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Does anyone know of a good spot for telescope setup in Fountain Hills, AZ?

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#1 Bob Campbell

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 01:33 PM

OK, I'm getting tired of the bright poor skies at my home location, SQM 17.99 not including street lights in my subdivision.

 

I'm trying to figure out a darker (notice I didn't say dark) place relatively close to my house.

 

Since there is a good bit of activity in the astronomy arena in Fountain Hills, AZ I was wondering if anyone knows of a good spot in that area that is reasonably dark and where I can stay late into the night without being thrown out. (I saw that parks might be good, but they have like 10pm closing).

 

I have been in Sedona and Florence AZ and they are clearly better but I wanted a place that I could be there in < 30 min. I do EAA, but I figured out a way to be fully powered through my Tesla, so utilities are not an issue.

 

Any advice and ideas would be appreciated.

 

Bob

 

 



#2 Jim Waters

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 01:40 PM

FYI - Light pollution map

 

https://www.lightpol...WNpdHkiOjg1fQ==


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#3 Bob Campbell

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 01:45 PM

FYI - Light pollution map

 

https://www.lightpol...WNpdHkiOjg1fQ==

Hi Jim

 

Thanks for that. Coincidentally, I just pulled that up, even before you posted it. FH is not that great, but up in the foothills it starts to become somewhat reasonable, at least compared to what I have.

 

I haven't figured it out, but I don't see a way to select a  site with higher SQM and simultaneously a location I can stay set up and be reasonably user-friendly.

 

Edit: Even in FH proper, I can get a site that is 8x natural light, whereas where I am now is 50x natural light shocked.gif .

 

Bob


Edited by Bob Campbell, 18 May 2024 - 02:02 PM.


#4 Jim Waters

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 02:26 PM

A SQM of 17.99 is very high.  I am at 18.25 in Ahwatukee. 

 

What about someplace in the Fort McDowell area?  Stay OFF the reservation land.  If they want they can impound your car and equipment.  I was doing landscape photography in that area and was stopped by Indian tribal police.  I talked my way out of a ticket.


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#5 Moravianus

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 02:51 PM

It is 34 min to north of Sunflower on Beeline Hwy 87. I would look for some side road. My closest spots from N Scottsdale is Date Creek behind Wickenburg (1h20min) and Picketpost (1h5min)


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#6 Bob Campbell

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 03:02 PM

It is 34 min to north of Sunflower on Beeline Hwy 87. I would look for some side road. My closest spots from N Scottsdale is Date Creek behind Wickenburg (1h20min) and Picketpost (1h5min)

Exactly. I have not been to those places, but each are > 1hr from Scottsdale. I wanted it not to be a journey, but something I could do in one evening and get back at a decent hour.

 

While not a green as the locations you mention, I was at 21.1 SQM in Sandia Park NM for 25 years. Right out the front door. bawling.gif

 

Bob



#7 Bob Campbell

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 03:05 PM

A SQM of 17.99 is very high. 

 

What about someplace in the Fort McDowell area?  Stay OFF the reservation land.  If they want they can impound your car and equipment.  I was doing landscape photography in that area and was stopped by Indian tribal police.  I talked my way out of a ticket.

Hence my dillemma. I do EAA becuse visual is not workable at all. But even EAA the background is overwhelming and introduces all kind of mottling, etc.

 

I might try F McD, but I do understand the danger there. I have heard even East of Pima Rd in Scottsdale, they are very draconian.

 

Bob



#8 Jim in PA

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 03:24 PM

From Scottsdale, why not try to hit the Apache Trail?  You can still get to the Fish Creek overlook from the valley, and there are no overnite closings.  It's all USFS.  Also agree with Moravianus, the Beeline is a good way to escape to the NE.  There is some BLM land up past Mt Ord.


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#9 12BH7

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 03:54 PM

I live in Fountain hills and I usually go to McDowell Park for quick nights out. They close at dusk but you can stay in there as late as you want. Just drive up to the exit gate and it will automatically open. It's not the darkest place but it is very local. 

 

I've been scouting out the Four Peaks area. At times it can become a party spot so you do have to be aware if a crowd is building up. Otherwise it is a very safe spot.

 

I've been looking at the Hwy 87 area just past four peaks. There's a small mountain ridge of Precambrian rock that would be the final block between you and the Phoenix area. Even if you go further up 87 I don't think there would be that much more of a difference. Unless you start going up in altitude which as you know is off road stuff. 

 

You can PM me if you want.


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#10 Jim in PA

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 06:03 PM

I used to go to the McDowell Park area back in the '70's.  Back then, it was all dirt roads and desert.  Out there, the Milky Way was brilliant and it was one of my favorite areas to camp for a quick overniter.  Nobody would bother you.  I used to go out on Pinnacle Peak Rd.  It was a straight shot from my house, I could see Tom's Thumb and the McDowells from my front porch.  Even up at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse it was really dark.  It seems like yesterday to me, but it was a long time ago.  Things have changed so much.  People from all over just want to live there, and it's grown at breakneck speed.

 

I feel for ya Bob.  That is a super bright area now.  I remember when Scottsdale was a farm town and still had hitching rails for horses outside of stores.  You had to share the road with people on horseback.  Not the 1800's either lol.gif  But you can hit 21+ mpsas easily on the Apache Trail or up the Beeline.  If you ever feel like going all the way up to Ash Fork, let me know.  I know a place with a small cabin on it. lol.gif   It's quite a ways from Scottsdale, but worth the trip for a few nights.  Satellite LP measured 21.95 mpsas at zenith, but I think it's closer to about 21.7.  Never measured it.  Best of luck and I hope you're able to get away from the Monstrosity, as I call it ;)


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#11 12BH7

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 06:44 PM

I used to go to the McDowell Park area back in the '70's.  Back then, it was all dirt roads and desert.  Out there, the Milky Way was brilliant and it was one of my favorite areas to camp for a quick overniter.  Nobody would bother you.  I used to go out on Pinnacle Peak Rd.  It was a straight shot from my house, I could see Tom's Thumb and the McDowells from my front porch.  Even up at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse it was really dark.  It seems like yesterday to me, but it was a long time ago.  Things have changed so much.  People from all over just want to live there, and it's grown at breakneck speed.

 

I feel for ya Bob.  That is a super bright area now.  I remember when Scottsdale was a farm town and still had hitching rails for horses outside of stores.  You had to share the road with people on horseback.  Not the 1800's either lol.gif  But you can hit 21+ mpsas easily on the Apache Trail or up the Beeline.  If you ever feel like going all the way up to Ash Fork, let me know.  I know a place with a small cabin on it. lol.gif   It's quite a ways from Scottsdale, but worth the trip for a few nights.  Satellite LP measured 21.95 mpsas at zenith, but I think it's closer to about 21.7.  Never measured it.  Best of luck and I hope you're able to get away from the Monstrosity, as I call it wink.gif

I could remember seeing the Milky Way from Tom Darlington Rd in Scottsdale. Now you can just make out the major constellation stars. Fountain Hills is a Dark Sky community, but that is basically BS. It's getting bad here too. 


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#12 Jim in PA

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Posted 18 May 2024 - 07:22 PM

Fountain Hills used to be out in the boondocks.  I remember the fountain was quite a project and something to see.  Nobody thought it would ever amount to much lol.gif  who would want to live that far out in the desert!  

 

I left the valley in 1984, with every intention of coming back some day.  It just grew too much and nowadays I don't go down there unless visiting family.  It's a big city now and quite different.  Still not too far from some dark skies, though.


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#13 dustyc

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 07:04 PM

In a pinch I've gone to Sears Kay Ruins. There's a large mountain ridge that blocks out light from Phoenix and Scottsdale. Targets in directions other than the west/southwest are pretty decent for a site that's a quick trip. 


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#14 Bob Campbell

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 07:31 PM

I used to go to the McDowell Park area back in the '70's.  Back then, it was all dirt roads and desert.  Out there, the Milky Way was brilliant and it was one of my favorite areas to camp for a quick overniter.  Nobody would bother you.  I used to go out on Pinnacle Peak Rd.  It was a straight shot from my house, I could see Tom's Thumb and the McDowells from my front porch.  Even up at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse it was really dark.  It seems like yesterday to me, but it was a long time ago.  Things have changed so much.  People from all over just want to live there, and it's grown at breakneck speed.

 

I feel for ya Bob.  That is a super bright area now.  I remember when Scottsdale was a farm town and still had hitching rails for horses outside of stores.  You had to share the road with people on horseback.  Not the 1800's either lol.gif  But you can hit 21+ mpsas easily on the Apache Trail or up the Beeline.  If you ever feel like going all the way up to Ash Fork, let me know.  I know a place with a small cabin on it. lol.gif   It's quite a ways from Scottsdale, but worth the trip for a few nights.  Satellite LP measured 21.95 mpsas at zenith, but I think it's closer to about 21.7.  Never measured it.  Best of luck and I hope you're able to get away from the Monstrosity, as I call it wink.gif

Agreed on all points. My Dad loved Scottsdale back in the 60's when he would do his road trips (we lived in PA) visiting utilities that were interested in the communications equipment his company sold.

 

I really feel bad for the current owners of the older but beautiful sprawling places along Camelback Rd. and just imagine what the environment was like back then before the constant drone of vehicles of today.

 

We have a relatively quiet place (but severely LPed 17.99-) but the drone of N Scottsdale Rd is omnipresent.

 

Thanks

 

Bob
 


Edited by Bob Campbell, 19 May 2024 - 07:35 PM.

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#15 DSO Viewer AZ

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 07:05 AM

Might take a look at Spur Cross north of cave creek. I’ve done a few short trips up there. Safe, remote, and fairly dark for being inside an hour drive of the city. 


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#16 SonoranAstro

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 07:14 AM

Sunflower had some decent spots with good horizons, problem is that just east of us is very mountainous terrain so you will end up in a valley, and immediately east is the hangout spot for UTVs which means intense dust, not to mention the fires that happen almost yearly. If i want quick observing i just go out on bartlett lake road (which is currently on fire) for some decent skies and peaks of the milky way, but for anything serious i make the two hour drive up past pine for the bortle 2 hole between pine and winslow. 


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#17 Bob Campbell

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 09:34 AM

Sunflower had some decent spots with good horizons, problem is that just east of us is very mountainous terrain so you will end up in a valley, and immediately east is the hangout spot for UTVs which means intense dust, not to mention the fires that happen almost yearly. If i want quick observing i just go out on bartlett lake road (which is currently on fire) for some decent skies and peaks of the milky way, but for anything serious i make the two hour drive up past pine for the bortle 2 hole between pine and winslow. 

Yes, I think I remember this UTV spot just off of I-17 on the road to Flagstaff/Sedona, and the highway cuts right through that mountainous region. 

 

Bob



#18 12BH7

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 10:37 AM

Yes, I think I remember this UTV spot just off of I-17 on the road to Flagstaff/Sedona, and the highway cuts right through that mountainous region. 

 

Bob

Sunflower is off Hwy 87, not I-17. The trick to Hwy 87 is to not go too deep into the mountains and end up in a valley. You want to pass Four Peaks road and go just past the Precambrian mountain ridge. Those roundish boulders you will see. Go past that ridge and anywhere between that and the Ballantine trailhead sound be fine.  

 

If you go up to Sunflower you have to watch for mountains blocking your view. Otherwise you will need to go up to Mr. Ord. And now you're really starting to make more of a camping night out.

 

Sycamore Creek trail, aka FR 1704 is Ok but be aware that there are some strange activities that goes on there. 

 

I've never had a problem in any of those areas. But there can be campers hanging about along Hwy 87. Usually they mind their own business. 


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#19 Bob Campbell

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 11:38 AM

Sunflower is off Hwy 87, not I-17. The trick to Hwy 87 is to not go too deep into the mountains and end up in a valley. You want to pass Four Peaks road and go just past the Precambrian mountain ridge. Those roundish boulders you will see. Go past that ridge and anywhere between that and the Ballantine trailhead sound be fine.  

 

If you go up to Sunflower you have to watch for mountains blocking your view. Otherwise you will need to go up to Mr. Ord. And now you're really starting to make more of a camping night out.

 

Sycamore Creek trail, aka FR 1704 is Ok but be aware that there are some strange activities that goes on there. 

 

I've never had a problem in any of those areas. But there can be campers hanging about along Hwy 87. Usually they mind their own business. 

Thanks for the correction, and the tips flowerred.gif

 

"but be aware that there are some strange activities that goes on there."

 

sounds like good fodder for the 'Ghost' thread going on lol.gif

 

Bob


Edited by Bob Campbell, 20 May 2024 - 11:39 AM.


#20 Moravianus

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 11:43 AM

Sounds that 12BH7 shall lead pack of us to places he suggested. I can offer my Ford Bronco +- camper as an expedition vehicle.

 

EDIT: maybe here Sunset Lookout ?

https://maps.app.goo...1jxVys6Wk5PTR46


Edited by Moravianus, 20 May 2024 - 02:39 PM.

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#21 12BH7

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 02:38 PM

One day next fall it would be good to gather a few locals for a dark site run. We did have an Astronomy club in town, but  the web site hasn't been active since 2016.

 

I've hiked and off road almost every inch of the 87 corridor so I'm familiar with it.


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#22 SonoranAstro

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 09:42 PM

We did have an Astronomy club in town, but the web site hasn't been active since 2016.

i don’t know what part of the valley you are in but EVAC is alive and well, come out sometime.

Edited by SonoranAstro, 20 May 2024 - 09:42 PM.



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