Imaging and Data Station

Proposal for An

Imaging and Data Station at the

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary

A. D. Grauer, J. C. Barentine, and P. A. Grauer

[Draft of December 28, 2018]

Final Product

The final product will be a webpage similar to Mt. Lemmon Sky Center Weather.

The CCIDSS/IDA  page will have better day time images and spectacular natural night sky views.

It will feature live day and night imaging, night sky data, weather, links to archival images, video clips, other information, and sponsor logos.


  1. Consistent natural night sky imaging, weather and scientific data,

  2. K-12 Students learn how science works using real data,

  3. Images and video clips to promote local tourism and  the International Dark Sky association [IDA],

  1. World wide observing access at a unique natural night sky site, and

  2. Local environmental data obtained for ranchers and the US Forest Service

The Site 

The Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary{CCIDSS] is a unique site:

  1. It is a International Dark Sky Associationnatural dark night sky location in the Gila National Forestwith attributes which are well documented.

  2. It has pristine natural night skies and is situated where no permanent human lights are directly visible in any direction. On a clear night, there is hardly any human induced sky glow even very low on the horizon.

  3. Western New Mexico Communications internet access.

K-12 Education

The CC-Data Station will be a unique addition to educational opportunities for students world wide. Via the internet students will be able to observe: the weather, transiting Earth satellites including space stations, the passage of the seasons, phases of the Moon, movements of the planets, meteor showers, bright variable stars, and many other natural phenomena.

Economic Development Through Tourism

Trips and vacations to view nature, especially the natural night sky, are becoming increasingly popular. Catron County the home of the Cosmic Campground has pristine natural night skies and a need to provide jobs for its residents. More than 65 % of the population in the USA receive their information from the internet via their cell phone. This project will communicate with them using live data as well as archival images and video clips of the natural night sky.


Despite of the fact that there is wide spread public interest in the dark natural night sky it is not well characterized in the scientific literature and most people do not have regular access to it. 

In the past 12 months, more than 8,900 individuals have visited theCosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary(CCIDSS) web site. Approximately one third of the site users during this period were from cities within reasonable driving distance of the CCIDSS. During a recent 9 month interval the Forest Service traffic counter indicates that more than 2,400 visitors have come to the CCIDSS in person.

The purpose of this project to to build and operate an automated, remotely accessed, weather and night sky observing station at the CCIDSS under a Special Use Permit to the IDA from the Gila National Forest. It will attached to the existing CXT [11'11” by 14'4] Toilet. On the East And West sides two vertical 3 inch diameter metal posts will support small packages of scientific data collection equipment approximately 12 feet above the ground. On the roof of the CXT toilet will be solar panels for power. Two small metal enclosures similar to those which are used to secure tools at construction sites will be attached to the building on the east side. A small concrete slab will partially support their weights. One enclosure will hold scientific data collection and supporting equipment. The other will hold storage batteries which enable night time operations. Planned lifetime is 20 years. No Grading of the site is necessary. It will be operated remotely 24/7. The all sky camera will obtain live images of the natural night sky which will also be used to produce archival images and video clips. The scientific data equipment will measure the natural night sky of the Gila National Forest , track solar activity, and provide educational opportunities for students worldwide. The images will be made freely available for educational and economic development through tourism. The data station will also collect and log wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, rain fall, solar influx, soil moisture, soil temperature, and other local environmental data. There is a weather underground weather station15 miles away at another location which does not image or measure the night sky. All of the data will be made freely available to interested parties via the internet.

In addition to the astronomical data the CC-Data Station will provide important weather and other environmental data to the Gila National Forest. These data will help local ranchers and the US Forest Service to evaluate range conditions. This will be especially important during fire season which is an increasing problem in the west due to global climate change.

Scientifically, the data station will be used to record the relationship between space weather and the natural night sky.

Preliminary Budget Estimates

Item                                                                      Construction Cost                    Annual

Solar Power System

[See more detail at bottom of page]                $ 17,000

Weather Station                                                  $   5,000 

On site computer                                                $   5,000

All Sky Camera                                                   $ 2,500 and up

Two SQM Sky Meters mounted at zenith 

and 45 degrees to vertical 

in Weather Proof Housings                                $   800

TESS Photometer                                           $  ???

Site Surveillance Cameras                                   $ 800

Scientific, electronics and

communications equipment                               $ 5,000

Internet Connection 

Western New Mexico Communications       Complementary    $ 94.99/month

Server                                                                 $ 5,000


                                                                             Construction                     Recurring 

Totals approximately                                        $42,000                                $1139.88/yr 

Purchased Currently Being tested before being Installed

Sky Quality Meter  - Solar charger 

Sky Quality Meter -LU-DL

A fully engineered, permitted, weather proof and professionally installed solar power system, equipment enclosures, conduit, equipment masts, lightning mitigation and painted will be installed as required by the Gila National Forest Special use permit issued to the IDA.


John Barentine,International Dark Sky Association

Steve Barkes,Astronomical Society of Las Cruces

Wayne Baxter,Western New Mexico Communications

Dave Dubois,Weather New Mexico State University

Albert Everett,University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Matthew FavreWestern New Mexico Communications

J. Scott Feierabend, Executive Director, International Dark Sky Association

John FrancisWestern New Mexico Communications

Alex Gibbs, Principal Engineer, Catalina Sky Survey

Albert D. Grauer,Friends of the Cosmic Campground

Patricia A. Grauer,Friends of the Cosmic Campground

NMSU NM Climate CenterWebsite

Frank Shelly, Senior Engineer & Systems Programmer, Catalina Sky Survey

Anthony Tekatch, Dark Sky Instrument Designer and Vendor, Unihedron

David Thornburg, Local Technical Expert

Craig Wentz, Solar Energy Designer and Installer, Wentz Electric

USFS Special Use Permit

Site Images