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Astronomy Dark Sites

2006 May 17

The following is a listing of dark astronomical observing site in the U.S. and abroad. It includes the site's location, latitude and longitude, light pollution, limiting visual magnitude, and other information.

Country State/
Region
Location Latitude
(ddmmss)
Longitude
(dddmmss)
Elev.
(M)
Obs.
Date
(yymmdd)
Comments
U.S. Arkansas Magazine Mountain --- --- --- --- Tom Krajci reported in 1998 that he had used this site and that it was dark enough for the gegenschein to be seen.
U.S. Arkansas Ouachita Mountains --- --- --- --- Tom Krajci reported in in 1998 that he had visited the Ouachita Mountains west of Mena and that the sky was quite dark.
U.S. California White Mountains
(Inyo County)
--- --- --- --- This area is reported to be very dark. One observer said that the southern horizon "just drops off". A popular observing area in this mountain range is the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. However, this unique area is above 10,000 feet in elevation and is only open from late May through late September.
U.S. California Kennedy Meadows 360128N 1180753W 1845 9808 This site is located in the southern Sierras 38 miles northwest of Ridgecrest. Go to the intersection of highway 395 and Nine Mile Canyon Road (this intersection is a few miles north of Pearsonville). Take Nine Mile Canyon Road west into the mountains. The name of the road changes to Kennedy Meadows Road. You will come to a fork in the road with a general store between the two forks. Take the west (left) fork. Continue for 0.8 miles until you see a dirt road on the right. Turn right (north) on the dirt road and continue for 0.1 mile. Then veer towards the left (northwest) for another 0.1 mile. Restrooms: None. Air Traffic: Minimal. Cell Phone Coverage: None. Amateur Radio Repeaters: None
U.S. California Fossil Falls 1
(Inyo County)
355835N 1175450W 1066 970928 This is a good site, but it is unsuitable for use from mid-May to late September due to winds on the desert floor. The general location is half way between Ridgecrest and Owens Lake in the Fossil Falls federal recreation area. Take highway 395 to the intersection of highway 395 and Cinder Road (this intersection is about 0.5 miles south of a red volcanic cinder cone). Go east on Cinder Road for about 0.5 miles to the stop sign (the intersection of Cinder Road and Fossil Falls Road). Go south on Fossil Falls Road for about 0.2 miles until you pass the intersection of Fossil Falls Road and a dirt road. Continue south on Fossil Falls Road for another 100 feet. The site is a small clearing on the east side of Fossil Falls Road. This site is slightly darker than Redrock-Inyokern 2 and Mount Pinos.Restrooms: Nearest restroom is about 0.5 mile south at the end of the road. Air Traffic: The minimal air taffic makes site well suited for widefield astrophotography (this site is protected by restricted airspace to the east and the Sierra Nevada to the west). Cell Phone Coverage: Yes. Amateur Radio Repeaters: 145.380 MHz Table Mountain.
U.S. California Fossil Falls 3
(Inyo County)
355922N 1175325W 1023 --- This is a good site, but unsuitable for use from mid-May to late September due to winds on the desert floor. The general location is half way between Ridgecrest and Owens Lake in the Fossil Falls federal recreation area. Take highway 395 to the intersection of highway 395 and Cinder Road. Take Cinder Road east until it reaches the locked "Sugarloaf B" gate on the Naval Weapons Center fence. Air Traffic: The lack of air traffic makes this a good site for widefield astrophotography. Cell Phone Coverage: Yes. Amateur Radio Repeaters: Little Lake
U.S. California Redrock-Inyokern 2 352645N 1175740W 0966 970309 Site is in a clearing 150 feet SE of Redrock Inyokern Road about 2 miles NNW of Route 14. Estimated visual limiting magnitude was +5.46. Used by South Bay Astronomical Society
U.S. California Mount Pinos 344847N 1190736W 2557 9703 This site is a large paved parking lot near the summit. This is the most popular observing site in southern California.
U.S. California Ozena Campground 344135N 1191949W 1144 971228 This site is 17 miles north of Ojai in the northwest corner of the Ozena Campground. This location is darker than Templin Highway, but slightly less dark than Mount Pinos. Air Traffic: This site is unsuitable for widefield astrophotography due to frequent aircraft traffic in the eastern and western sky and overhead. However, it is usuable for narrow angle deep sky photography.
U.S. California Templin Highway 343416N 1184032W 1000 970208 Site is a turnout on south side of Templin Highway about 1 mile east of Interstate 5. This site is not very dark. Mount Pinos is a much better location.
U.S. Nebraska Merritt Reservoir --- --- --- --- David Knisely of the Prarie Astronomy Club reported in 1998 that he has seen stars as faint as +7.5 with the naked eye from this site. The Nebraska Star Party is held at this location.
U.S. Nevada Cathederal Gorge State Park 374915N 1142500W --- --- This site is just outside of Panaca and 25 miles north of Caliente on U.S. Route 93. This location is reported to have "dark skies, a beautiful canyon area with low horizons and no lights." The campground is immaculate with flush toilets, hot showers, running water, and electricity. Pioche has two motels. Panaca has a restaurant, store, and service station (but no hotel). Caliente has four motels. This site is used by the Las Vegas Astronomical Society. A reservation is probably needed to camp in the campground.
U.S. Utah Escalante --- --- --- --- According to Mike Clements, an observer who has traveled extensively through the western U.S., the area around the town of Escalante is probably the darkest site he has visited.
U.K. England N. Yorkshire Moors
(North Yorkshire County)
5425N 00100W --- --- One of the darkest sites in the U.K.
U.K. England Dartmoor
(Devon County)
5105N 00340W --- --- One of the darkest sites in the U.K.
U.K. Orkney Islands --- 5900N 00300W --- --- Anywhere on the islands away from Kirkwall and oil installations. One of the darkest sites in the U.K.
U.K. Scotland Cowal
(Strathclyde County)
5620N 00525W --- -- None
U.K. Shetland Islands --- 6200N 00115W --- --- Anywhere on the islands away from Lerwick and oil installations. One of the darkest sites in the U.K.

Abbreviations

dddmmssDegrees, minutes, seconds
ddmmssDegrees, minutes, seconds
Elev.Elevation
MMeters
MHzMegahertz
NNorth
NNWNorth-northwest
Obs.Observation
SESoutheast
WWest
yymmddYear, month, day

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