RBA Premium Astrophotography

Locations: DARC Observatory

Elevation: 1400 feet (425 meters)
Location: 25 miles south of Los Baños, California
Darkness: Blue zone. Average SQM is around 21.5 ~ 21.6. My highest SQM reading at DAC is 21.88, and I've consistently got 21.7 many nights
Best Sky: Pretty good overall, but South is particularly dark(see light pollution map, below).
Worst: East and North do get a slight light dome from Fresno and Los Baņos.

The DARC Observatory is private "by invitation only" property. Horizons are quite good all around except perhaps for the north/east, with light domes from Los Baņos and Fresno. The Southern horizons are magnificent and extremely low.

I love DARC for three reasons. First, the hospitality of Bob, the owner, is a big factor. Second, skies are pretty good - probably as good as it gets from a "short" 2 hours drive from the Bay Area. Sure, there's not much altitude, but the darkness of the site makes up for it somewhat. Third, the observatory itself provides us with things such as Internet access, kitchen, bath, shelter! ... etc. Sure, you don't go to DARC to surf the net, but depending on your goals, during a long imaging night it's not a bad thing to know you can count on that.

The bad part? It's a two hours drive from my home in Sunnyvale. I don't mind the drive going there, but going back home, sometimes at 4am or later... That can be a bit heavy. You're welcome to stay until sunrise or later, and get some ZZ's in your car, but I usually don't do that and head home the moment I'm done.

A quick and dirty view of DARC's dark southern horizons:

Light Pollution Map

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