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Revolcadores, new astroimaging spot in Southeast Spain

Posted: April 6th, 2012

My favorite location in southeast Spain, Pinar de Araceli, being as it was a private business (rental of cabins high in the mountain), depended on its economic success to survive. And sadly, it didn't survive. And so the place was closed "for good" when I arrived Spain earlier this past January. Suddenly I had no clue where to go to do my astro thing...

Some research via satellite imagery, light pollution maps, etc. led me to pinpoint a site, away from a barely traveled road, behind an old house in ruins, in the "Bortle gray" area, at about 5000 feet high, near Revolcadores (loosely translation: rollers), the highest point in the Murcia region, up above 6600 feet.

Best of all, it's just a 65-70 minutes drive from home!! And mostly freeway, with the road in excellent condition (I can't emphasize that enough, the freeways here in the Bay Area are an "undeveloped" nightmare in comparison!), no nonsense speed limits, and barely any traffic (on the way back, usually around 4-5am, you could count the number of cars driving in the opposite direction and for 90% of the drive, you'd be lucky if you count more than 10 vehicles), so quite a pleasure to drive, totally the opposite of driving here in the Bay Area! And since driving up to a dark site is a fundamental part of the "dark skies experience" (you do spend many hours driving), this fact alone was really enjoyable.

After a first visit exploring the area, I "signed it up" as my new observing/imaging spot. Good horizons, plenty of space, very secluded area... And of course, very nice dark skies!

I liked it on my very first visit, but 15 visits later I could confirm it's a really good spot with very nice dark skies indeed, after getting many 21.7+ readings, and virtually every night reaching 21.6+ without a problem. It's not the Nevada desert, but when you're under a 21.7 sky (or even 21.6), you don't _need_ anything darker.  Yes, even darker skies would be nice if you have them, but it's not really needed in order to have a ball or get excellent data. I couldn't ask for more at just a 65 minutes drive.

Here's a circumpolar showing "the old house":

2 or 3 nights the wind was a problem, but that's like everywhere else. Another unexpected problem a couple of nights was the snow that stopped me from being able to reach the observing spot. After driving a road in this condition for a bit:

or this:

and even (dangerously, aka stupidly) making it through some spots like this one (I was driving a low sedan with rather worn off tires, not a nice 4x4, SUV, etc):

And so, as expected, the 100 feet of gravel road to the spot was with over 1 foot of snow - in other words, undrivable with a "regular" sedan. Still, I managed to find other spots, at least for those two nights. One of those two nights, I accidentally forgot my snow pants and with temps below 15F (-10C), I was literally freezing!! Fortunately  the sky was excellent, so I put up with the cold and got the darn data ;-)

The other night, well, let's just say that ... yes, I've got skunked once!! :-) Also out of the regular spot (again, this was one of the two nights when snow was a problem), and just by the road. I NEVER set up next to a road no matter how remote the location is, but that night I just knew nobody was going to drive by, not only because it's an almost never traveled road, but mainly because with the condition of the road, I knew it would be nearly impossible that someone would make it through the mountain pass. Em... Like I said, I've got skunked and I set up all my gear for nothing:

Other than that, all other nights were truly enjoyable (most of them without any snow, by the way). Some of those nights I even "invited" a few local astro friends who also seemed to enjoy the newly found location very much - so much, they all repeated :-)

Talking about friends and company, a big thank you goes to all of them for the excellent company, and particularly kudos to Onofre for bringing the corner store with him (snacks, hot coffee, good Spanish wine, even some high grade spirits and what not). Onofre is probably the only person I know who would set up a tent for a one-night pack-before-sunrise session:

During all those 15 nights I pretty much only worked on my 54 frames macromosaic of Leo:

I really didn't do anything else (could I possibly have time??? we're talking about 54 subframes here!), although one of the nights, during a "break" I also decided to do some quick exposures of the most fascinating comets of the season:

Now I'm spending a couple of weeks back in the Bay Area, but personal matters demand me going back to Spain shortly for at least a couple of more months, so as long as the weather continues cooperating, I'm definitely looking forward to visit this spot - now commonly referred as "Revolcadores" by the local amateurs - very very soon!



Erik Larsen (Contact, Page), April 7th, 2012, 18:21
Looks like another amazing adventure , a truly outstanding result too.

RBA (Contact, Page), April 8th, 2012, 1:29
Thanks Erik! Those snowy nights surely were adventurous!!

Marco (Contact, Page), April 14th, 2012, 4:22
Hola Rogelio.
Enhorabuena por tu trabajo y pasion.
Y que ta La Palma, en Canarias, como tu proximo sitio?
Aqui' arriba en el Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachor por ejemplo te darian a disposicion los elipuertos que estan justo debajo de los telescopios.

He visto a muchos grupos de aficionados que han venido.

Un saludo

Georg Viehoever (Contact, Page), April 16th, 2012, 1:48
Glad to have you back in Blog space.

RBA (Contact, Page), May 6th, 2012, 15:11
Marco, hombre, me encantaría ir a hacer fotos a Roque de los Muchachos!! Solo que me pilla un poquito lejos, pero descuida que si algún día tuviese la oportunidad, no me lo pensaba dos veces!

Georg, I'm slow writing blog-like entries :-)

Hwk (Contact, Page), May 8th, 2012, 23:46
Hola Rogelio

Siempre es un gusto leer tus crónicas. Admiro, como ya sabes, mucho tu trabajo, pero también admiro la dedicación. Son muchas noches, no solo de viaje, sino de cargar y descargar, montar y desmontar, en fin. A mi, los asuntos familiares solo me dejan salir una o dos noches al mes, pero aun así, me cuesta trabajo toda la intendencia que hay que montar para una sesión de fotos en el campo.
Enhorabuena por el "Leo" y por las crónicas.

Pavel Pech (Contact, Page), August 1st, 2012, 4:28
Hola Rogelio,

en mi pais tenemos muchisimo mas nieve y a mi me parece muy divertido ver su "problemas" con el nieve en Espana :) Tambien con un 4x4 me paso que quedo atascado en la pista. Mira http://blog.astrofotky.cz/pavelpech/?p=666
en vez de hacer astrofotografia me pase la noche cavando en la nieve :)

at least the sky was great!


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