In search of dark skies in South Florida | i75 Rest stop at mile marker 63

UPDATE: 8/8/2017

The original date of this blog was in August of 2014. At that time the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association, aka SFAAA was looking to replace one of its dark sites that it visits during New Moon Member Treks.  This original post was my review of one of the potential candidates that they could add tot he list of site they can use. In 2016 i believe the SFAAA petitioned the powers that be at Big Cypress National Preserve to reduce the harmful over lighting of this wilderness area. The SFAAA was been grated permission to turn off the parking lot lights on the north side of the rest stop at mile marker 63! This has changed the status of Area 63 from "Not Suitable" to "Very Suitable". SFAAA has added Area 63 to it's list of dark sites that it can visit during its once a month member treks.

I have been in attendance to several of these treks to Area 63 and I can say its very dark when the lights are turned off. Here are a couple images taken with my DSLR during one of the treks.

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Area 63 

Looking north 20 second exposure, ISO 1200 F/2.4 15mm Fisheye

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Area 63

Star trails

 

I took a drive out to the the rest stop on i75 @ mile marker 63. This could be a such a great dark, easy access both east and west bound, all paved roads, rest rooms and showers and safe as it is patrolled 24 hours. Unfortunately until the National Park Service can turn off the or turn down the lights used in the parking lot this will not be on my list of dark sites.

The amount of light being used here is so over the top you could land and plane. Looking at the first image below you can see this really does look like a runway for landing planes. An email has been send to the NPS in hopes of having these light dialed down or better yet turn off at certain time i.e new moon, special winter star gazing events and what not. Let's hope they do so, i would really hate to lose this great area to light pollution.

The images are 25 second exposures, iso: 100,0 f/3.5.

This site had some promise, but after this visit I conclude the parking lot lights are far to bright, so this would not be good for us to use as a dark site.