OK there are two things that never go well together. Serious amateur astronomical observing and light pollution. The most irritating form of light pollution is something that is cyclical and periodic, but not constant. For this very reason, the last place one would imagine to go observing would be at a lighthouse. The periodic flares of light are the worst irritant to an observer, as the eye never adjusts to any particular steady state.
It just seemed fairly ironical that the icons which signify the start of global light pollution would end up being an astronomical observing location for a night.
Recently, my neighbor Keith and I ventured with some family down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically to Kill Devil Hills for some R&R time. With this in mind, we packed up a U-Haul Trailer with loads of astro gear with aspirations to locate some clear and dark skies. However, when we researched things some, the dark sites seemed to be about 45 minutes or more away or so. After all we were on vacation, and a 45 minute drive just seemed like “too much work.”
That day Keith returned back to the beach house, and said…I have an idea. Lets go observing at the Bodie (pronounced Body) Lighthouse. I took two steps back, and kind of threw him one of those “What is wrong with you?” type looks. Thinking to myself, observing at a lighthouse…who ever heard of such a thing? Preposterous….
“Patrick, you know I’m not an idiot,” he said… As any good neighbor would do, I tried to tone down my facial sarcasm by going “dumb.” He then told me the lighthouse was under repair.
“WOW! So the light is off?” I exclaimed.
“Yes, and it will be that way for a few more years.” He added.
“So its an anti-light house then?” I begged.
“Yes, and there’s a really cool parking lot we can use there,” Keith explained.
And so off we ventured, trailer loaded with astronomy toys to observe at the Bodie Island lighthouse. I have to tell you this place was perfect. It was nearly as dark as Cherry Springs, and provided some of the most stable skies I had ever seen in my life. Enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitoes to a minimum. It was the perfect observing session.
Exhaustion started to overtake me at around 4:30 in morning or so, and we packed up. I will forever be in love with this great observing location. Even when the lighthouse turns back on in a few years. So if you are in the area, this is a great place to observe. If you live near there – well it will continue to be a great observing location for a few more years.
This was of the top 5 observing nights in my life!