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Best dark site yet??


Stu_2011

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Hi

Just came back from US west coast road trip, great fun. I stayed one night in Yosemite National park and the view at night was simply breathtaking. It was very clear and calm, no moon, no light pollution for miles.

I have been to a number of dark sites before but mainly in the UK, this was a different league. The Milky Way was a thick ribbon of white running across the sky and there were so many stars it was hard to recognise constellations. It felt like the stars were within touching distance, very weird feeling

I was only at the dark site for 30 minutes (a local ranger took me to good spot and he was on bear watch!) with a little pair of binoculars but it was worth every second. If only my CPC925 could have made the trip!

Stuart

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It's amazing, isn't it? I was at Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon in June and the experience was similar. There are small number spots here on the east coast which are more or less equally dark as the west coast sites. However, the weather is way less cooperative and, like the UK, one still has to fight dew and haze. They mostly hard to get to, too.

Which dark spots have you been to in the UK? Looking at the maps it seems that places like North Wales and bits of the Pennines should be pretty damn dark.

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Its odd to say this but the best skies i have been to was not the darkest. I got some of my clearest views ever at the Isle of Sheppy. Not as dark as my other locations, but the clarity on that evening allowed me to see details i have not been able to see at any of my other sites.

Saying that my very best of M31 and M33 were at a site in wales last week. M31 had three dust lanes and stretched out 3 times further than i have ever seen. With the help of Swamp thing i was able to define the two spiral arms on M33.

I am starting to believe as long as your skies are over say 5.2VLM, clarity of seeing is then the next most important factor.

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I think you are right about the clarity thing, it was very still and clear and this helped loads, hardly any twinkling at all which is always a good sign of atmospheric conditions being good. It was real "diamonds on black velvet" type images. Being very dark with little light pollution helped I'm sure.

The jet lag from my trip means I'm wide awake and getting some pretty good views of Jupiter in the UK tonight

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So pleased you had such a great experience in US. The diamonds against black velvet is what we do it for innit? My first time i saw that was actually in greenwich London with tons of LP. VLM is about 4.2, the sky that night was 100% cloud. But as it wiped across the sky it appeared to wash away with it all the air pollution leaving me with a super crisp sky. I swung to jupitor and M45 peladies and had the most beautiful clear diamonds aginst black.... Ill never forget it. Have not seen it quite like that since even at darker sky locations. Weird innit. Would love to obsere in US, you are one lucky guy :)

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I too find that a limit magnitude of about 5.5 is where things become acceptable for most observing purposes. I've been in mag 6.5 skies in terrible seeing (where stars look like fuzzy balls) and the DSO views are disappointing. Contrast plummets and details get blurred into the background sky. The magic really happens when good seeing comes together with dark skies. This is all to rare, however.

There are big star parties in some of the western US national parks. If anyone's looking for a holiday destination, it's an option. The National Park star parties may work better as there's stuff to do during the day: particularly important if you're bringing along a non-astronomer. It might not be a great holiday if you spend your days in the-middle-of-nowhere-Texas... You can bring binos or a very small scope and camp for $20 a night. People are happy to give you a look through their scopes.

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Went to Death Valley in Feb and the combination of zero light pollution and good seeing was awesome. It's difficult to find places in the UK as far away from sources of LP but I've had similar experiences in the highlands and in North and Mid Wales.

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I was on the tip of the Gower peninsular last week, on a hill facing the Bristol Channel. Looking up just reminded me of how light polluted my back yard in Swansea really is. Even though it was only 8.30 or so, the Milky Way was clearly visible with no searching.

We also saw something streaking through the sky, heading NNW. Going at about the same speed as a shooting star, but looking like it was a fireball. I was tempted to think that it was a satellite reflecting the sun's rays but it seemed too fast.

Anyway, best dark skies I ever saw were camped out at 2000m up in the High Atlas mountains. Nothing but mountains and Sahara for many miles.

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It's amazing what you get used to and put up with.

Most of my observing occurs in Swindon itself, so invariably I mostly look at planets, and very obvious DSO stuff. However last Friday, I ventured out of Swindon to Hackpen Hill, which is about 5 or so miles south. The view there was fabulous, with a very clear milkyway, I got hopelessly lost when looking for constellations, only really able to find Ursa Major.

The only downside is I reckon that location is quite likely a ******* site :) how sad.

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It might have been yes :) (i didn't notice that that word got asterisked).

Yes it's surprising what the profanity filter picks up. But you're right some of the best potential dark sky venues are also the haunts of the more deviant members of society.

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Hi,

Spent a night at Monument Valley in late June, the skies were exceptionally dark and transparent. Took the shot below with my Canon Eos (30 seconds)...

andyb001-albums-monument-valley-2011-picture13788-milkyway.jpg

Andy- gave your photo a tweak to bring out it's more of it's potential, hope you don't mind. Looks like stunning skies there.

user28561_pic13788_1317640097_edit.jpg

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It really is amazing what can be squeezed out of raw images! Nice work laser_jock99.

We were staying at the View hotel and a woman on the next balcony mistakenly referred to the Milkyway as cloud!

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It is strange but I find I have had really good views of things from my garden on the outskirts of Gloucester. The LP is present, VLM ~4.5 but because it is all around, you don't really notice it. When I went out of town a wee bit, there was a definite orange LP cone and it was much more obvious and unpleasant. More difficult to deal with as an image gradient too.

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