The sky quality in the public parks near San Jose is degrading as the Bay Area continues to grow. For almost 20 years the club has been considering purchasing some land that can be used as a dark sky observing site. Until this year none of the leads have worked out.
In January one of the club members approached the board and suggested his property might be suitable. Both donor and the board of SJAA are waiting to see how much interest there is before proceeding with the donation.
The property is located south of Hollister about 90 mi from Houge Park (about a 2 hour drive). The area around the property is former ranch land. The site is in located in the beautiful rolling hills of Willow Springs around 3000’ in elevation.
The site is nearly as dark as the site where the Texas Star Party is held. What’s more, it is likely to stay dark because by chance it is located within a San Benito County Dark Sky Zone that was set up to protect both the Pinnacles and Fremont Peak. It is also located considerably south of Hollister (about 32 mi). There are virtually no light sources to the south.
Here is a sample of some of the things that can be seen from the site:- Barnard’s loop (6” RFT)- Gegenshein (naked eye on a good night)- Horsehead (10” with filter)- Omega Centauri - well resolved (in 16”). The southern sky is dark down to a wide low horizon.
The site is raw property. There are no services and it’s accessed by 2.5 miles of dirt road that is generally in good condition. The site will be closed for use during the winter rainy season. Access will be restricted to observers and their guests.
The donor is hosting an open house star party on May 27 and we’re hoping you will come join us for some of the darkest skies within a 2 hours drive of San Jose. It’s a pleasant drive down to Willow Springs and the land itself is beautiful by day. We are very excited about the possibility of SJAA having a dedicated dark sky observing site and we hope you will be too! Contact the authors for more information.
We have been studying the site for the board since the offer was made. Our presentation during the May general meeting provided some additional information on our conclusions including estimates of the costs. At this point we are actively soliciting input. If the board and the donor do not feel there is sufficient interest then this offer will lapse.
Please contact the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org if you desire further information or wish to express interest.
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