Author Topic: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA  (Read 444 times)

Tommy Evans

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Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« on: December 29, 2017, 01:31:55 AM »
Hello all,I'm wondering if anyone in southern California, particularly Orange County, or those knowledgeable of the area... can suggest a close spot to find reasonably dark skies.  I'm in Mission Viejo and my first thought was driving out the Ortega Highway, maybe to the Ronald Caspers park area.  If anyone has a general area or specific location that they go to or could suggest, it would be much appreciated.  I'm not sure if there's anything with full access to the horizon that's reasonably nearby, but that would be another consideration. Thanks...



longpetdowntown

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2017, 05:04:56 PM »
The best location in the county would probably be Modjeska Peak which can be accessed by taking the Main Divide Road from Ortega Highway north for a while -- not exactly easily accessible, but it does give a near 360-degree clear horizon with dark skies -- especially when there's a marine layer blocking out the light of the cities below.Caspers is quite dark as well (except to the west) although I don't know if there's anywhere not covered with dry brush with a clear view of the sky.Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is also quite dark, based on what I could tell from along Santiago Canyon Road, but it's officially closed at sunset -- not that anyone's going to care if you walk in, but I think the park's parking spaces might be closed. Not quite as good would be a local park in the Foothill Ranch area -- those are always open. Borrego Canyon Overlook park might work, although the western half the sky is super bright.Another option is O'Neill Regional Park in Rancho Santa Margarita. There's a (normally) dry creek bed that's wide enough (200 ft) for a sizable portion of the sky to be visible. Probably not a good idea to be there after rains (muddy) or during the summer if there are thunderstorms (flooding?).You might also want to look at the local parks by the 73 toll road. I think there's one near the top of the hills which would be pretty dark when there's low-lying fog present as there almost always is June.

climopepvi

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 01:42:08 AM »
Very much appreciated, thanks..

breakinnocor

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2017, 10:46:37 AM »

Niro Hardy

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2018, 01:50:22 AM »
Hi Ray,I live just a few miles East of you near the end of Oso Parkway and we border Caspers Wilderness Park (just a short hike over a single 300' tall ridge).  While the skies here are some of the darkest I have found in Orange County it's a stretch to categorize them as "dark".  In the summer we can just make out the Milky Way -- something I never saw while growing up in Placentia (North OC).Attached is a shot I took tonight looking West and toward Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo.  It's an 8 second exposure with a 35mm lens at f/6.3 and ISO 640.Octans gave you some good tips and I have tried both O'Neil (found it to be surrounded on all sides with light although darkest to the North) and the ridge that leads to Santiago/Modjeska Peaks.  I've been trying to time a trip to Blue Jay campground in the Cleveland NF (very near Santiago Peak off of Ortega Hwy) when a heavy marine layer rolls in.  If you check the satellite images during May, June and July sometimes you will see all of Orange County and Riverside covered in low clouds with Saddleback Mountain floating right in the middle.  I would bet it would be nice and dark on those nights but so far I have yet to time this right.Right at the entrance to our neighborhood at the end of Oso and just down the road from you is Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park.  They do star parties on new moon weekends during the spring and summer.Jay

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Robert Laygo

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2018, 12:40:48 AM »
Here's a shot of Orion taken Feb. 9th from my driveway.  It's a slight crop (to straighten) 15 second, 200 mm, f/8, ISO1250 snap.  30 second shots really started to fog from all the light pollution.Jay

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ontoolhaiworl

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2018, 02:40:24 PM »
Thanks Jay...

Christopher Mendez

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2018, 02:54:50 PM »
While not as close as the locations mentioned so far, I've always wondered if anyone has looked for an accessible dark sky site between the I-5 and I-15 corridors, North East of Camp Pendleton. I've never explored that area, but every time I drive south at night on the I-5, I'm always struck by how dark it is south of San Onofre.

Donnell Keown

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2018, 05:54:11 PM »
Quote
While not as close as the locations mentioned so far, I've always wondered if anyone has looked for an accessible dark sky site between the I-5 and I-15 corridors, North East of Camp Pendleton. I've never explored that area, but every time I drive south at night on the I-5, I'm always struck by how dark it is south of San Onofre.

That area is quite remote but it according to the light pollution map, it's not that great.  Finding a Blue Zone from Orange county is a long drive however you look at it. 

 This is the light pollution map for the region around Fallbrook CA. 

Jon

pregdefciato

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2018, 12:45:38 AM »
May grey and June gloom are already here in Southern California.  Attached is a GOES visible light shot from last June:

http://www.cloudynig...9_TuesSMALL.jpg

I drove up Ortega Hwy twice in 2012 to catch Saddleback Mountain floating above a sea of low clouds, like the satellite image shows, but gave up after both efforts failed.  After that I headed to the Mojave National Preserve where dark skies are more predictable.

I would bet these same low clouds can give Mt. Laguna in San Diego County nice dark skies too.

Jay

toughhalrechal

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2018, 06:10:57 PM »
Jay, those clouds resulting from the marine layer do a pretty job of blocking most of the light from urban San Diego, but that "urban" is beginning to creep eastward out from underneath those clouds. Plus there is still the glow emanating from out of the Imperial Valley that's getting worse with time. The night skies are not the ones I experienced there in my youth 35-40 yrs. ago, but all in all, for the time being, Mt. Laguna is still a very good dark sky sight with a number of easily accessible locations and spots for setting up. Plus it's not that far of a drive for me(1 hr from SD).

Roberto Betancourt

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2018, 10:06:00 AM »
Jon, I've always wondered about it and oddly enough in all these years, I've never taken time to explore this part of So. California.  Yeah, there are better dark sky sites closer to us that the both of us have easy access to, but I've often wondered where someone living in Orange County could go to close by if they lived in that neck of the woods. The only spots that seemed reasonable would be those areas I mentioned earlier. Not knowing what accessibility is like in that area or if there are any convenient spots to to set up, it seemed like a decent compromise between distance driven and the resulting quality of the skies. At least better than those sites mentioned by others earlier in this thread.While I'm at it, has anyone taken the opportunity to view the night skies from Catalina Island(at the high point on the road just South f the airport) or the Channel Islands. It's the views to the South that I think would be worth while with no sky glow or domes in that direction. Such a shame that San Clemente island sits on the edge of a grey zone with nothing to the South but is off limits for obvious reasons.

Ivan Deane

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2018, 09:02:54 AM »
Quote
Yeah, there are better dark sky sites closer to us that the both of us have easy access to, but I've often wondered where someone living in Orange County could go to close by if they lived in that neck of the woods.


I think that region you mentioned, generally north-east of Camp Pendleton, is quite remote, difficult to get to. It's one of those things, a lot of driving and you are still right in the middle of the Socal light dome.  I may be wrong but I think driving due east gets you more for your time and money.

Jon

Jon

Christopher Bryant

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2018, 01:24:52 AM »
Quote
While I'm at it, has anyone taken the opportunity to view the night skies from Catalina Island(at the high point on the road just South f the airport) or the Channel Islands. It's the views to the South that I think would be worth while with no sky glow or domes in that direction. Such a shame that San Clemente island sits on the edge of a grey zone with nothing to the South but is off limits for obvious reasons.
I don't know if the Navy still conducts exercises actively shelling San Clemente Island but I've heard that its littered with much unexploded ordinance. If that be the case an observer may have more worries than just light pollution. :dabomb:

ricoperte

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Re: Closest dark skies to Orange County CA
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2018, 05:39:16 AM »
Quote
<p class="citation">Quote
While I'm at it, has anyone taken the opportunity to view the night skies from Catalina Island(at the high point on the road just South f the airport) or the Channel Islands. It's the views to the South that I think would be worth while with no sky glow or domes in that direction. Such a shame that San Clemente island sits on the edge of a grey zone with nothing to the South but is off limits for obvious reasons.

I don't know if the Navy still conducts exercises actively shelling San Clemente Island but I've heard that its littered with much unexploded ordinance. If that be the case an observer may have more worries than just light pollution.

 :dabomb: [/quote]

In the mid 1970s I was a commercial fisherman and spent a fair amount of time working out of the south end of San Clemente Island. At that time they were doing quite a bit of gunnery practice. 

One year, right before Christmas, the Navy rounded up the unexploded ordinance around Pyramid Cove where we were anchored. We had gotten the word that they were going to begin setting it off at 8am the next morning so we were prepared to pick up anchor and move the "mother boat", we were working Lobsters out of skiffs.  I think we were about a half mile off the beach.

Well the first blast went off at 7:00 am and I can still remmeber the sound of the shrapnel as it came winging past, with several splashes in the water between our boat and the next guy over..  We were out there quick.

A few years later, a boat working nets on the west side exploded, the family believed it was the result of unexploded ordinance but there was no one left and not enough evidence to prove one way or the other.

Jon