The South Plains Astronomy Club members have dark sites for member’s star parties. We are blessed with dark skies and wide-open spaces, so we have a number of good dark sites. Since the targets we will be observing are primarily deep-sky objects (galaxies, nebulas and star clusters), these events are usually scheduled for nights when the moon will not be up. Some of the sites are listed below.
Old Emma Cemetery
The town of Emma was once the county seat of Crosby County. Today, the only thing left of the town is the abandoned cemetery (see the photo to the right), now sitting in the middle of cotton fields. Skies are typically quite dark there and the parking area makes for a nice site for us to observe southern objects. The Emma Cemetery is south of Ralls on FM 207. From there, you’ll need to find Country Road 188 and then the unmarked dirt road that leads north to the cemetery. No power or bathrooms are available
Caprock Canyons State Park
CCSP is about two hours from Lubbock and has very dark skies. They are in the process of applying for dark site certification. It’s a great place to go for the day or weekend, with bison roaming freely and spectacular hiking. It has multiple locations available for observing:
- In the summer, the park has regular public star parties scheduled at the Lower Prong Trailhead, which is a pretty good place to observe if you don’t need low horizons.
- The Little Red Campground (tent camp) is a good location with lower horizons.
- Individual sites at the Honey Flats campground work, though many campers run electric lights.
- The Equestrian Campground is a no power or facilities site that is very dark except for the campfires at the various sites.
You’ll need to pay the small fee at the entrance station when you arrive. If you plan on camping, make reservations well in advance since they are generally very busy. For more information, visit their website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/caprock-canyons
Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge
The wildlife refuge is a site northwest of Lubbock near the Texas-New Mexico border. It is blessed with dark skies. We set up at the Paul’s Lake Observation Platform. Visitors to this site must be conscious of the wildlife, especially during the sandhill crane migration that stretches roughly from November to March. There is no available A/C power at this site, but there are public bathrooms. We must also call ahead during business hours to let the manager know we’ll be out there and he requests that we also sign the guest book when we visit. For more information, see their website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/muleshoe
Gott Observatory at Skyview
This is the Texas Tech University Observatory located a convenient distance northwest of Lubbock. Unfortunately, Lubbock’s light pollution makes observing southern objects difficult from this site. However, on clear nights the view of much of the sky is quite acceptable. We must coordinate with Texas Tech astronomy program’s schedule to use the site. There is a concrete pad just to the south of the observatory building that is ideal for scope setup. No power is available, but a porta-a-potty is available.