Observing Session May 6th, 2011 Notch Peak Utah

I am literally exhausted today. On Friday after I had done my prep and grading for last week, I left school at 3:20p.m. and headed home. I loaded up the Pathfinder and then my friend Mat came over and we drove 3 hours to Notch Peak. This Wikipedia article will give you some background information and an idea where it is located, about an hour west of Delta, Utah. This is an article you can read about hiking Notch Peak so you can observe at night, then do the hike the next day if you want. Check out the video clip on hiking Notch Peak. So if your into observing and hiking, and perhaps have someone who will stay with the scopes, you can observe and do a wonderful hike while here.

Getting there is relatively easy. There are two ways. You can drive down I-15 to Nephi and then take State Hwy 132 over to State Hwy 6 and head south to Delta. Stay on State Hwy 6 which is also State Hwy 50 and go west. Near milepost 46, turn north on a graded dirt road (on the map on the link I provide it is the turn after the Amasa) turn right and then left and then left again to head up East Sawtooth Canyon. We observed about half way up the canyon before the ridge to the south came into play. At the end of East Sawtooth Canyon is a parking area and that is probably the ideal place to set up but the southern horizon is impacted by about 5-10 degrees but who looks that low? Usually I don't, tonight I did. In the future though, I think this is where I will set up unless I am wanting to get low into Scorpius or Sagittarius in the summer. Here is a map that shows the area: Map of Notch Peak Area. It comes from this site.

Here are a couple images showing the landscape as your drive west from Delta, Utah.

That very flat looking object in the distance is Lake Sevier. It is a lake, usually quite dry but because of all the moisture from the last few years, it is retaining water. It has no outlet and it does lead to a fun time with mosquitos in the early evening. So make sure you have bug repellent. I used Thermacell and 40% deet and the deet took care of me that night with no bites. If I hadn't had protection, they would have eaten me up. You'll see more of Lake Sevier in a moment.

Here is the target of your destination. Notch Peak as seen from afar and from closer up.

From the distance through my bug hit windshield. It is to the far left in this shot (click on the image, last high point to the left to expand it).

Closer Up

Let me state, this is a rough area. Your car will get extremely dusty if your following someone in. It will get dirty no matter what. On the edge of the road and sometimes in the road are large boulders so beware. The main dirt roads are fine though.

For setting up if you don't set up in the parking area at the end of East Sawtooth Canyon, you can park to the side of the road and set up off the road. This is what we did. Here are some more images:

This shows you the dirt road we came in on and about where we observed from.

This shows the west view from the Parking Area I said may serve as the best observing site:

A bad picture of the Notch from the Parking Area (looking west, south-west)

A final image of Lake Sevier from where we observed off the road.

You can see in this image why you park off the road and then set up off from there. Very rugged land. I could have taken my Pathfinder off with someone guiding me to make sure I didn't hit a large rock or drive over it. My friend Mat had a minivan and that would not go off the road period. The site is about 1 hour east of Great Basin National Park. My friend Mat who has been to Great Basin and who says the skies are outstanding there, says that Notch Peak is slightly better because there is no ambient light from a city (Baker, NV) and other points coming up.

In terms of darkness, this is the darkness site I have ever been too. The Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude had to be around 7.0 to 7.5, a true Bortle 2 site as the clouds in the sky are visible only as dark holes or voids in the starry background. We could also see our telescope and surroundings only vaguely, except where they project against the sky. Many of the Messier globular clusters are distinct naked-eye objects. I left my SQM at home but I am sure it would come in at around 22.0. There is NO visible white light except for a car on Hwy 6 /50 or if one comes up the canyon (we had one early in the evening), or ours when we broke down. There was no breaking down without at least a red light. The clouds that came in later that evening were as black as coal. It would have been a wonderful experience except that the clouds, which were not suppose to come in, came in anyway around 12:30a.m. So we only got a short observing session in, but once the moon was down, wow! I got to see Omega Centauri and a Herschel and then was going to sketch my dark site objects but that never came about. Next new moon I am going back with Mat and extend an invitation to anyone who wants to come, to join us. Here is my sketch of Omega Centauri. I'll post the UMa galaxy pair later.
It was huge in the Pan. 27mm but no details of stars. It was slightly brighter near center but the sketch here seems too bright. I may have to adjust that.

Last, if you go to this site, DO NOT go alone. You can get a flat, or vehicle issue or health issue and you are in the middle of no where. Delta is an hour to the east, Baker NV and Great Basin Natl Park are an hour to the west and few people come out here. Bring plenty of water and food to eat just in case. DO NOT go if there is a threat of rain. It would be easy in the mud for even a 4WD to get stuck. Wonderful site though. Truly it has to be one of the darkest sites in the continental U.S. Edit: A few more thoughts. First, humidity is very low because your up several thousand feet above the surrounding valley floor (around 6000 to 7000 feet). I felt the low humidity while observing and then felt it really increase as we got back on the highway around 1:00a.m. Next, if you pull off the road, and set up, be careful of all the prickly cactus that are around. They are small and have nasty thorns on them. Finally, as I looked around there was plenty of deer and antelope scat and some other creatures. One, a Horny Lizard is in this image. Can you see him or at least part of him? Look for his ring tail.


My friend and observing partner Mat emailed me the directions for this site and I would like to include them here:

Right turn onto a dirt road off Highway 50 immediately after mile marker
48 (N39.07182 W113.21832).
Left at the Miller Canyon sign (N39.11218 W113.22034). Note that the
sign is very hard to read, but is the first sign you come to.
At this point we just parked on the side of the road where there was a
very low southern horizon. But there are many roads in the area that
take you into higher country. Maybe next time we go, we can explore
some of them so we can get to higher elevations. It should be fairly
easy to get up to around 6500' or maybe even 7000'. Higher than that
would probably require hiking and my 16" does not backpack well.
Rather, I do not backpack well while carrying the scope!

Exploring is fun, a blast and I like new areas! Looking forward to new moon in May!

A few items for fun from the SLASS Star Party at Stansbury Park: A club member bought a 13.1 Coulter and took out the mirror and made the following Truss Dob that saw first light last night. The Truss Poles are made out of wood and though we didn't have much to look at, the moon looked good through it. A very nice first ATM project! Way to go Mark!

Here is Mark (sitting) with his new creation! Anyone know the object at the bottom of the rocker box? It took me a minute but it is a Messier object.

Here is a picture of his cover with Saturn being the handle to his cover. We tried really hard to convince Mark that he could make money with this copyrighted item. To see more images please go to SLAS member Daniel Turner's gallery located here and take a look.

Finally, another side of Jay. My mother-in-law wanted to go to Thanksgiving Point, which is a golf course, a place for children and families to go to look at farm animals and to tour their wonderful garden. Every spring, and spring has come quite late to Utah this year, they have a Tulip Festival. Usually it runs in early to mid-April but with this patch of bad weather were in, the Tulips were delayed until late April and the festival ended yesterday. Here are some images I took of the site. I really enjoy going there, it is very large and very relaxing, even with all the kids running around and especially rolling down a 100 yard hill. There is much beauty above, but I think it is also important to recognize and adore the beauty down here. Nature amazes me. The diversity and beauty that is all around is truly a wonder to behold.

First up, "The Bear Statue." Why, because Bears are my favorite animals, and I in many ways, am like them. My daughter says she tells her friends I may look like a grizzly bear at times, but in reality, I'm just a big Teddy Bear when you get to know me.

Yes, it is a Tulip Festival.

A pond with Tulips.

Red Tulips!

Even the trees are getting into the act (now just the weather needs to!).


  1. You're lucky to live so close to such dark skies! I'm in a big city and love it, but since taking up astronomy again I've been anxious to see a truly dark, dark sky.

  2. S,

    Yes, I am very lucky. Within 45 minutes are some sites as good as most people have and within an hour and a half are some fantastic sites, and within 3 to 4 hours are outstanding sites,some of the darkest sites in the nation. Was talking with a friend last night on how spoiled we truly are. It is truly amazing to see how your scope performs at a dark site versus in light pollution. Yet, I did almost ninety percent plus of the Messier from my home in a orange/borderline yellow (at the time) zone and that helped me a lot. At least I feel it did.