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Best Observing Area's in the USA

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#1 StarTrooper

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 09:59 AM

Contemplating a move. Where in the USA are the best area's for observing. Clear skies, minimal clouds, no smog, dark skies away from city lights, etc. New Mexico? Arizona?

 

Thanks



#2 wrvond

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:15 AM

I recommend reading this existing thread:

 

https://www.cloudyni...-absolute-best/


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#3 StarTrooper

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:23 AM

Thank you



#4 Cotts

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 01:42 PM

For deep sky, go west of the 100º meridian and further south for the driest/sunniest region.  Therefore good transparency and a goodly number of useful nights.  Bonus points for being far from a city for darkness.  Seeing, however can range from decent to horrible depending on local terrain, jet stream etc..

 

If you are consumed by planetary/lunar/double star high resolution  more than deep sky consider south Florida and, especially, the Keys where the seeing is consistently the best in the entire CONUS.  But not quite as transparent and not nearly as dark as the SW....

 

I'm Canadian so I greatly envy your available choices - we've go nothing up here to compare...

 

Dave



#5 Heywood

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 01:43 PM

For deep sky, go west of the 100º meridian and further south for the driest/sunniest region. Therefore good transparency and a goodly number of useful nights. Bonus points for being far from a city for darkness. Seeing, however can range from decent to horrible depending on local terrain, jet stream etc..

If you are consumed by planetary/lunar/double star high resolution more than deep sky consider south Florida and, especially, the Keys where the seeing is consistently the best in the entire CONUS. But not quite as transparent and not nearly as dark as the SW....

I'm Canadian so I greatly envy your available choices - we've go nothing up here to compare...

Dave

In Florida one has to contend with heat, humidity, hurricanes, and crime. No, thanks!

Edited by Heywood, 18 January 2022 - 01:44 PM.


#6 Cotts

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 02:05 PM

In Florida one has to contend with heat, humidity, hurricanes, and crime. No, thanks!

Personally, I agree.  But OP wants suggestions.

 

I think I would try Fort Davis or Alpine TX if I could...  Maybe I will 'snowbird' there in a couple of years.  Just rent a house outside town for January to April....

 

Dave
 


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#7 Rickycardo

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 02:16 PM

Southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are terrible places. Riddled with sand worms, aliens (ET), chupacabras, continuous cloud cover and a strange dome overhead that creates spherical aberration for every telescope and camera lens.

Yep, the south west is not the place to go for dark skies. No sir, nope, just don't do it.

cool.gif


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#8 BFaucett

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 04:16 PM

...<snip>...
 
I think I would try Fort Davis or Alpine TX if I could...  Maybe I will 'snowbird' there in a couple of years.  Just rent a house outside town for January to April....
 
Dave


I have not visited the area but I have thought about doing so. I thought I'd share some of the links that I've previously perused.
 
Alpine, Texas

https://visitalpinetx.com/

https://en.wikipedia...i/Alpine,_Texas

 
Fort Davis, Texas

https://fortdavis.com/

https://en.wikipedia...rt_Davis,_Texas

 
Marfa, Texas

https://visitmarfa.com/

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Marfa,_Texas

 
Marathon, Texas

https://www.marathontexas.com/

https://en.wikipedia...Marathon,_Texas

 
Marathon Motel & RV Park

https://www.marathonmotel.com/

 
McDonald Observatory is located about 30 miles northwest of Alpine, Texas. See map below. 

https://mcdonaldobservatory.org/

 

 

Alpine, Texas

alpine.jpg

Image from the Wikipedia link above.

 

 

The text below is from the park websites. 
 
Cheers! Bob F. smile.gif
 
 
Big Bend Ranch State Park
 

Stargazing
Darkest Skies in Texas

 

For the best night skies in Tex­as, head west. Big Bend Ranch State Park sits in the darkest area of the state. After all, we are on the other side of nowhere.

 

The International Dark-Sky Association designated Big Bend Ranch State Park a gold tier Dark Sky Park in 2018.

 

On a moonless night in April 2017, rangers set out to measure the darkness. They took 39 readings at 13 sites in the park using a hand-held photometric device called a Sky Quality Meter (SQM). ... The mean SQM reading for that night was 21.73. According to the International Dark Sky Association guidelines, a value between 21 and 22 is considered exceptionally dark.

 

https://tpwd.texas.g...anch/dark-skies

 
 
Big Bend National Park
 

Big Bend National Park is known as one of the outstanding places in North America for stargazing. In fact, it has the least light pollution of any other national park unit in the lower 48 states. One factor that makes this possible is simply the sparse human occupation of this region.

 

In 2012, Big Bend National Park was awarded International Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark-Sky Association. This process involved measuring and mitigating excess lighting in the park. The Natural Sounds and Night Skies division of the National Park Service has determined that Big Bend has the darkest night skies of any national park in the lower 48 states. Our neighbor, Big Bend Ranch State Park, is also an International Dark Sky Park. The combined protected dark skies in the Big Bend is 1,112,000 acres!

 

https://www.nps.gov/.../stargazing.htm

 

 
Google Maps link: https://www.google.c...3.5685851,8.83z

 


map-1.jpg
 


The location of McDonald Observatory:

 

map-2.jpg

 


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#9 jcj380

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 04:43 PM

Southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are terrible places. Riddled with sand worms, aliens (ET), chupacabras, [...]

Burrito Parilla was supposed to put chupacabras on the menu, but I haven't seen them yet.
 


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#10 George N

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:14 PM

Hawaii -- stay away from the volcanos and big cities - prepare for earthquakes and typhoons - bring a snow shovel if you plan to observe at the Keck Observatory (and a tank of O2).

 

Several friends have recommended the Keck visitors' center as an excellent place to set up a big Dob.


Edited by George N, 18 January 2022 - 10:14 PM.

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#11 Jeff B1

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 06:46 AM

In Florida one has to contend with heat, humidity, hurricanes, and crime. No, thanks!

"In Florida one has to contend with heat, humidity, hurricanes, and crime."  Surely you jest!  Well, I have contended with heat, humidity, hurricanes and way-less crime than 99% of the "woke" USA, for 50 years and still will not move to the hot/mostly cold, mostly cloudy/humid, tornado/blizzard/flooding and criminal rot of the "woke" USA -- if you paid me to. 

 

While the "snowbirds" have migrated here with their trillions of watts of wasted outdoor lightening, that flood the sky with glow; the atmospheric seeing and clear skies here are way, far better than most places I have observed for the past 75 tears.  But; who am I? Just a lowly planet watcher.    


Edited by Jeff B1, 19 January 2022 - 09:23 AM.

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#12 Jeff B1

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 06:50 AM

But, on second thought; please go west where they need more outdoor lightening and crime. lol.gif


Edited by Jeff B1, 19 January 2022 - 09:23 AM.

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#13 MrRoberts

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 09:21 AM

Moved down to S-AZ this this past April. Coming from NE IL (B6'ish) to here (B3'ish) was quite a revelation in this hobby. Yes, we have cloudy days/nights just like most places and yes June/July/August we pack up the equip due to heat/humidity (monsoon season). But we also get many periods of clear, clean atmosphere. And when those days arrive, it's just WOW blush.gif

And yes, I know I am missing a doblol.gif Trust me I'm looking waytogo.gif

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#14 Jeff B1

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 09:31 AM

Moved down to S-AZ this this past April. Coming from NE IL (B6'ish) to here (B3'ish) was quite a revelation in this hobby. Yes, we have cloudy days/nights just like most places and yes June/July/August we pack up the equip due to heat/humidity (monsoon season). But we also get many periods of clear, clean atmosphere. And when those days arrive, it's just WOW blush.gif

And yes, I know I am missing a doblol.gif Trust me I'm looking waytogo.gif

We, old-late friends, and I used to observe in Flagstaff, AZ and would see clearly DSO's right down to the horizon.  Many a night the seeing and transparency were excellent.  I really miss using the scopes out at Anderson Mesa when we observed Mars in great conditions.  I also lived in Tucson for awhile in 1970 and even though was and am a hot weather airman, we would escape the 110+ temps and drive up on Mount Lemmon to cool off. lol.gif  Been there, done that many times.


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#15 alphatripleplus

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 09:55 AM

Hawaii -- stay away from the volcanos and big cities - prepare for earthquakes and typhoons - bring a snow shovel if you plan to observe at the Keck Observatory (and a tank of O2).

 

Several friends have recommended the Keck visitors' center as an excellent place to set up a big Dob.

Sounds good to me  based on what I've heard as well.


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#16 firemachine69

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 10:13 AM

For deep sky, go west of the 100º meridian and further south for the driest/sunniest region.  Therefore good transparency and a goodly number of useful nights.  Bonus points for being far from a city for darkness.  Seeing, however can range from decent to horrible depending on local terrain, jet stream etc..

 

If you are consumed by planetary/lunar/double star high resolution  more than deep sky consider south Florida and, especially, the Keys where the seeing is consistently the best in the entire CONUS.  But not quite as transparent and not nearly as dark as the SW....

 

I'm Canadian so I greatly envy your available choices - we've go nothing up here to compare...

 

Dave

 

 

 

Manitoulin Island. Except, transparency, as it it pretty close to the great lakes.



#17 airbleeder

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 12:54 PM

In Florida one has to contend with heat, humidity, hurricanes, and crime. No, thanks!

  I can think of quite a few states with more crime than Florida. 



#18 Far-Out

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 01:01 PM

Flagstaff is the home of Lowell observatory. It’s an IDA dark sky city.

At Sunset  Volcano park, I’ve done star Parties. Dark skies . Cool summers. Mild winters.


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#19 ElectricLungfish

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 01:07 PM

Just spent some time in SW New Mexico near Gila. Would definitely recommend.

#20 Jeff B1

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 01:46 PM

Flagstaff is the home of Lowell observatory. It’s an IDA dark sky city.

At Sunset  Volcano park, I’ve done star Parties. Dark skies . Cool summers. Mild winters.

If I could afford it Flagstaff would be my 2nd home.  While most of my friends there are long gone, assumed room temperature, the people are great and Mexican restaurants are as well.  Some toys near Flagstaff we played with were also great.  

 

flagg.jpg


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#21 Far-Out

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Posted 19 January 2022 - 02:59 PM

If I could afford it Flagstaff would be my 2nd home.  While most of my friends there are long gone, assumed room temperature, the people are great and Mexican restaurants are as well.  Some toys near Flagstaff we played with were also great.  

 

attachicon.gifflagg.jpg

 

Jeff,

Flagstaff got expensive, college towns have a way of doing that, plus reasonable climate. Many people have second homes.  I live about an hour away. Nice skies where I live but not like Flagstaff. If anyone can swing it , it’s a dream place to observe. Plus access to the newer Giovanni observing deck.

Several nice scopes available for public viewing. They have trained astronomy at each scope. 
I have fun wherever I’m at observing.
 



#22 CBM1970

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Posted 20 January 2022 - 12:45 PM

Ok. If I had a giant bag of money, and the ability to buy/build a house anywhere, with the best possible backyard astronomy being my primary concern, I'd move to the windward side of the CA central coast somewhere between Big Sur and San Simeon.  

 

There was a 1984 study done that showed a 5,000+ foot mountain peak in that area likely has the best seeing in the lower 48.  Apparently it was unavailable, so the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy put a 36 inch scope on a ridge in the same mountain range. Here is their website, bragging about the seeing conditions.https://www.mira.org/about.htm

 

Based on the maps, most of the area is still Bortle 2. I have been in a car on that section of highway 1 at night and it is scary dark (made scarier by the nearly ever present cliff that drops to the ocean on the west side of the road for most of its length between Monterey and San Simeon).

 

Most of the land is public. I once camped with a group that had special permission to stay on a nature preserve belonging to the University of CA there. You could walk 5 minutes from the campsite where a steep slope dropped 2,000 feet to the Pacific. We watched the fog roll in far below us and everyone commented on the amazing dark skies (this was not an astronomy trip).

 

Halfway up the hill (at about 1,000 feet?) was a "grandfathered house" that predated the preserve. There was nothing but a steep downslope between it and the ocean, and airflow is coming from the flat wide ocean nearly all the time. There are other homes scattered about the area. This sparsely inhabited area of coast stretches for many tens of miles, and a Google Earth search showed a fair number of homes/private land, but pretty sparse development.

 

Of course, there is crazy fire and mudslide danger, and I shudder to think of what the land/houses must cost in that area.

 

Still, the temperature is equable, the skies dark and steady, and the woodlands in those mountains look like something out of a fairy tale. 

 

So, if I could choose any place in the United States to do backyard astronomy...


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#23 edwincjones

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Posted 20 January 2022 - 02:48 PM

As someone has mentioned of a similar thread, go where the pros put their big scopes.

 

edj



#24 JoshH

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Posted 20 January 2022 - 03:11 PM

Personally, I agree.  But OP wants suggestions.

 

I think I would try Fort Davis or Alpine TX if I could...  Maybe I will 'snowbird' there in a couple of years.  Just rent a house outside town for January to April....

 

Dave
 

How do you feel about houseguests? lol.gif  I'll bring my guitar....


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#25 Rickycardo

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Posted 20 January 2022 - 03:27 PM

Maybe you could pick a spot along US50 in Nevada. It's claimed to be the loneliest road in America. No people, no lights. I'm planning that road in my RV in the future. Should be worth a couple of nights or more.




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