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11/12/2011

Observing Sites Near Salt Lake City

This is a post that will probably interest local amateurs only as I am going to share some of my observing sites via Google Maps. You can explore the site located here. Now, perhaps if you don't live here the take away perhaps is to use Google Maps or something similar and make a list of observing sites for fellow amateurs to use.

1. Near Lookout Pass which is near Vernon, Utah off the Pony Express Road. I'll post a couple of images from a broad view to a narrower view. I hope this helps some local observers.





















This site is right off the Pony Express Road as you go up toward Lookout Pass. There are Juniper Trees to your back here and some that can block the few lights coming up from Vernon. Watch out for the ruts in the road as last winter some 4WD or ATV's really dug up the road. High clearance vechiles are best here but my friend Mat got his mini-van back here. It's a good site when the valley is cold and has high humidity in the fall and spring.



















The next site is up past Lookout Pass and as you begin to descend there is a dirt road heading south. Shortly after taking it is a place people during the day unload their ATV's and there is a nice setup area on the south side. Your up in elevation here, above any humidity that in the fall or winter might spring up. You may have to compete with ATV's being loaded but at night, this area is okay at night. If there are people loading up here you can drive farther south on the road to the next map.




















You can see on this map both the site right off the Pony Express Road that I described and showed in the proceeding paragraph. Here is an image that shows the site just to the south. I actually prefer this site as there is less traffic and I like that it is off the main dirt road. This link will show you what viewing conditions are like here.




















Here is a close up of the southern spot (near the bottom on the above picture). If you loo on the map there are some other alternative sites you can also try in this area.



















The next stop is the Vernon Reservoir. Just south of Vernon, this link gives directions from my house to the Vernon Reservoir. This is becoming my favorite observing site. It is farther than Pit n Pole, has low humidity (if your set up away from the reservoir) and great skies all around. There are some lights from Vernon to the north, but far less than the Chemical Weapon Depot at Pit n Pole. There are some favorable spots to the south of Vernon Reservoir in the mountains there with some decent southern sky views but I need next summer to come to check these out. In the winter you can observe from the Vernon Reservoir at some of the campsites with little interference from campers (they don't like camping in the winter). Here is a wide view and a close in view. The wide view is first and shows Vernon and then the reservoir.






















Here is the in view and you can see I setup just away from the reservoir with a slight hill that blocks any light from Vernon. If there aren't people at the reservoir its decent to set up there but in the summer had mosquito repellent.






















The next image shows Pit n Pole (on the far right). The maker in the middle or the second from the right edge is down the road from Pit n Pole and elevated about 800 feet above that site and it is down the southern dirt road that is across from the MesoNet Weather Station which is right next to the Pony Express Marker. During the day the site is used for target practice by shooters but they are gone at night, I've never had a car come by this area and we've had 5 scopes out here with room for several more.

The left most (or third marker) is a site I've been to during the day but it has been about a year. It is wider than Pit n Pole and is a higher in elevation so I don't think humidity will be an issue and has great southern skies and the other portion of the skies as Pit n Pole. I need to use this site with a couple of observing friends and see how it is to be out there until say 2:00a.m.

This is the wide view of course.

I am often asked why Pit n Pole in the fall, sometimes in the winter (freezing frost) and in the spring has dew problems. Well, if you look at this image you can see a dry lake bed next to the site and the site sits low and the dew forms from being close to this dry lake bed. Though a very good site it is why some try to find other sites though they may be farther away.





















Here is Pit n Pole:



















I call the second site from the right, the one down from the weather tower (Mesonet) and the Pony Express Marker the Pony Express Marker South. You can clearly see it and the Pit n Pole location and the distance between them. There is also a site just behind the Pony Express Marker (there is a dirt road there) that is wide and flat but it is very dusty. I didn't mark or show that site on this map as it is just to the north of the dirt road that takes you to left hand site in the image below.






















Here is the third site I am really wanting to try out.





















I have a blog entry on the next site if you search you'll find it but it is a winter observing spot called Tibble Fork Reservoir. The map shows the road is closed and it can be in bad winter conditions, but in clear conditions it is open. The do have winter activities at Tibble Fork Reservoir as this link shows. The tubing or sledding is a wonderful activity to go up and do as is the snow shoeing.

Anyway, in the evening at Tibble Fork there is a large parking lot and it is deserted more often than not and you can set up there for a wonderful and cold night of observing. There is a mountain to the south, up to 30 degrees but the views are really good there if you need a quick winter escape. Here is a map:






















The last one is the Lakeside site that many frequent. Here is the map and this site or the Knolls is also wonderful to go to. No or little humidity (usually) and great dark skies.



















Lakeside is the one on the right, the one on the upper left is a site I use if the humidity is too high to use the Lakeside site. It is up in elevation and avoids the humidity and it actually warmer.

There are other sites I could post, but I think that is enough for now. Again, I hope that this helps someone out. If your local, stay warm as it has been snowing on and off all evening and be safe if your traveling anywhere.

Jay