General Astronomy > General Astronomy & Observing

Next year (anytime after April 2018) I'll have 6-weeks off...

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...for a paid sabbatical. This year I switched to the senior leadership vacation plan in connection with a role change and promotion, so I can even break the 6-weeks up into two 3-week vacations. Last time around I was required to take all 6-weeks off at once.

This new flexibility has me thinking about how to best use the time, including managing one or two Dark Sky astronomy trips. I need to take care of my never ending list of long term chores at home, I would also like to do a mass sell-off of some scopes and gear I rarely use, and having some concentrated time off will allow me to package and ship en masse. I'll also need to do the requisite family vacation. But that still leaves splenty of time for some dark sky observing and the new flexibility of being allowed to split the time off effectively lets me plan not one but two dark sky trips for 2018.

So let's hear some ideas for observing sites and equally importantly seasons. I want US and Mexico destinations as I will want to bring larger aperture gear and therefore flying isn't in the cards. I don't mind multi-day driving (I'm good for up to 14 hours of driving in a day) so the range I'm willing to cover is substantial. I like spelunking, hiking, landscape photography, geology, paleontology and archeaology, so sites with those things nearby are a plus. I need something engaging to do in the daytime. I also prefer black or gray zone skies and elevations above at least 4000 feet.

One trip will probably be a bigger group trip with the club and the other more likely a solo or buddy trip with just one or two other travelers, so bear that in mind with your suggestions. Here's a possible format for responses:

Group Trip: Location; Season; Reason
Solo Trip: Location; Season; Reason

I have a few ideas of my own, but this is a vast country as is Mexico, so no one person can possibly know or discover all points of potential interest without help from others.


- Jim

Jacob Cota:
Not Indiana aha. The darkest skies I've seen in the US were at Gila National Forest and the AZ side which I guess is Apache National Forest. I haven't been everywhere but dark sky maps seem to agree. I'd go to Belize instead of Mexico. Hearing that there is great observing from some of the islands. Mid-Apr for eta-Car, omega-Cen and Jewel Box.

Go to SOuthern Hemisphere for a week of it and rent a scope or stay in a scope place.

Consider the Texas Star Party.


Kyle Styles:
Wherever you go, you'll be in the middle of a great Mars apparition, so be sure to have a good planetary scope in a southerly location.

If you run out of ideas, and your willing to make some small compromises, you're always welcome to come hang in my backyard. There's a good chance of having at least one clear night in a two week stretch and a refrigerator within 10 paces of my scope. During the daytime, you can explore the urban ruins of Detroit (industrial archeology).


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