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Just sending a query out there to anyone who has experience imaging at public sites on Dartmoor?

Looking to learn about good locations, how this is received by the National Park authority (if imaging through the night) etc...

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I'd also be interested to hear from anyone who's been active up on Dartmoor. I'm hoping to get out there for some dark skies as living in central Exeter is not ideal! Maybe we could get a band of

That looks like a reasonable location. I'll do some research as well to see if any others come up, but if not that looks like it would do the trick. I'll also mark the 13/14th on my calendar - ju

I popped up there this afternoon, it does look quite promising, at the car park level you can find points which are shielded from the road in both directions. Quite a few cars there at the time, I ima

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I'd also be interested to hear from anyone who's been active up on Dartmoor. I'm hoping to get out there for some dark skies as living in central Exeter is not ideal!

Maybe we could get a band of us together for an observing session?

My experience with the National Park authority is that they are very tolerant of night time use of Dartmoor. I've hiked and wild camped overnight a few times up there and they are one of the few places in the country where they allow wild camping and actually produce a map showing where this is allowed (which covers a large part of the national park). I don't imagine they'd take issue with it being used for astronomy.

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I would be up for that, although given the nature of my equipment:

(a) I don't want to have to venture too far from the Car.
(b) I would only go on a night where the location had a full-nights good seeing forecast (say for 80% of available astronomical twilight).
(c) < 25% moon...

I've not done remote dark site imaging before, I'd love to get better results though, but as it is quite a few kilos of kit, it has to be worth it!

FYI this is the response I got from Dartmoor in September:

Good Afternoon Giles

Thank you for your email regarding car parking at night on Dartmoor.

I am sure you have had some wonderful opportunities for astronomy and astrophotography recently with the comet and clear skies we have had recently.

In answer to your query, we are guided by the Dartmoor National Park Byelaws, link below

https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/who-we-are/byelaws

You are allowed to park your car overnight but not allowed to sleep in it.

Visitors park their cars to backpack camp in the permitted camping areas away from the road.

https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/enjoy-dartmoor/outdoor-activities/camping

Hope you find this helpful.

Kind Regards
Amanda


Information Adviser
Dartmoor National Park Authority
National Park Visitor Centre, Princetown
Princetown
Devon PL20 6QF
Tel:  01822 890414
Email: princetown@dartmoor.gov.uk
www.dartmoor.gov.uk
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That email from the National Park Authority is promising. As long as no one falls asleep in their car all should be fine!

According to the light pollution map I've just looked at, the darkest skies accessible by road are NE of Postbridge on the B3212. There's several car parks to choose from on that road, unfortunately they are all right next to the road so if there's any passing traffic it would pose a problem.

I agree, any trip up there would need to be worth it. I'd be doing a mixture of visual observing and light imaging - I see from your images that you're much further down the astrophotography path than I am!

In my case, a weeknight would unfortunately restrict the time I had available due to work commitments. I'd still be willing to go, but would probably only manage a few hours. but if we could arrange clear skies for a Friday or Saturday night I'd definitely be up for an extended session lasting all night perhaps.

 

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11 hours ago, M110 said:

That email from the National Park Authority is promising. As long as no one falls asleep in their car all should be fine!

According to the light pollution map I've just looked at, the darkest skies accessible by road are NE of Postbridge on the B3212. There's several car parks to choose from on that road, unfortunately they are all right next to the road so if there's any passing traffic it would pose a problem.

I agree, any trip up there would need to be worth it. I'd be doing a mixture of visual observing and light imaging - I see from your images that you're much further down the astrophotography path than I am!

In my case, a weeknight would unfortunately restrict the time I had available due to work commitments. I'd still be willing to go, but would probably only manage a few hours. but if we could arrange clear skies for a Friday or Saturday night I'd definitely be up for an extended session lasting all night perhaps.

 

I'll look at the Postbridge area later, a combination of the streetview, satellite and light pollution should help find something suitable. I've stayed at the Two Bridges before, so know that road a bit, by the way, you do realise that that road is haunted: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy_Hands

Agree, unless I take a day off work, it's going to be a Friday or Saturday.

Edited by gilesco
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The third car pack up from the Warren House Inn, just beyond Bennet's Cross kind of looks promising as it appears to be shielded from the line of sight up and down the road (I doubt there is much late night traffic there anyway).

I am waiting on some new kit, which I need for remote site work, currently expected to arrive first or second week of November, weather looks awful all around this month anyway, so if I do get it together the next window of opportunity would be 13th / 14th November, clear skies permitting...

image.thumb.png.38bd63b3a0b65232ad7b72b0bf07ebfa.png

Edited by gilesco
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That looks like a reasonable location. I'll do some research as well to see if any others come up, but if not that looks like it would do the trick.

I'll also mark the 13/14th on my calendar - just have to arrange the weather conditions now!

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I popped up there this afternoon, it does look quite promising, at the car park level you can find points which are shielded from the road in both directions. Quite a few cars there at the time, I imagine that it dies down near to dusk. Remember to bring a spirit level!

View from the ridge:

20201017_135425.thumb.jpg.4ff28e419a1b0861e7e166e4b594d056.jpg

A panorama, I guess that you have 360 degrees, horizon at car park level is probably around 10 degrees.

20201017_135350.thumb.jpg.02b1bda234be29bdd8a3d6a9a2ffdf45.jpg

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Mine in Culmstock isn't that great but useable😎 not that I have a clue what any of that means🙄

Screenshot 2020-10-18 at 17.02.57.jpg

Being well East of Exeter I'm thinking of a trip up to Haddon Hill, overlooking Wimbleball Lake. Often walk up there and it's beautiful, complete with car park.

Screenshot 2020-10-18 at 17.10.15.jpg

So what is all this telling me folks??

Edited by cheddar-man
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55 minutes ago, cheddar-man said:

Mine in Culmstock isn't that great but useable😎 not that I have a clue what any of that means🙄

Screenshot 2020-10-18 at 17.02.57.jpg

Being well East of Exeter I'm thinking of a trip up to Haddon Hill, overlooking Wimbleball Lake. Often walk up there and it's beautiful, complete with car park.

Screenshot 2020-10-18 at 17.10.15.jpg

So what is all this telling me folks??

If you go to my website, I have recently posted a talk by Dr Robin Glover, which goes in to levels of light pollution noise and how this helps / hinders your necessary exposure time when imaging.

If you can obtain better detail with lower length exposures then you can get more subs in a given time frame and thus more detail.

Bortle is a rather rough scale. Lower is better. SQM higher the better.

It also translates to observing quality, but it is difficult to quantify, as your eye is fixed in its abilities regarding focal length, aperture, and exposure time. Of course having a telescope is altering your focal length and aperture to your eye, but exposure is still set fixed, to whatever your brain copes with.

Location looks good, looks like good shielding from passing traffic, larger space than what we've been looking at. Don't know if car park closes overnight, there are some buildings in the area, but also some amenities (toilets). Do you know who runs the car park? Would like to clear with them for use in that way.

It is a lot further from me from other sites, but time on road is just +10minutes, given some is motorway and major A road.

Edited by gilesco
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Yes not seeing a good window this month at all... am getting a part shipment tomorrow, which will help with setup planning. Hoping for a better November, have some long weekends booked with work too....

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Haddon Hill does look interesting, certainly a lot more sheltered than the site on Dartmoor we were considering and roughly equal travel time for me.

I've checked the National Trust and it's not one of their car parks (despite those donation boxes) so I would guess its an Exmoor National Park Authority owned one. @gilesco have you contacted them already? If not, I can send them an email.

I'd be happy to head to either site assuming Exmoor didn't mind us being there.

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39 minutes ago, M110 said:

Haddon Hill does look interesting, certainly a lot more sheltered than the site on Dartmoor we were considering and roughly equal travel time for me.

I've checked the National Trust and it's not one of their car parks (despite those donation boxes) so I would guess its an Exmoor National Park Authority owned one. @gilesco have you contacted them already? If not, I can send them an email.

I'd be happy to head to either site assuming Exmoor didn't mind us being there.

I have not, Exmoor is a little further, and I'm more at home on Dartmoor, anyone fancy getting in touch? I can still do Exmoor one night, just 10+ mins drive for me and I suppose a smoother drive with equipment.

Would be good to know what artificial lighting is there, I know the dartmoor sites have none, Exmoor is a dark site space, so should be hopeful on that.

Edited by gilesco
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1 hour ago, cheddar-man said:

There are some (old) floodlights at the Wimbleball dam but never seen them on. Apart from the I'm not aware of any light source. The nearest village, about twenty houses, is Bury, well over the hill.

I expect, since becoming a Dark Skies site, that they've made all the changes to keep it that way.

https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing

Surprised I have not seen this mentioned anywhere on here, especially as it appears to be running right now... (although many events will probably not go ahead because of the weather).

https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival

Interesting you can hire SkyWatcher Dobsonians from any of their National Park Centres, £25 a night, plus £100 deposit, £10 per each additional night. Sounds great for families who have a passing interest while visiting the park on a break.

Edited by gilesco
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Following giles' links above I came across a "Dark Skies Pocket Guide" (here) produced by the Exmoor National Park which actively encourages astronomy and gives specific examples of suitable sites - one of which is the Haddon Hill site @cheddar-man suggested.

I think that sorts the permission question.

 

@gilesco I'll keep the 13/14th Nov free with the intention of heading up to Dartmoor (weather permitting) but if I get another opportunity I might try out the Exmoor site as well. I'm hoping that longer term I can get out to remote locations fairly regularly to escape the light pollution of Exeter.

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Yes (concur with trying both sites out), I've been reminded that I booked a long weekend of annual leave on that weekend, so I have a 4 night window of possibilities for the weather, but will try the best and hopefully that falls on Friday / Saturday.

One of my  Powertank's arrived today, so once I've done some testing with life time and power draw I am ready equipment-wise, but was hoping for the new telescope to arrive before hand. Still something I will do either way, old equipment with a fiddly focus procedure or hopefully something better...

I will have the same astrophotography target (IC1805) for both Dartmoor and Exmoor, so will be able to hopefully directly compare and produce a comparison review of both (of course, assuming the weather plays into our hands!!! - which given the current forecast of continual clouds, is no guarantee).

Once I get paid this month I will be getting a thermos flask!!

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17 minutes ago, M110 said:

Following giles' links above I came across a "Dark Skies Pocket Guide" (here) produced by the Exmoor National Park which actively encourages astronomy and gives specific examples of suitable sites - one of which is the Haddon Hill site @cheddar-man suggested.

I live under the "To Taunton and the M5" text on their map.  I've been to Wimbubble Lake a few times when my son has been canoeing/kayaking there and I'm not convinced about it as an observing site unless access from the car park to the area around the lake is possible (there's a gate between the two as far as I recall).  The car park itself faces east-ish and overlooks the lake, but is surrounded by mature trees so may not be a great location unless it fits in with the targets you have in mind.  There's a sloping grass area that runs down to the water's edge and if you can get onto that I reckon it would be much better.  Vehicles do go down that far (to get boats in the water, for example).  I just don't know if they lock the gates at night.

Haddon Hill seems like a fair bet, though some of the car park does have trees to the immediate south (but not all of it).  And it should be relatively painless to get to compared with some of the other locations.

I've not been to the other sites, but my inclination would be to avoid the more northerly ones as there can be a fair bit of sky glow from further up the Severn if the air isn't perfect.  Even here, when the atmosphere is a bit moist there can be very obvious glow to the north from the likes of Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare.

James

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Come to think of it, once I get a bit more organised with stuff the possibility of offering one of our fields here as an observing location if people are interested.  On good nights I reckon NELM can be between 5.5 and 6 based on stars in UMi.  Driving onto the field probably wouldn't be clever if there'd been a lot of rain recently and there's no electricity or anything like that (maybe one day), but there would be the opportunity to chuck a tent up and get a few hours kip after a hard night at the eyepiece.  Just need to get our building work all finished off first...

James

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1 minute ago, JamesF said:

Come to think of it, once I get a bit more organised with stuff the possibility of offering one of our fields here as an observing location if people are interested.  On good nights I reckon NELM can be between 5.5 and 6 based on stars in UMi.  Driving onto the field probably wouldn't be clever if there'd been a lot of rain recently and there's no electricity or anything like that (maybe one day), but there would be the opportunity to chuck a tent up and get a few hours kip after a hard night at the eyepiece.  Just need to get our building work all finished off first...

James

Sounds like a great project, with a possible, modest income too...

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      A couple of weeks later, me and my wife went to spend Valentine's weekend in the mountains. Of course I couldn't avoid taking advantage of the Bortle 4 sky and I took all my gear with me. Same target, 52 subframes, 45s each, taken at ISO800 with my unmodified Nikon D90, Nikkor 70-300mm at 300m f/5.6 - February 14th, 2020, Tonadico, Bortle 4 sky, no guiding, no filters. 39 minutes total integration.

      After I finished post-processing the second photograph, I was so happy with the result. It felt amazing that I was able to capture so many details and more nebulosity compared to the photo taken from home.
      Months passed, gear was changed. First one being the camera: at the end of February I bought a Nikon D5300 and a couple of months later I astromodified it on my own, adding a UV/IR cut filter in front of the sensor, after cutting it to size.
      In October the rest of the setup finally arrived: Tecnosky 80/480 APO FPL53 Triplet OWL Series imaging telescope, Artesky UltraGuide 60mm f/4 guide scope and ZWO ASI 224MC guide camera. Also, an Optolong L-Pro 2" light pollution filter.
      After months of imaging and getting more experienced with PixInsight, it was just a matter of waiting before I could have another go at one of my favorite targets. And maybe give it a little more justice.
      This project took me more than a month, due to the rare clear nights opportunities I have had here lately.
      I started acquiring in January and finished a couple of weeks ago.
      M42 taken over 8 nights, under my Bortle 5/6 sky.
      Total integration time: 18h 04m 00s for the nebula. 714s (14s subs) + 2065s (35s subs) for the Trapezium and the core.
      Here are the acquisition details:
      Mount: Sky-Watcher NEQ6 Pro
      Telescope: Tecnosky 80/480 APO FPL53 Triplet OWL Series
      Camera: D5300 astromodified
      Reducer/flattener: Tecnosky 4 elements, 0.8x
      Guide-scope: Artesky UltraGuide 60mm f/4
      Guide-camera: ZWO ASI 224MC
      2021/01/12: Number of subs/Exposure time: 33@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, no Moon
      2021/01/13: Number of subs/Exposure time: 33@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, no Moon
      2021/01/15: Number of subs/Exposure time: 38@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 8% illuminated
      2021/01/18: Number of subs/Exposure time: 36@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 30% illuminated
      2021/02/13: Number of subs/Exposure time: 30@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 4% illuminated
      2021/02/14: Number of subs/Exposure time: 23@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 9% illuminated
      2021/02/15: Number of subs/Exposure time: 51@14s + 48@35s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 15% illuminated
      2021/02/17: Number of subs/Exposure time: 11@35s + 38@180s + 1@300s. Notes: L-Pro filter, Moon 30% illuminated
      Total exposure time (main integration): 65040s = 18h 04m 00s.
      Total exposure time (35s integration): 2065s.
      Total exposure time (14s integration): 714s.
      Pre and post-processing: PixInsight 1.8.8-7.
      Full HDR Version:

      Masked Stretch Version:

      Blended Version (50% HDR + 50% Masked Stretch):

      To my personal taste, I like the blended version the most. I think it brings out the best of both worlds (HDR and soft, less contrasty but more colorful look).
      I must say, I am very pleased and happy with the result. Not to boast, but I think I have come a long way since I started.
      Obviously the better gear and the much, much longer integration time helped.
      I think I actually spent more time post-processing it than acquiring it. Especially since I had to do the work almost twice: I post-processed the HDR and the Masked Stretch images separately, making sure I used the same processes and with the same strenght in both, so that I could combine them effectively, if I decided I didn’t like the look of the HDR alone. I also think I managed to tame the stars a lot more, compared to my previous post-processing attempts.
      As usual, here’s a link to the full resolution image(s): Orion Nebula (M42), De Mairan’s Nebula (M43) and Running Man (NGC 1977)
      Thanks for looking!
      C&C welcome!
       
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