Varies greatly, but an hour way there is some nice dark sky on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southern Va.
I'm moving to an area that will be quite cloudy but also borders Bortle Class 3 skies.
30min from my door will be this facility
Anyway, I'm retiring in about 6 years and will gladly take long journeys to where the dark clear skies are out west.
Even with poor skies and light pollution, planetary is ready to go. Seeing is what matters though. Great seeing and high light pollution is fine! Again, for planets (most of the big close ones anyways). It's great to go for an excellent optical set, long focal-ratio or not, big aperture and all, but without excellent seeing, it will be a fuzzy mess rather than a sharp contrasty image of course. I think this is likely why lots of people use 4~5" ED/APO fracs as their planet scopes, to maximize the incoming light while keeping an aperture that reveals detail but doesn't require seeing levels that are excellent to see get a contrasty bright view (plus the lower setup time, no thermal acclimation really, etc, versus some huge heavy mirrors).
I think two scopes would be great, side by side or co-mounted. A 4" frac and/or a 10" newtonian with good optics, closer to F5 and F6 than F4 and a set of binos. Two options so that you can get nice views under poor and excellent seeing conditions, also happens to be great for all subject matter in the sky really. For cost, the 4" F11 ED's are low cost but offer very good views for this sort of thing. And if seeing is great, a 250mm F5~F6 will really show off.
Personally I use a 200mm F6 Quartz newtonian. I'd love to go bigger, but I also don't like the idea of ever moving something bigger outside of my observatory, so for non-obs scopes, I keep them portable enough. I also do not like dob-bases due to the materials, I'd want it to be all metal. I'm in Florida. Florida is not friendly to non-metal and I'm not about to baby some cheap particle/ply or whatever cheap dobs are made of, and I'm not spending top dollar on a custom dob. I'd rather have a beefy alt-az and keep it simple and fast with the 8" for now. Maybe one day I'll get a metal dob frame and go 16". But that's a big maybe.
Edited by MalVeauX, 27 January 2020 - 09:00 AM.