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Observing in Western Kansas - Question

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#1 John O'Hara

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 05:42 AM

I'm retiring in late 2025 and we have family in the Hill City area of Kansas.  We may be relocating in that area and I'm encouraged concerning the availability of dark skies compared with my current location in north-west Pennsylvania.  However, I've also heard of the constant winds in that area.  Has anyone observed from there that can comment on that (or other challenges of observing there).  For example, would my 12.5" Dob with a shroud be useless on most nights due to the "shake, rattle and roll" effect?

 

Thanks,
John



#2 Rickster

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 08:21 AM

Hi John,

I grew up in SW Kansas (near Dodge City) which is one of the windiest spots in the US.  I now live in north central Kansas.  And I lived west of Pittsburgh Pa for a year.  The winds are a problem for imaging, but not so much for visual, especially if you can get in the wind shadow of a building.  The winds drop when the sun goes down, but rarely go zero. 

 

The other problem is that we get high altitude scud from the Rockies to the west.  Clouds boil up almost every afternoon in the Rockies.  Prevailing westerly winds bring them to me between 10pm and midnight.  Hill City is 2 hrs west of me, so you will get them sooner.  It limits your observing time in the summer.  The best nights are after a cold front has moved through and the upper level winds are from the northwest.


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#3 Rickster

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 09:12 AM

I should add...On a positive note, the skies here are at least an order of magnitude better than western Pa.  The only time I recall having decent skies in Pa was in the fall.  In the Hill City area I would expect the Milky Way to be startlingly bright and the stars to be electric blue. 


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#4 John O'Hara

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 06:15 PM

Thanks for the reply, Rick.  My club site is about Bortle 4, and I often go to Cherry Springs which is varies between 2 and 3, depending on moisture and haze.  It seems that there are plenty of dark skies in Kansas, but there isn't a lot of public land where one could observe.  I suppose I could strike a deal with a local farmer?  I noted there is a Clear Sky Clock for "Twin Ponds", which I think is Webster State Park.  What months are the best for observing out your way?  I know it can get very hot in the summer.



#5 John O'Hara

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 08:02 PM

I'm guessing there are not a lot of amateur astronomers in West Kansas as I'm not getting a lot of hits.  However, there probably aren't that many people there to begin with which is why it's so dark.  I'm wondering if anyone can recommend any dark sky observing locations in that part of the state.  I realize that some like to keep well kept secrets, but I thought it worth asking. 

 

Has anyone observed from Webster State Park?  If so, is there any place you can go to shield yourself from headlights, campfires and lanterns?



#6 Unknownastron

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 08:18 PM

I've never been to Hill City but I have been through the nearby area several times.  From the map I would guess within a 50 mile radius of Hill City about 80% of it will be great observing.  If you go to Webster Lake to observe and set up away from the boat ramps likely nobody else will be around or know you are there.  The advantage of living where not many others live.  Keep us posted.

Clear skies and clean glass,

Mike 


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#7 gmrv4

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Posted 13 July 2020 - 08:29 PM

Some possibilities for you John:

 

Cedar Bluff State Park 48 miles south of Hill City

Webster State Park 23 miles east

Prairie Dog State Park 40 miles north

 

I have not observed from these locations but I have observed from very similar state parks in Kansas and have had great experiences. Yep can be a bit windy but often it settles after dark. It is amazingly dark out that way.


Edited by gmrv4, 13 July 2020 - 08:58 PM.

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#8 John O'Hara

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Posted 14 July 2020 - 05:48 PM

We're hoping to make a trip out to visit family next spring.  I plan to bring a small scope and camp while out there, so if all goes well and COVID doesn't derail plans, I may get some first hand experience. 

 

One more question, how do spring skies fair for astronomy in that region?

 

Thanks again,

John



#9 John O'Hara

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Posted 15 July 2020 - 06:49 PM

Thanks to everyone who did reply.  I'll re-pose to this topic sometime next year after I have a chance to travel there and see for myself.  However, what I've heard so far sounds very encouraging.  




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