Telescope Dark Sky Site

Finding a Dark Sky Site

Canadians astronomers struggle with a lack of pristine, dark skies with superb seeing conditions. Some of our best-known and best-loved sites suffered due to the encroachment of poor and plentiful urban lighting.  Weather conditions in some provinces mean that there are few good clear nights, and winter temperature extremes can make observing difficult

The ideal location would have dark skies, low humidity, calm air, moderate temperatures, plenty of clear nights, and be at a mountain elevation, to minimize the amount of atmosphere that a telescope has to look through.  The other challenge is that the location cannot be so remote that it isn't practical to fix an issue or change the equipment. Finding the right site is truly a challenge.

Dark Skies at Sierra Remote Observatories. RASC Telescope is on left.

Areas in the interior of British Columbia have some of these attributes, and a few locations in Ontario have sufficiently dark skies, but weather and temperature extremes are a challenge in both locations.

In the southern and western United States, there are sites in Arizona, New Mexico, and California that have many of these attributes. 

The top of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, the Atacama Desert of Chile, and a handful of other locations around the world are wonderful, but expensive and challenging to support without substantial financial backing.

Opportunity Arrives

An opportunity to set up a RASC robotic telescope came up at Sierra Remote Observatories (known as SRO).  Nestled on protected land in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, at an elevation of 1418 metres (4610 feet), this amateur-friendly site has superb 1.0 to 1.2 arcsecond seeing, for the steadiest conditions. Further, the dark skies of nearly 22 Mag(V) / Arcsecond² mean many of the faintest objects can be imaged.

A key advantage of SRO is on-site technical staff, internet access, power, and the ability to have it monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and to be able to get assistance with setup, operation, and maintenance, without a need to travel to the location.

The RASC signed on with SRO in May 2018, and is looking forward to a productive partnership.



Last modified: 
Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - 3:25pm