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Give yourself to the dark side! Joining a dark site community and the specifics of observing/relaxing?

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#1 HouseBuilder328

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 01:11 PM

One of my goals/dreams has been to go to a dark site and maybe even on a regular basis at some point after my kids grow up just a bit more (ages 8 and 4 right now) where I would be able to leave on an overnight trip, since all the dark sites close to Raleigh, NC require an overnight visit.   Wanted to get some opinions from the wonderful community here.

 

I live in a suburb of Raleigh, NC, so around Bortle 6.  I once traveled out west to the NC mountain near Mill Spring, NC (rated Bortle 4), and I couldn't believe the amount of stars I could see by just walking outside 1 night.  

 

What do you guys think of establishing some kind of membership to a dark site that I can visit from time to time?  Apparently, there are public sites and private observing groups?   

 

The two I found that are 5 hours drive for me is Deerlick in GA and Cave Mountain Observatory in Upper Tract, WV (http://www.cavemtn.com).  The Cave Mountain site looks more intriguing since it seems like the darkest site on the east coast, less cloud cover due to geography and more privacy.  Is Deerlick very busy and tons of people on weekends?  I don't know the cost of Deerlick, but Cave Mountain in WV is $175 a year which includes a micro cabin, outhouse and some other facilities.  Cave mountain is a private observatory group to request membership in so much less people.  I'm not sure how often I would take advantage of a 5 hour drive site - I'm not aware of any other sites other than finding a state park and camping somewhere in there (anyone else in my geographical area?)

 

I'm just not sure when to try something like this - I would take some light equipment and binoculars.  I DO NOT do astrophotography.  I have an SUV so I would probably sleep in the back in there.  I could also try a tent.  I'm just not sure with young kids right now - it's something I want to do but seems like maybe in about 2 years, I could do it.  



#2 Bob4BVM

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:07 PM

Do not wait, do it now !

Your kids are not too young, rather are perfect age for this.

We took our boys camping to wild places from the time they could walk as toddlers.

In the earliest years we loaded them and the camp gear into a big canoe and camped at far ends or islands of some wild lakes. As they grew a little we also added hike-in camp outs, as well as many car-camping excursions.

These experiences are burned into our memories as some of the best times we've had together. Nothing better for 4 & 8 year old kids (or their parents for that matter)

 

Needless to say, the night sky in many of those places was stunning, something that was not lost on them, or us. The further away you can get from cities, the better it will be.

Do not miss your opportunity to create these memories at their age.

Just go do it !

 

CS
Bob


Edited by Bob4BVM, 16 February 2024 - 02:15 PM.

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#3 ShaulaB

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:33 PM

Astronomy clubs often have favorite dark sky sites that are  known to, and used by, members. Some sites are public, some are on private land.  Have you investigated astronomy clubs near you? Since you live in what has been called the "Research Triangle," I would bet there are active astro clubs. Here is a link https://www.go-astro...te.php?State=NC

 

I live in a heavily light=polluted suburb of St. Louis. Driving 90 minutes west, there are state Conservation Areas which allow telescope viewing and imaging. The places are Bortle 3-4. The rangers actually like having us out at these areas because we help keep the drug dealers away. We just avoid going during deer season.

 

Your children will soon be old enough to join you and help with camping.. We did family camping in the Southwest when our kids were little with a 10 inch Dob, and we all had fun.


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#4 RiderRoy

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:37 PM

You have an astronomy club in your area. And their website says they have access to dark sites. raleighastro.org

 

You won't regret becoming part of an active club. 


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#5 BFaucett

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Posted 16 February 2024 - 02:43 PM

You have an astronomy club in your area. And their website says they have access to dark sites. raleighastro.org

 

You won't regret becoming part of an active club. 

 

Just adding a clickable link:  https://raleighastro.org/

 

Cheers! Bob F. smile.gif


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#6 stargazer1

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Posted 17 February 2024 - 04:15 AM

I agree with Bob. Take your kids. We started taking our kids when they were very young. They loved camping and adventuring. They weren't much into astronomy. That came later, but we found ways to make it fun for them. They're adults, but the things we did because of astronomy trips are treasured parts of themselves. Now my daughter wants to ensure that her son (our grandson) gets to experience the same thing she did, and gets to wander through a field full of telescopes. 


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#7 HouseBuilder328

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for the suggestions.  I'll start with the local astronomy club and taking the kids with me to closer dark sites.   Then I'll figure out what to do about private observing clubs with access to areas, like CMOR in West Virginia.  

 

There's just something about the phrase "Darkest site on the eastern US" that gets me excited these days!  Probably because of the encroaching light pollution everywhere on the planet.


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#8 RandyF

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Posted 01 March 2024 - 10:04 AM

I highly recommend the Raleigh club. I have attended some of their meetings when I m in town. They have had access to a nearby site that is suitable for observing.  We travel full time in our RV. In my experience when visiting your area the biggest impediment to observing are trees trees trees. 



#9 star acres

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Posted 01 March 2024 - 09:07 PM

In my neck of the woods, you don't join an astronomy club. You have to make one from scratch.

#10 Tony Flanders

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Posted 02 March 2024 - 06:27 AM



Thanks for the suggestions.  I'll start with the local astronomy club and taking the kids with me to closer dark sites.   Then I'll figure out what to do about private observing clubs with access to areas, like CMOR in West Virginia.  

 

There's just something about the phrase "Darkest site on the eastern US" that gets me excited these days!  Probably because of the encroaching light pollution everywhere on the planet.


Sadly, the phrase is obviously untrue. There are four big dark areas east of the Mississippi, in West Virginia, western PA, northern NY (Adiriondacks), and central Maine, and as you can see from the excerpt from Light Pollution Atlas 2022 below, the one in Maine is by far the biggest and darkest. But all four are still mighty dark.

 

us-east.jpg




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