Star Party Etiquette

How to Behave and Contribute When Observing With Experienced Astronomers

When driving in, use your car's parking lights

This will let us know that you are interested in astronomy and that you are not a drug dealer. We know that some new cars have running lights that can't be turned off and we accept it. One trick to disable your daytime running lights is to depress the emergency brake pedal until it clicks once. You can still move the car but the daytime running lights will go off. This may or may not work for your car. (If you get serious about astronomy, we can show you how to disable running lights.)

Minimize white light from your car

This includes interior lights, backup lights, and trunk lights. Please keep the doors and trunk closed if those lights can not be turned off or shielded. If you must turn on a white light, call out "White Light!" to warn the astronomers.

Use a flashlight with red bulb or red filter

If you can't find any red plastic, try a brown paper (not plastic) bag. Ask some of the astronomers if they have any red plastic, they will gladly share.

If possible, set your telescope up before dark

It will be a lot easier and you won't have to use white light. Visitors arriving after dark may not be allowed vehicle access to the red light observing areas at some star parties.

Turn Your Car Off

Your car will not help keep you warm. Astronomy does not work up a sweat. You must provide heat and energy FROM INSIDE YOUR BODY. Bundle Up, drink something hot without caffeine and eat some carbs and protein. Nobody else wants to breathe your car or generator exhaust. If you try to sleep in your car with the motor running you could get killed or worse! Others may be trying to sleep. You are keeping them awake AND YOUR EXHAUST IS PUTTING THEM IN DANGER! This rule goes for portable generators too! If you must warm up your car, move it away from the other observers. We have had observers get sick from car exhaust. Your newer model cars are smarter than you are. You do not have to warm up the engine like your father's Oldsmobile.

Attention Park Visitors: We are dark adapted and can see what you and your honey are doing in your car!

Low light and infrared cameras used by astronomers will pick up all human activity. Drug dealers, we see you too! (Watch Youtube for your video and pictures!)

Let your eyes adjust to the dark

Avoid looking at bright objects such as white light, street lights, oncoming cars, and flashlights. It will help you see the sky and the other telescopes. You will be surprised just how much you can see in complete darkness.

Please turn off the flashing lights on your childrens' shoes

These flashing shoe lights have become very bright in recent years. They can ruin night vision as just as badly as a flashlight or car lights. Dim red ones are O.K. but the blue and white ones are murder. We usually have the gravity turned on at star parties, so rest assured your children will not float away.

Watch your step

There are lots of things on the ground including boxes, wires, stone ledges, and tripod legs. Once your eyes adjust to the dark, you won't need your red flashlight. Do not run.

Don't act like an idiot.

Sticking your head or hand in front of a telescope is flat out rude. Your face or hand WILL NOT show up to the person looking through the eyepiece, the image will just dim slightly. God help anyone who touches or breathes on the optical surfaces.

Laser pointers may be used by adults only

Children are not permitted to use laser pointers at star parties. A misdirected beam of laser light can blind someone. Astronomers often use commercial green laser pointers to align their telescopes and point to things in the sky. These green lasers CAN CAUSE RETINA DAMAGE!!!! Kids, please understand when we say no when you ask to use our lasers.

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.

Keep smokes away from the telescopes

Smoke will settle on optics and ruin the coatings. Use your judgment here. Many astronomers love a good cigar but please respect the non-smokers and observe any site smoking regulations.

Don't "Flick your Bic"

If you must light up, go behind a large vehicle or otherwise thoroughly shield your flame. A lighter is just as bad as a white flashlight.

Booze and optics are a poor mix

It ruins your night vision and makes eyepieces hard to handle. Observe site restrictions on alcohol use.

Keep food and drinks away from the telescopes

Sticky hands, sloshing drinks, and expensive optics do not mix. And if you or your kids are the type that can't eat Cheetos without getting the orange dust all over their hands, please kindly refrain from touching the telescopes.

Keep any pets on a leash

We can't see Fido or what he leaves on the ground (see discusion about spit)

Don't Bug The Wildlife

We have had all sorts of critters visit us while stargazing - from cows to skunks. Surprising any of these beasts could lead to disaster. Cows do not want to look through our telescopes, please do not invite them to do so. (see discussion about spit and pets)

Keep an eye on your children

It's dark and we are in the middle of nowhere, often on top of a steep ridge. We welcome the next generation of astronomers at our telescopes and we want them to have a safe evening observing.

Use an iPod or other gizmo with earbuds, not a boom box

Music is a personal choice and is great when combined with astronomy. Please respect any silence desired by others. No, we don't want to hear the race or fox news either

Ask before looking through a telescope

We will gladly let you look through our telescopes, but let the owner show you how and where to look first.

Ask the astronomer how to focus and nudge the telescope

You won't knock the telescope over or break it, but you may accidentally move it off object. You will have to focus the telescope for your eye and sometimes move it slightly to keep the object in the field. If you can't see the object, or if you accidentally get the scope off object, the astronomer will be glad to fix it.

Please ask lots of questions

We love questions and feel honored to help you learn. The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask.