Astronomy in the City

  1. Question: I live in west Los Angeles, and I was wondering if I would be able to see much at all with a personal telescope, if I got one. I imagine the light pollution would prevent me from observing anything but the brightest of objects (Moon, Venus, Polaris, etc). Has anyone attempting to do some serious observing in a place with a lot of light pollution?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    It isn't great where I live (15 miles west of Philadelphia), but I don't know how it compares to where you are - can you identify what the dimmest stars you can see are? Anyway, telescopes are surprisingly able to burn through the skyglow and see dim objects. The 5 bright planets are, of course, a given, but you can also see pretty much all major star clusters. Nebulae and galaxies are a little tougher.

    For me, it is worth it to drive an hour and a half every now and then to use my telescope somewhere much darker.
     
  4. It's pretty crappy in West LA. Your best bet is to head out towards Lancaster or Palmdale for anything other than the brightest stars.
     
  5. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You might want to consider one of the many light pollution filters on the market. The narrowband filters are good at removing individual components of light pollution, like high-pressure sodium light. The broadband filters are more aggressive -- killing more of the light from the objects you're trying to view -- but can really help out a lot in extremely light polluted skies.

    There really is no comparison to just driving out to a dark site, however.

    - Warren
     
  6. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    More specifically, many nebulae emit light at very specific frequencies (like Hydrogen Alpha) and a broadband filter that allows only those frequencies in can be very effective (so I've heard - I haven't done much work wih them yet...). But it won't help much for galaxies.
     
  7. chroot

    chroot 10,427
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    H-alpha and Oxygen-III line filters are very effective for certain kinds of objects, but they are not intended for use as "light pollution filters." A light pollution filter is not a line filter -- it's essentially an all-pass filter with a few carefully chosen notches to reject e.g. sodium-vapor light from commercial lighting systems.

    - Warren
     
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