(Please take a moment to read over this information)
So you want to do some stargazing? Please keep in mind that as you are viewing to be careful as you navigate your way around the telescopes. Telescopes range from a few hundred dollars to over $10,000! The owners love to share their experiences with everyone, but don't want to worry about having their equipment damaged due to carelessness. Please do your best to abide by these simple courtesies.
Got a telescope? - Bring it along if you have one. Experienced observers, even the ones with the monster telescopes love to gander through other telescopes. In addition, binoculars are an excellent observing aid so bring them along.
Turn off the car lights - Light pollution is a gigantic problem for amateur astronomers. The eyes can take up to a half hour to acclimate to the darkness. A millisecond of car lights means extra time for each observer to get "dark-adapted". Do your best to keep the lights off while you are on the observing field. Try to park your vehicle with the headlights pointing away from the field. When you start the vehicle, you will not blind those on the observing field or ruin someone's CCD imaging.. Also, cover your dome light in your vehicle or remove it so it doesn't interfere with observing. If you must turn on a white light, call out "White Light" to warn the astronomers.
Flashlights - Always use flashlights with a red lens or some type of red filtration. If you need to find one ask one of the more experienced observers or purchase one online or from a local hobby shop.
Photography - There is absolutely no photography allowed on the observing field. The bright strobe of a camera flash can destroy every ones night vision for 45 minutes to an hour.
Spitting - Do not spit - Many times astronomers must be on their hands and knees around the telescopes. Nobody wants to encounter the end results of your chew. There have been instances where an inconsiderate person spit blindly into the dark and hit a box of very expensive eyepieces.
Trash - If you make a mess, please clean it up.
Children - Children are the future of amateur astronomy and we encourage parents to bring them along to the party. A star party can be a very exciting time for most everyone, kids included.
Please, keep an eye on your children. There are literally thousands upon thousands of dollars in equipment out on the observing field. Most scope owners have saved for years to buy their dream scope, or have countless hours in building their own equipment. Children should be instructed not to run or play around the equipment on the observing field. They should also get the owners permission before touching any equipment.
Touching Equipment - Do not touch a telescope unless the owner has given you permission. Never touch the optical glass of a telescope or eyepiece. The oils on your skin can ruin the coatings.
Big Scopes - Most telescopes are small enough that you can simply walk up and look in the eyepiece, or better yet, you can sit down and look through it. Then there are the "Big Dobs". These telescopes so large that you literally have to climb a ladder to look through them. Some only require a step or two and you are at the eyepiece. Others may require more. It is not uncommon to climb four, five, even six feet up a ladder just to look through the eyepiece. No big deal you say? They can be! Just remember, you are doing this in the dark. When you do go up a tall ladder, be sure to count your steps. If you forget that you are on a ladder and turn around to walk away, that first step could be a doozy! (Lulu) If in doubt, ask the owner to count you down. It's better to be safe than sorry. And whatever you do DON'T TRY TO BREAK YOUR FALL ON THE TELESCOPE!
Scope owners will not be held responsible if you are injured climbing their ladders. But you will be held responsible for any damage you cause to a scope. By climbing the ladder, you assume the responsibility of getting up and down safely. If you don't think you can get up there and back down safely, don't go up it.
Walk-a-bouts - It's a lot of fun to walk around the observing field during daylight hours, checking out all of the beautiful scopes that are set up. You can easily see everything in detail. Now try to walk around the field in the dark. Things will look totally different. Use your red filtered flashlight when you walk about the field and keep it pointed toward the ground. Be on the lookout for power cords and tripod legs. Once your eyes become dark-adapted, it will be much easier to walk around the field.
Clothing -Give some thought to this one! Check a weather report prior to an observing session. Astronomy is not much fun if you are not comfortable. Standing around in the night air can be quite cold, even in the summertime. Bring a sweater.
Asking Questions -There is a saying that even holds true on the observing field. "There is no such thing as a stupid question. Only stupid people do not ask questions". Now we aren't implying that you are an idiot ;-). We are just trying to explain that no matter how dumb you may think the question is, go ahead and ask it. Most of us have probably asked the question ourselves when we were getting started in astronomy. A star party is the best classroom for learning about the hobby. You will learn more in two days by asking questions and listening to discussions than you will in a year out on your own.
Have Fun! - The enjoyment of a star party is indescribable. Many new friends will be made, you will look through many different telescopes, both large and small, and a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment will be with you as you leave. Most are already looking forward to the next star party even before they leave the observing field.
Last Word - When in doubt, ask. We make every effort for you to enjoy the star party. If you have comments, questions, or concerns at the star party, by all means let one of the club members know. We will try our best to help out and make your visit an enjoyable one.