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How to find a dark site

astrophotography beginner observing observatory
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#1 emad

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:00 PM

Hello everyone. Hope you're all safe and healthy.

 

I am new to observing the night sky and don't know of a dark site near me. I am from Erie, PA, US. How can I find out of a public place where I can go at any time of the day? I used this website to find out where the light pollution is minimal from my city but don't know how to find a public place for observing at night.

 

 

Emad


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#2 clusterbuster

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:08 PM

Have you tried to contact a local Astronomy club near you ?  They probably observe at a Dark Sky site...

 Mark


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#3 John Carlini

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:15 PM

This tool may help:

 

https://www.lightpol...FFFFFTFFFFFFFFF


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#4 Napp

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:20 PM

The best way is to contact your local astronomy club.


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#5 ShaulaB

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:44 PM

If you visit this site, you can search for astronomy clubs near you. https://www.astrolea...clubs-usa-state

 

Experienced observers will give the best advice. Always prioritize safety when you are out there.

Best of luck!


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#6 BlueMoon

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 09:53 PM

Something else you can do is check and see about access to state parks in your area. Where I live we have several very dark sites with state parks. As I'm retired, it benefits me to travel to them during the week when they are not real busy with people as on the weekends.

 

Cheers.


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#7 Napp

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Posted 09 August 2020 - 10:18 PM

Following up on BlueMoon's post, here in Florida some state parks are taking advantage of their dark skies to draw stargazers.  Some are simply presenting ranger guided programs or were before the pandemic.  Some are offering their sites for observers to set up if the observers are camping there.  Others are offering overnight access for observing if you are a yearly pass holder or you obtain a pass at the park office in advance.  One state park has taken it to whole other level by having paved observing pads available by reservation.  

 

Back to contacting your local astronomy club.  I am a member of two clubs.  One uses a clearing in a national forest and the other uses a county fairgrounds parking lot.  The national forest site is the darkest but also the most remote.  There is no cell phone service there so we practice the buddy system when we go.  In the event of car trouble it really would be no fun to have to walk 4 or 5 miles on dirt forest roads and lonely paved roads in the middle of the night just to get a cell signal.  My message is that clubs can get you access to great sites and provide and provide safety in desirable remote places.


Edited by Napp, 09 August 2020 - 10:21 PM.

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#8 Hbgdispatcher

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Posted 10 August 2020 - 05:10 PM

If you are looking for something a little father away - Cherry Springs State Park is about a 2 1/2 hour drive away from where you are in Erie - its a State Park dedicated to astronomy and dark sky viewing.


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#9 Migwan

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Posted 10 August 2020 - 08:40 PM

I agree that you should contact a club if you happen to have one near you.   If not you can find a good site using Google maps on satellite view and a light pollution map.   First look for a few possibilities and then drive out to them in the daytime and pick one out.  

 

The Allegheny National Forrest is fairly close by for you and quite dark.  SQM around 21.8.  A bit farther is Susquehannock State Forrest with an SQM around 21.94. 

 

Here is a campground in the former that might be a possibility.  Zoom in and have a look.  I think the larger field has an elevated light in the middle of it, which if so, would be bad.  Anyway, you get the idea.  Zoom out and pan around to see what you can find.  

 

Good luck

 

jd


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#10 CeeKay

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Posted 10 August 2020 - 09:39 PM

1.  Local astronomy club(s) - great resource

2.  Check out the state, county and city parks - call and find out if the allow nighttime/overnight use


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#11 RockyMtnRR

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Posted 11 August 2020 - 02:14 PM

The map noted is your BFF for finding a better spot.  Keep in mind that even a "little" better is astronomically better (PUN INTENDED) especially if you're in a highly light polluted city.   Every little bit is an immediately noticable and welcome improvement.   Get as far as you can reasonably get into darker skies and rest assured it'll always be cool when you get into anything darker than home. laugh.gif

 

Example: 

Home in a big city- White skies - with Mk I eyeball leo's visible, Castor and pollux are visible, but cancer's basically invisible.  You find it with a good map and flailing.  Open and globular clusters are fine in a big scope.  Galaxys may or may not be lense smudges if you see them at all.  Nebulas are things that happen to other people.

 

30 minute drive out of town - Yellow skies -  Lots more stars in your familiar constellations all of a sudden.  Emission Nebulae are sometimes visible.  Globular clusters are very bright now and you can see lots of little grit in them without using averted vision.  Cancer is visible in the sky with averted vision, as is the milky way.

Middle of Nowhere - (day's drive) - Black as black on the light pollution map.   The sky is frankly intimidating with the amount of stuff in it.  Some nebula and clusters will be Naked eye visible as subtley "wrong" stars.  So So So many stars.  Emission Nebulae are brilliant.  Holy cow the galaxies have arms.  Saturn and Jupiter are so bright through the scope it leaves purple dots on your vision.  Reflective Nebulae are visible but still don't look like the hubble pics.  Oh well.


Edited by RockyMtnRR, 11 August 2020 - 02:15 PM.

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#12 Tony Flanders

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Posted 11 August 2020 - 02:26 PM

I have found some of my best sites by driving around during the day and looking for promising spots where I can park without being too conspicuous. But before you actually go out there to observe, I recommend also checking them out on a cloudy night. You may well see lights that you didn't notice during the day, and get a different sense of the feel of a place.

Cemeteries and unlit ball fields are two kinds of public spaces that are often suitable for astronomy.


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#13 DSOGabe

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Posted 11 August 2020 - 02:50 PM

I second the idea of a state park. The one near me does close its gate but they are OK with stargazers setting up in the dirt parking lot


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#14 izar187

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Posted 16 August 2020 - 08:27 AM

I have found some of my best sites by driving around during the day and looking for promising spots where I can park without being too conspicuous. But before you actually go out there to observe, I recommend also checking them out on a cloudy night. You may well see lights that you didn't notice during the day, and get a different sense of the feel of a place.

Cemeteries and unlit ball fields are two kinds of public spaces that are often suitable for astronomy.

This.

You want to check out a site unknown to you, during the day and during the night.

Before committing to hauling a significant gear set up there. 


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#15 treadmarks

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Posted 16 August 2020 - 08:49 AM

I have found some of my best sites by driving around during the day and looking for promising spots where I can park without being too conspicuous. But before you actually go out there to observe, I recommend also checking them out on a cloudy night. You may well see lights that you didn't notice during the day, and get a different sense of the feel of a place.

Cemeteries and unlit ball fields are two kinds of public spaces that are often suitable for astronomy.

I've made the mistake of going to a dark site without first checking it out during the daytime. I have no real sense of whether it's a good or appropriate spot to use a telescope or even just park my car without worrying about a ticket or worse.



#16 jcj380

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Posted 16 August 2020 - 08:53 AM

My order of preference:

 

Local club dark site

Camping in a county / state / federal campground

Renting an AirBnB or VRBO cabin

Pulling off road in random area

 

The club site is an easy drive, but not so easy if I've been out there a long time and I'm tired or have work the next day. 

 

Camping can be hit or miss.  Some campgrounds get swamped with RVs lit up like cruise ships, insanely bright LED lanterns, and the best one I've experienced - a screaming domestic argument at 2 AM.  Plus you need to haul your camping gear in addition to your astro gear.

 

Rentals are obviously more expensive, but you have a bed, a kitchen, a bathroom with running water, and privacy.  I've observed more from rentals now than while camping and I have another trip coming up soon.  This might replace camping entirely as long as I can afford it.

 

Pulling off the road can be dicey from a safety perspective and / or subject to local police taking an interest in you.

 

I might add a cemetery last, although I live very close to one and it has better horizons. I've never observed from it, but the police here keep an eye on things due to  possible vandalism, so I'd have to be pretty stealthy.  Out in the boonies might be a different matter.



#17 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 16 August 2020 - 03:49 PM

Hello everyone. Hope you're all safe and healthy.

 

I am new to observing the night sky and don't know of a dark site near me. I am from Erie, PA, US. How can I find out of a public place where I can go at any time of the day? I used this website to find out where the light pollution is minimal from my city but don't know how to find a public place for observing at night.

 

 

Emad

If you don't mind taking a bit of a drive, Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County is the best dark site in Pennsylvania.

https://www.dcnr.pa....es/default.aspx




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