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Dark-Sky Sites:

Virginia

 

Sites:

 



Town:  Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker 189

Observing site:  Groundhog Mountain Park

Address: Mile marker 189 on Blue Ridge Parkway

Contact: n/a

Phone: n/a

URL: http://www.blueridgeparkway.info/groundhog_mountain.htm

Latitude: N36 38.722'

Longitude: W80 31.755'

Elevation: 3,035 feet ASL

Directions:   Click here to go to Mapquest.com to create a map.

Current weather:  Click for Bedford, Virginia Forecast

Restrictions:  Must clear use with Parkway officials first

Sky Conditions:  Excellent.  The closest city is Mount Airy, NC approximately 25 miles to the Southeast. Skies are dark, with the Milky Way very pronounced.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6
     East: 5
     West: 6
     North: 5
     South: 4

Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):  Northwest, 10 degrees

Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): Southeast, 25 degrees

Comments from contributor: I had the opportunity to visit this site last weekend and was totally blown away by the skies!  I normally view to the Southeast of Greensboro in relatively dark skies at Three College Observatory, but the 2.5 hour drive up to Hogback Mtn. was well worth the effort.

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Town: Powhatan

Observing site: Powhatan Wildlife Management Area
 
Address: Deer Lane
 
Zip Code: 23139
 
Contact person: None
 
Telephone number: N/A

Latitude: N37 32.655'

Longitude: W78 00.404'

Restrictions:  None - The site is located on public property. Park rangers are aware the site is used by amateur astronomers.
 
Directions: The site is about 40 miles southwest of Richmond.   Head West on the Midlothian Turnpike (US 60) and cross the Powhatan County border. After you cross Route 522, the Midlothian Turnpike will neck down to two lanes.  Continue 5.9 miles to the top of a hill, where you will find a KOA Campground sign on the right and a large white house on the left. Turn left here onto Ridge Road. After about a couple of miles you will see the sign for the entrance to the Powhatan Wildlife Management area on Deer Lane (a dirt road).  Travel slowly on Deer Lane (it is well wash-boarded!) and after about a mile you will climb a small hill and curve to the right. The observing site is at a turnoff to the right at the bottom of the hill. If other astronomers are present, dim lights to parking lights only (dim dash lights so you can still see where you are going!).

Current weather:   Click for Powhatan, Virginia Forecast

 


 
Sky conditions:
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6
     East: 5.5
     West: 4
     North: 6
     South: 6

Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): 360 degree clear horizon
 
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):  East because of the lights of Richmond. About 20 degrees is lost to significant sky glow.
 
Comments from contributor:   This site is mentioned on the Richmond Astronomical Society web site.  It is located in Powhatan County, Virginia.

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Town: Scottsburg

Observing site: Staunton River State Park
 
Address:  1170 Staunton Trail, Scottsburg, VA 24589-9636

Contact person: Rangers or Staff members
 
Telephone number: (434) 572-4623

Web sites:  http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/sta.shtml

Restrictions:  State Park, admission may be required
 
Directions:  From the north: Take U.S. 501 south to Halifax, VA. At intersection of U.S. 501 and state Route 360, turn left; go about eight miles. At intersection of state Route 360 and U.S. 360, go straight through the stoplight to Route 344. Travel 10 miles to the park entrance, which is southeast of Scottsburg, VA.

From the south: Take U.S. 501 north to South Boston, VA. At intersection of U.S. 501 and U.S. 58, turn right onto U.S. 58 east; go approximately one mile and turn left at stoplight onto U.S. 360; travel east on U.S. 360 approximately eight miles and turn right onto Route 344; go 10 miles to park entrance.

From the west: Take U.S. 58 east to the intersection of U.S. 58 and U.S. 360; turn left at stoplight onto U.S. 360; go east approximately eight miles and turn right onto Route 344; travel 10 miles to park entrance.

From the east: Take U.S. 360 west to Scottsburg, VA; at intersection of U.S. 360 with state Route 360 and Route 344, turn left at stoplight onto Route 344; travel 10 miles to park entrance.

See park web site for a map and more information.

Current weather:

   Find more about Weather in Scottsburg, VA

 

Sky conditions:
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 6.5
     East: 5.5
     West: 5.5
     North: 5.5
     South: 5.5

Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): All depends on where you are on the field.  It is a very large, open field.  In the center you'll have horizons easily down past 10 degrees all the way around.
 
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):  none.
 
Comments from contributor:   Staunton River State Park is the location of the Staunton River Star Party, held once in the spring and once in the fall. The park, rangers and staff are very accommodating. If you are there to observing outside of the star party dates, contact the park staff and rangers for approval before setting up anything on the main field.

One item to note is that you may get occasional car traffic adjacent to the main field resulting in head lights occasionally illuminating the field.

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Town: Whitetop

Observing site: Whitetop Mountain
 
Address: VA Route 600 

Zip Code: 24292
 
Contact person: None
 
Telephone number: N/A

Web sites:  http://www.rlrouse.com/whitetop-mountain.html http://www.radford.edu/~fldsch/RUFieldschool/fieldtrips/MountRogers/Stop5page/MtRogersStop5-AQuestions.html

Latitude: N36 38.319'

Longitude: W81 36.326'

Restrictions:  No restrictions and as far as the contributor knows.  Camping is permitted with no charge. Very rough conditions and no facilities. Vehicles are not permitted off the designated roads.
 
Directions: The town of Whitetop lies about a mile south of VA State Highway 58--one very winding road indeed--, but Whitetop Mountain lies to the north.  From VA 58, take VA State Highway 600 north about 1.7 miles until the Whitetop Mtn sign and cutoff (on the left). It's a dirt road graveled and in good condition for about 5 miles. Bear left at the fork and you'll arrive at the parking area, elevation 5,520 feet.  You can go higher to 5,700 feet at the weather station but trees block the view.

Current weather:    Click for Whitetop, Virginia Forecast

 

Sky conditions:  Generally you're above most of the moisture and with clear skies you'll be pleased for sure. The altitude at 5,500 feet is the attraction.

 
Typical naked-eye magnitude limit on a clear, moonless night:
     At the zenith: 7
     East: 6.5
     West: 6
     North: 6.5
     South: 6.5

Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):  Southeast and south. Maybe a 5 degree rise from the horizontal.
 
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):  North has a 20 degree cutoff with a slope and trees but very dark sky.
 
Comments from contributor:  Whitetop is about an hour drive from Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC. At 5,500 feet it is considerably higher than Doughton which is at 3,300 feet and the seeing on clear nights is spectacular. The south and south east horizons are particularly dark. Omega Centauri is just visible naked eye and is totally overwhelming in my Takahashi Mewlon 250 or just about any 'scope for that matter: talk about stars and stars and more stars. Great location for astrophotography. Very cold in winter with any wind. Dress very warmly. 

Google 'Whitetop Mountain, VA' and you'll find plenty of web sites and info. Not difficult to get to, but a very winding road and loaded with deer--be careful--as Grayson Highland State Park is next door. Grayson Highlands has Mt Rogers, which is the highest peak in Virginia but the view from the peak is blocked by trees unless you want to look straight up. All in all a worthwhile trip with clear skies. 

I've given up on forecasts as they never seem to turn out as predicted although the Grayson Highlands Clear Sky Clock above can give you some indications.

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