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The New Mexico Skies
Astronomy Enclave
Experience.

New Mexico Skies Astronomy Enclave is unique in so many ways, it's really hard to describe with just words. Our skies are not to viewed with the eyes alone, they can be best experienced with the body and the soul. Until you've spent a few weeks or months up here, you really can't begin to describe the peace, the serenity, the "oneness" with nature, and the beauty of the heavens above.

 

The North American Nebula - (1) 3 minute exposure

 

 

The North American Nebula.

 

This is a single 3 minute exposure with an UNmodified Canon DSLR taken at New Mexico Skies. It truly is amazing how much easier, AND better your images will be when you have the finest skies to work with.

  

Local Conditions

If you go a few miles in any direction, the weather and sky conditions can change dramatically. Go west about 15 miles from New Mexico Skies, towards Cloudcroft and you'll soon understand why they call it CLOUDcroft. The prevailing wind in our area is from the west-northwest (it generally follows the James Canyon - Highway 82 valley).  When the warm, dry desert winds raise up from the desert floor to the mountain tops at Cloudcroft, the air cools dramatically, and the little bit of moisture that's in the air can turn to clouds. It's not unusual for Cloudcroft to be totally socked in with clouds, and we've got perfectly clear skies here at New Mexico Skies. Even though Cloudcroft has an EXCELLENT light pollution law, when the clouds do cover the town, it can create a small light dome that can affect the night skies for 5 to 7 miles from town. Also, as the winds blow across the mountain tops, you'll find quite a bit of turbulence for the next 5 to 10 miles downwind from Cloudcroft, which can definitely affect the seeing. By time the air travels the 15 miles from Cloudcroft to New Mexico Skies, it has generally become very stable (it's not unusual to see less than 1 arc-second seeing at New Mexico Skies), and the clouds are normally gone. You can always check the local sky conditions by going to the NM Skies weather page. Most of the land to our west is part of the Lincoln National Forest.

If you go south a few miles, it's not unusual to find the winds 10 to 20 miles per hour higher than at New Mexico Skies. The seeing to south is pretty good (only about a 1/2 to 1 arc second or so, worse than NM Skies from our experience), but the wind gusts can be brutal. Generally speaking, the skies to the south are dark, they generally have similar weather conditions (except for the wind and the seeing) to New Mexico Skies, and the transparency is good. Most of the land to the south is part of the Lincoln National Forest.

If you go east from New Mexico Skies, the seeing and the transparency start to drop off pretty fast. As you go further east, the elevation drops off fairly quickly, and you'll be imaging thru much more of the atmosphere. To the east, the skies are dark, but the seeing can be disappointing. Much of the land to the east is part of the Lincoln National Forest and if you go further east, you're into the desert.

If you go north from New Mexico Skies and there really is not much private property available for astronomy. The Lincoln National Forest starts just across the valley from New Mexico Skies and continues until it meets the Mescalero Apache Indian Tribal Lands which continues all the way to Ruidoso. There is a VERY small amount of private land available to the north, but most of it is valley land. Unfortunately for us astronomers, the valley land is not very good land for astronomy. The valleys usually experience more winds and more turbulent winds, they experience greater temperature swings at night, and the little bit of moisture we do get tends to concentrate in the valleys. We've had perfectly sunny mornings on the mountain top here at New Mexico Skies, yet the valley was fogged in for hours.

Simply put, you'll be hard pressed to find any where in North America that offers you the excellent conditions that exist at New Mexico Skies.

We're a community for amateur astronomers, by amateur astronomers.