Stargazing in Big Bear
Big Bear is one of the few locations within the Southern California area and close to Los Angeles with very good skies for stargazing. The altitude here gives images with very good to excellent transparency (lack of particulate matter in the atmosphere), and frequently very good "seeing"(atmospheric image stability). Though there is a light dome to the west, to about 30 degrees up, the overhead view can be as dark as nearly anywhere with views of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon.
There are many excellent locations around the Big Bear Valley for stargazing. For the best views, look for a location away from bright night time lights, with as wide a view of the skies as possible. Also avoid dusty locations, as these will impair the transparency (clearness) of your view. It will take your eyes about 10-15 minutes to adapt to the dark. Using a red flashlight will keep your dark adaption intact; if you use a white light, you will lose your dark adaption. Many stores sell headlamps with red and white LEDs. When you reach your observing location, switch to red only. These work very well.
If you are new to astronomy, you might want to first use a pair of binoculars. There are many bright and beautiful objects that are visible in binoculars, including the moon and planets. A simple app on your smartphone or a printed planisphere or sky map will guide you through the skies (even advanced amateurs keep one of these handy).
To learn more about stargazing in Southern California, visit the StarLight Festival this May 24 & 25, 2014 where you and your family can learn more about science and astronomy among an atmosphere of music and art! The event is FREE and fun for all ages.
Come and enjoy the beautiful skies in Big Bear!