Astronomy for RVers
Astronomers Paradise: A little piece of heaven in southwest New Mexico
By Chris Fellows, Serenity Mobile Observatory
I don’t often write in this feature about destinations, but I ran across a nifty spot in the desert of New Mexico that I think is worth sharing. Astronomers Paradise is a brand-new business in the bootheel of New Mexico that has a lot to offer the amateur astronomer who has always wanted his own private observatory but hasn’t had the means or location to build one.
I want to make this clear right up front. This isn’t your typical campground or RV resort. It isn’t an overnight or even a month-long stopover. This location is for serious astronomy enthusiasts who want a very dark sky location with a dedicated observatory all to themselves. Somewhere you can set up your equipment and leave it set up for extended periods of time and get some serious observing or photography in the pristine dark skies of southwest New Mexico.
Amenities are few out here: Each site has a gravel parking pad, 50 amps of power, and a dedicated cellular repeater antenna to connect to the internet and phone service. A fresh water fill station and dump station are also available on site, as are laundry and shower facilities in a clubhouse with a kitchen and meeting room.
The big draws, of course, are the excellent dark skies and the observatories. These are private buildings and each site has its own unique design. Most are fairly large: 12’, 16’ and even 24’ designs are available, and have both telescope and control rooms. The ones I walked through also had at least one telescope pier inside and some had multiple piers.
The buildings I looked at were all well-constructed with large automatic-open roofs and views down to about 15 degrees above the horizon depending on your telescope mounting methods and tube heights.
Pricing is very reasonable with your choice of a 6-month lease for $3,000, or $500 per month, or a 12-month lease for $5,000, or $435 for first month and $415 per month the rest of the year. These prices include electricity, which typically runs around $100-$150 per month in this area, so you can see that rent here is affordable.
In my conversations with Dan Campeon, the owner of the facility, he indicated that he would be open to multiple people leasing a single site and sharing the facilities as long as he only had to deal with a single point of contact. A deal like that could bring the cost per person way down and make it hard to beat.
Dan also told me that he is open to almost anything a prospective customer wants to do. Want to make your observatory completely remotely operable? Dan will work with you. Want to add a weather station to your observatory? Dan thinks that is a great idea.
These buildings and sites will be leased out on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want your choice of observatory or site location in the park act quickly as these may go fast.
The area is very remote. If you love quiet and seclusion this is a spot for you. Driving long distances, an hour or more in one direction for anything more than the most basic supplies, is a necessity out here. You’re probably not going to pick up local television channels so you will need a satellite dish or unlimited broadband on your cellular service to keep in touch with the outside world. There are some beautiful drives through the Chiricahua Mountains, a small desert museum, and many bird-watching opportunities to keep you busy during the daytime.
If you are a serious observer with an RV and are looking for an affordable long-term place to set up your telescope you could do much worse than Astronomer’s Paradise. You can contact Dan or Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or you can check them out for yourself at Astronomers Paradise or on Facebook.
Chris Fellows, Serenity Mobile Observatory
Find Chris on Facebook (or, if you’re lucky, at your campground). (Editor: Check out his amazing photos on his Facebook page!)
Well, it’s over three years later and I have pulled the trigger and moved into this facility. No more road warrior for me for awhile at least. I am in site #1 and have started working on my observatory getting it just as I want it. Clear skies everyone!
Hey, Chris! Great to hear from you! Congratulations on your new location. I just reread that post. Sounds like you’re going to really enjoy it there. And I peeked at your FB page (hardly ever look at FB anymore). You have tons of amazing images on there. Wow! Take care, stay healthy, and enjoy your new place! 😀 –Diane
You state “I don’t often write in this feature about destinations”, but, please, do so. You seem to travel to many such destinations and your input would be very valuable to RV amateur astronomy travelers such as we plan on being. Still looking for you to hit NE Ohio, admittedly not the best dark skies, but some good ones. Happy trails and keep looking up.
Thanks Ralph! I will keep that in mind. I have avoided too many destination articles because I think they are well covered in other forums but if my audience is interested…..
Thanks for this article Chris! Only change I would make to the excellent information you have given is that the owner is Dan Campion, not the person you listed. Otherwise, very accurate and valuable information! Safe travels!
I sent the edit in to my editor and she has made the change. Thanks Larry!