DAS Activities

DAS Public Nights

Public Nights
Tuesday and Thursday at
DU's Historic Chamberlin Observatory
Current start time is 8:30 pm
Costs to the public are:
$4.00 adults, $3.00 children

To book, please click:

Public Night

EGK Dark Site

Ed Kline, Dark Site Pioneer

Next Dark Sky Weekend: Friday Sept 15th – Sunday Sept 17th
Sept 22nd – 24th also an option this month

Many DAS members, including Ed Kline, George Jones, and Larry Brooks, worked for years to find and acquire a good dark site from which to observe. Because of their perseverance, the Deer Trail Dark Sky Site was found and leased. The site was renamed the Edmund G. Kline Dark Site after a late society member who made many important contributions to the development of the dark site. The site was opened in the late 1990’s. The lease at the site was recently extended to 2022.

The dark site is intended for the use of society members and their guests. To use the site, you must be a DAS member in good standing, a personal guest of a DAS member, a registered participant in a scheduled DAS outreach event at the site, or receive the permission of the DAS President or the Dark Site Committee Chair to visit the site when DAS members are present. Public outreach and education activities are envisioned in the near future utilizing the Brooks Observatory.

Dark Sky Weekends are normally scheduled once per month, on the weekend nearest the new moon. These are the recommended times for new members to receive site orientations because it is more likely that DAS members will be using the site. NOTE: On nights when conditions are not conducive to observing, no orientations will be provided, due to the long travel distance from Denver to the Dark Site.

Facilities

The most recent major development at the site was the addition of a 10 x 10-foot observatory, with an 8-foot dome, dedicated in Fall 2011 as The Brooks Observatory in memory of Lawrence Brooks, former DAS President. Eight 10-ft x 10-ft concrete observing pads and two research and imaging pads were constructed in the Summer of 2006, bringing the total number of pads to 14.

The present facilities include:

  • Fourteen 10′ x 10′ concrete N-S aligned observing pads (3 doubles and 8 singles) each with a separate ac power pole with four grounded outlets; six pads with footings for portable windscreens.
  • Brooks Observatory: One hundred square-foot metal ExploraDome observatory building with rotating 8-ft dome; housing a 14-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a pier-mounted Losmandy G11 German equatorial mount with a Gemini2 Mini go-to control system.
  • Two cleared observing areas for research and imaging activities (South end). These observing areas are registered with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) (see Observatory Code information.)
  • Leveled area for large Dobsonian telescopes and/or vehicle parking just to the West of 8 new observing pads
  • Warming hut with electric heat, red lighting, a microwave oven, small table, and seating areas
  • Six portable windscreens designed to block southerly winds up to 30 mph. See information below.
  • Two designated handicapped parking spaces
  • Vault toilet with nighttime red lighting
  • 6′ x 8′ Storage Building
  • Gravel access road
  • Abundant dark skies

Driving Directions

The Site is about 60 miles east of the “mousetrap” in downtown Denver.

If you can use Google Maps, just enter “EGK Dark Site” for directions or Click HERE.

Otherwise:

Take I-70 east to the Deer Trail exit (exit 328), turn left at the end of the exit ramp, and bear left again on CR 217 (passing the Phillips 66 station). Take CR 217 just over 1/2 mile, and turn right (East) onto CR 34 (Jolly Road). Stay on CR 34 about 6 miles until you get to CR 241 (Bixler Road). Turn left (North) onto CR 241 and continue about 1.4 miles –- you’ll see a culvert with a wide gate on the right (East) side of the road.

Directions for arrival from the North. Please do not use for arrival after dark:

Take I-70 eastbound to exit 316 (Byers). Turn left at end of ramp which puts you on eastbound US-36. Take US-36 east 17.2 miles to CR 241. Turn right (south) onto CR 241 and continue for 6.2 miles. The site entrance is on the left (east) side between two tall posts. The entrance can be difficult to spot. Note that a small grove of trees is directly East of the site.

Note: Travel distance from Denver using the North route is actually 3.9 miles shorter than the traditional route, but takes longer. The first 5 miles of CR 241 going south from US-36 is narrow and somewhat rough. Be careful.

Local Amenities
On the way to the site, the best place to provision is at Bennett, where there is a large King Soopers grocery store with a coffee shop, as well as several fast-food restaurants, a large truck stop, gas stations, and a large hardware store. Other stores are at Watkins, Strasburg and Byers (North of I-70). There is an excellent Mexican restaurant (Coronas Mexican Grill) at Strasburg (drive North of I-70, then West on Colfax). There are two gas stations in Deer Trail, on either side of I-70.  Both have small shopettes and pumps that are open 24-hours.

Observing Conditions

EGK Dark Site Clear Sky Chart
Will it be cloudy or will it be clear? Check out the dark skies forecast.
Weather at the Site
Click on the
image at right for
weather forecast.
Click for Deer Trail, Colorado Forecast
Longitude & Latitude of the EGK Dark Site:
39°38’44.53″N, 103°55’45.62″W

Guidelines for Use

To keep everyone’s experience at the dark site a pleasant and productive one, the DAS E-board and the Dark Site Committee instituted some guidelines. Please familiarize yourself with these guidelines. Enjoy the site and may your skies be dark and clear!

Access

There is a combination lock on the front gate at the Edmund Kline Dark Site.  Any DAS member in good standing may obtain the gate combination by emailing the Dark Site Chair at darksite@denverastro.org. New members can receive the combinations to the power box, the warming hut (and access to the key to the vault toilet), and TuffShed after they have received a site orientation from a member of the Dark Site Committee. Orientations are normally provided on the Saturday night of the dark sky (new moon) weekend of each month. The storage building (installed June 2017) is for storage of Dark Site tools, building materials, and cleaning supplies. It is not intended for storage of astronomical equipment. No gasoline cans are to be stored in the TuffShed.

Warming Hut Rules

  • Please wipe your feet carefully before entering the warming hut.
  • All visitors and guests MUST sign in on the log in the warming hut.
  • The last people on the site must turn off the lights and the heat (although the timer is mechanical and should be left running) and make sure the windows are closed and tightly locked.
  • You may warm drinks or packaged meals in the microwave—it is not there for cooking since we have no water to clean up. If you spill, please clean up after yourself. Heat water for instant beverages using the provided Pyrex measuring cups. Please do not use the Pyrex cups for mixing drinks or soup.
  • Absolutely no smoking in the warming hut.
  • No pots and pans, food, appliances, supplies or other personal possessions are to be left in the hut.
  • Do not donate furniture or other things unless you clear it with the Dark Site committee first.
  • No sleeping overnight in the hut or elsewhere on the site. (Quick naps in your vehicle are permitted. We would prefer you get your nap rather than falling asleep on the road. However, the site is not zoned for overnight stays.)
  • Clean up after yourself before you leave the site.
  • Please clean up all food that drops or is spilled, otherwise it will attract mice and insects.

Dark Site Courtesy

Please remember that white light disrupts the eye’s dark adaptation and can ruin astrophotography. Use red lights, preferably hand-held. Head lamps are not preferred because they shine into the face of people you are talking to.

Following these guidelines will improve the experience for all:

  • Try to arrive before dark.  Driving into the site after dark is extremely dangerous, particularly if you have never been there before. If you must arrive after dark, please stop at the entrance, turn off your headlights, and wait until someone comes out to help guide you in with a red flashlight. If no one comes, please walk down the driveway to the observing stations to get someone.
  • If you arrive before dark, position your car so you can drive out directly instead of using your back up lights. If you arrive after dark, drive into the parking space head first, following the directions of the person who is guiding you.
  • If you are the first person to arrive at the site, please leave the gate open and attached to the wooden pole with the bungee cord.
  • After parking your car, sign the logbook in the warming hut. If you are a new member, ask if a Dark Site Committee member or an experienced site user is present to give you a site orientation.
  • Turn off all vehicle dome and trunk lights. If a light can’t be turned off, pull the fuse, use layered red brake light tape or just duct tape over it.
  • DAS members have priority usage at the concrete pads. Holding a pad for friends is not allowed.
  • Use only dim red flashlights. Never shine a flashlight in someone’s face or on their scope.
  • Please chip in and do some cleaning up in the hut or at the observing sites. It is the responsibility of all users to keep the place clean.
  • Astrophotographers may wish to use the South field since it is somewhat isolated from the rest of the area. However, the South field has no power.
  • If you are the last person to leave the site, lock the vault toilet, turn off the lights and the heaters and lock the windows in the warming hut and make sure that the wind screens are properly stowed in the box and that the lid is closed. Then lock the warming hut, check that the storage shed is locked, turn off the breakers in the outside breaker box, lock the breaker box, and close and lock the gate to the site.

Other Suggestions

  • Drive carefully on the road to the site (CR-241), there are blind spots in the low areas and you will find cattle, deer and pronghorns in or near the road at times. Local traffic travels very fast on the gravel road to the site.
  • Wear or bring warm clothing: leather shoes or boots; gloves; hat; long pants; sweater; jacket. The nights can be surprisingly cold in the summer and extremely cold in winter.
  • Bring your own power such as a battery and/or an inverter since the power sites are limited at some times of the year. Also bring extension cords.
  • Bring drinking water.
  • Hot drinks can help you survive the night! Heat up water in the warming hut.
  • When approaching the telescope of someone who does not know you, introduce yourself and ask before looking through the scope. Most members will be happy to share the view through their scopes. Astrophotographers will probably be happy to show you the image they are taking on their computers.
  • Bring your own toilet paper in case the vault toilet runs out.

Brooks Observatory

Detailed rules have not been established for access to, and use of, the observatory. Committee members who are familiar with (and learning about) its operation characteristics are developing a training program and will make the observatory available for observations on Dark Sky Weekends and other times. Members visiting the Dark Site are encouraged to contact the Dark Site committee if the observatory appears to be damaged or if it appears to have been tampered with.

Society members are encouraged to communicate their interest in using the observatory orally or in writing to the Dark Site Chair and committee members. The observatory will also be available for viewing by small groups, accompanied by one or more DAS members who have been trained in its operation. Please contact the Dark Site Committee and/or the DAS External Outreach Coordinator to check on availability and make arrangements.

We have just acquired (September 2015) an updated Gemini 2 Mini system controller for the G11 mount that has made the telescope more user-friendly.

Portable Wind Screens

There are footings for portable wind screens at six of the 14 observing pads — five for 12-ft screens and one for a 14-ft screen. Two of the screens are designed for a single or optional double screen on the 20-foot NW pad. These screens are intended for use by members or member-hosted public observing events only. Please see the Wind Screen Manual for information on use of the screens. Please follow the instructions. Misuse of the screens could result in damage to the screens, personal observing equipment, or even personal injury. The metal uprights must be inserted in the PVC sleeves first before installing the cross-member. There is a small ladder in the warming hut to assist. The plastic screens must be stowed properly in the large box inside the warming hut. The screens should be folded over once (length-wise, with the center grommets exposed) and rolled. The screens are damaged when folded into squares. Information on the wind screens will be included in Dark Site Orientations. If you have questions about how to use the screens, please email the Dark Site Committee.

Guest Policy

The Edmund G. Kline Dark Site, while for the exclusive use of the membership for serious observing, will allow visitors on a limited basis. Groups or classes wishing to use the dark site may do so only with prior arrangement through the DAS president or vice president and the Dark Site Chairperson. In general, it is not possible to host large groups due to liability concerns.

  • We encourage members to bring family and personal friends to the Dark Site. Please do not abuse the privilege. Members are responsible for educating their guests about the rules.
  • Prospective members, out-of-town astronomers, and others may be guests one time; please contact the Dark Site Chair before you come.
  • Groups of five or more guests must be cleared through the Dark Site Chair, DAS president or vice president prior to visiting the Dark Site.
  • DAS MEMBERS have priority usage at the concrete pads. Holding a pad for friends is not allowed.

Emergency Information

There are two fire extinguishers on site in the warming hut.

There is a first aid kit in the warming hut for minor emergencies that contains a first aid book, scissors and other equipment, and a large selection of bandages, pads, ointments and creams, towelettes and other items. When you use first aid supplies, please make a note of what you used in the log in the warming hut.

In the event of an emergency requiring assistance from medical, fire or law enforcement personnel, please call 911 and follow the instructions provided by the operator. Medical and fire services are available at Deer Trail, Byers, and Strasburg. These teams will be toned by the operator until an available team is found. If possible, stay on the line until a team is located to determine if it is best to stay at the site or meet them at the preferred rendezvous location, which is the “Shell service station in Deer Trail on the west side of I-70.”

The location of the Dark Site should be given as “4120 South Bixler Road (CR 241), 1.4 miles north of Jolly Road.”

Download the Emergency Sign That Is Posted in the Warming Hut HERE (PDF format)

Dark Site Committee Members:

  • Darrell Dodge (Acting Chair)
  • David DeLassus
  • Joe Gafford
  • Mike Hotka
  • Digby Kirby
  • Scott Schafer
  • Greg Wimpey

Email contact: darksite@denverastro.org