and satellite view but I've always found excellent sites.

The latest site Ive found is 35 minutes from my place and has excellent flat open skies for the very short distance away it is. In my case, I just make sure they are public roads with long roads leading to the cul-de-sac so people dont just show up.

So far, its worked great.

I still prefer my back yard since its home, though the short 35 minute drive isnt bad vs the hr and 20 minutes it takes to get to my Astronomical Societies dark site in the Sierra Nevada's.

If you do your observing alone, it could be extremely awkward and maybe even unsafe.

I also have a few close sites, with in 15 minutes from home with flat views to the East and flat views to the West incase I need to be chasing a morning or evening comet.

I use to do my astronomy with a small group of friends but they have basically given up on this hobby so I've gone back to my local astronomical society for my dark sky observing or just enjoy my back yard skies, like I did tonight watching a Jupiter Io shadow transit across the surface of Jupiter tonight.

 

There is something very serene about observing at home in the privacy and comfort of my back yard however.

 

...Ralph


  • ShinySteelRobot, corax, PirateMike and 2 others like this

#4 GunArm

GunArm

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 20
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2018
  • Loc: North Texas

Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:59 PM

The north east of DFW, so heading north east is the quickest way out of the light dome.  There is a lot more to the west, but it's a distance I'd have to be more selective about traveling.  Is there a good website where people share known stargazing sites?  Most of what I can pull off google is all these Top X sites type of listicles that are really watered down.



#5 GunArm

GunArm

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 20
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2018
  • Loc: North Texas

Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:18 AM

Unfortunately my backyard is not an option due to tree coverage.  There are some nearby fields I could go out to but I figure once I pack it up, I might as well drive the car a ways...

Somehow I hadn't considered looking for culdesacs, mainly hoping for parking lots with the lights out, but it seems even out in the country they burn those kilowatts all night every night.

Glad to know I'm not the only one out there exploring though lol.gif


Edited by GunArm, 20 August 2019 - 12:19 AM.


#6 havasman

havasman

    Cosmos

  • ****-
  • Posts: 9741
  • Joined: 04 Aug 2013
  • Loc: Dallas, Texas

Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:20 AM

Join Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas and use the very good and well appointed dark site @ 100 miles N of town. Site is for members' use, owned by TAS and set up for observing. Best $50/year you'll spend on astro. SQM-L averages @ 21.3/21.4 over 5-6 years and darkness is pretty stable over that time.

TEXASASTRO.ORG

 

There are astronomy-friendly state parks west of Ft Worth 1/2 way to Abilene near Strawn and 3rf is near Crowell. But those are farther from you.

 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leads the nation in cooperation with IDA to establish, certify and maintain dark sky conditions at quite a few state parks. I know of none in East Texas but the TPWD website can probably help you find what's out there.


Edited by havasman, 20 August 2019 - 12:32 AM.

  • Dave Mitsky, izar187, bunyon and 3 others like this

#7 GunArm

GunArm

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 20
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2018
  • Loc: North Texas

Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:32 AM

Excellent info! Thanks.


  • Gary Z and havasman like this

#8 DLuders

DLuders

    Gemini

  • *****
  • Posts: 3289
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2017
  • Loc: Spokane, WA

Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:12 AM

Have you used all of these tools?

 

DarkSkyWest (pan & zoom to your location) --  http://www.darkskywe.../system_map.htm

 

ClearDarkSky charts (for Texas) --  http://www.cleardark...tml?Mn=eyepiece

 

LightPollutionMap.info (pan & zoom; use the layers on the top-right corner to see how Light Pollution increases year after year) --  https://www.lightpol...s=B0FFFFFFTFFFF

 

"The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness" (pan & zoom) --  https://cires.colora...rtificial-light



#9 Sam Danigelis

Sam Danigelis

    Mariner 2

  • *****
  • Posts: 250
  • Joined: 22 Apr 2018
  • Loc: Excelsior Springs, MO

Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:26 AM

I've had good success with conservation areas. They tend to be far from city lights, gravel parking areas with no gates. Hunters frequent these spots at odd hours, so it's not unusual to be there yourself. I've also used small country church cemeteries. I don't go inside. Most have small access roads or parking areas adjacent where I set up. So far, no one has questioned me. When you're looking at stars, people know you're ok.
  • izar187 and Jim T like this

#10 BradFran

BradFran

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 346
  • Joined: 12 Jul 2017
  • Loc: Mars

Posted 20 August 2019 - 09:14 AM

Havasman has the right idea. Seek out nearby amateurs with local knowledge. I hope you find something for next new moon!


  • Gary Z likes this

#11 vsteblina

vsteblina

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1772
  • Joined: 05 Nov 2007
  • Loc: Wenatchee, Washington

Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:02 PM

I've had good success with conservation areas. They tend to be far from city lights, gravel parking areas with no gates. Hunters frequent these spots at odd hours, so it's not unusual to be there yourself. I've also used small country church cemeteries. I don't go inside. Most have small access roads or parking areas adjacent where I set up. So far, no one has questioned me. When you're looking at stars, people know you're ok.

I spend a LOT of time hunting and fishing at these sites in Washington state. Never seen another amateur astronomer at these sites. Measured skies at 21.8 at many sites....and given how light polluted Washington state is....that is pretty good.

 

Most sites are lower elevation so have great horizons in all directions. Well, they do in eastern Washington since we are mostly desert so your not dodging trees.

 

Camping is FREE with a hunting or fishing license. IF you don’t hunt or fish there is a nominal fee for a access permit.

 

You can even ask on the various state hunting and fishing forums about the dark skies at the areas. Since your not competing in hunting or fishing with them they are more than willing to share camping and sky information with you.

 

Just be sure to ask about light domes rather than how dark the skies are.....urban folks have a much different definition of dark than astronomers.


  • BradFran likes this

#12 Philler

Philler

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1512
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Olathe, Ks. USA

Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:09 PM

The north east of DFW, so heading north east is the quickest way out of the light dome.  There is a lot more to the west, but it's a distance I'd have to be more selective about traveling.  Is there a good website where people share known stargazing sites?  Most of what I can pull off google is all these Top X sites type of listicles that are really watered down.

If you don't mind doing some extra driving like a two day observing trip, then the Texas Panhandle near Childress Tx there's a couple of first rate Bortle 2 IDA state parks: Copper Beaks SP and Caprocks Canyon State Park.  Also north of there just across into Oklahoma is Black Kettle National Grassland.

I have used Copper Breaks on three different nights: it's very dark and the only vehicle that came by was the park ranger.  You will need to pay for a camping spot, either primitive or electrical, at the office if you are going to stay after 10pm.  It's the same for Caprocks SP.  

I have never been to Black Kettle NG. It is not as dark according to the dark sky finders as Copper Breaks and Caprocks.


Edited by Philler, 20 August 2019 - 10:43 PM.



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