You do not have to be a member to attend one of our star
parties. We love sharing the universe with new people.
But you can make the experience much better for everyone,
including yourself, if you know a little about star parties
before you get there. Expectations for visitors will vary
depending on the event
Star Parties in
If you are attending an event
in the city (Houge Park
, etc) then the following
will make the experience more enjoyable for yourself and
the others attending:
- Leave flashlights
at home, and omit lighted toys or rings.
As your eyes adjust to the dark, you'll be able to see well.
Most cities star parties have plenty of unwanted light anyway.
Many astronomical objects are rather faint, and you need
to get acclimated to the dark. For the same reason, please
resist the urge to take flash pictures. We can accommodate
photos during the setup period, prior to full darkness.
- Bring warm
clothes -- a sweater or jacket, as the
air cools quickly after dark, even after a warm day. Dress
for weather about 10 degrees cooler than what is forecast.
- Don't carry
food and drinks around the scopes. Spills
are a problem for the scopes and also for those around them
-- it's no fun walking around in sticky shoes.
- Be careful
not to touch the telescopes, unless the
astronomers instructs you.
- Telescopes move very easily and will lose what we are
- Your fingers will damage sensitive optics and mirrors
- Worse, you may lose your balance!
We will provide a chair or stepladder
to steady yourself. Please use it!
are too young to understand how to look into the
telescope, nor can they make sense of what's going on. When
lifted, their natural tendency is to grab onto whatever
is available, and that's usually the telescope. Bring them
again next year, when they are old enough to climb the ladder
- Don't just
look once -After we show the first group
of objects, we'll move the scopes to additional objects.
So, after making the rounds of the telescopes, go back again,
as we may have something new. We also take requests.
Parties Away from the City
SJAA holds public events at Coyote
Lake and Yosemite to avoid the light pollution of the city.
We move away from the central city specifically to take advantage
of the dark skies. After driving for an hour or more all of
those attending have higher expectations of everyone's behavior.
Please note that other events way from the city are not intended
for public viewing. See the next
section for more information.
- No Bright Light
- The most important rule of
star parties is to keep it dark. No white flashlights, no
Coleman lanterns, no using cellphones or PDAs as a flashlight,
no camera flashes, and especially no car headlights. Learn
- Use Dim Red Light - If you
need light, a dim red light is best -- that's what astronomers
use to read their star charts. A small red LED flashlight
(the kind that costs $1.99 at Fry's) is great. But any dim
flashlight with a piece of red cellophane stretched over
the front works fine.
- Nothing in
Your Hands - Some of the scopes will
have open frames where the mirror is exposed. Set
down anything you are holding before trying to look into
the scope. One slip could damage an expensive mirror!
- Watch Those
Car Lights - Turn off any dome lights
in your car before you get to the star party. Turn off your
headlights and drive slowly with parking lights. Park so
you will not have to back up. SJAA sets aside a parking
area near our observing area at Coyote Lake Park.
Please look for the signs and cones.
- Dress warmly.
No, even warmer than that - Few people
realize just how chilly it gets late at night, even in summer.
Sites away from the city are also higher where it will be
- Be careful where you smoke - We
are outside frequently when there is little wind.
This makes cigarette smoke hang like a stale stench.
Please be aware that some people (like one of the authors)
are deathly allergic to cigarette smoke. If you are
going to light up be aware of who is around you and whether
they want to share your smoke.
Dark Sky Observing
During most SJAA Events the public is invited to look through
the telescopes we provide. For these we relax the expectations
We do conduct several star parties every year that are
intended for private viewing . You are still welcome to attend,
but must bring and use your own scope. Examples of these non-public
events are the "Dark Sky Weekends" and Messier Marathon at Henry Coe State Park . SJAA members
also observe at GSSP
and through TAC.
Here there are very high expectations for everyone's behavior.
In addition to the etiquette for a public event here are
some additional things you must do
- Strictly Follow
the Light Rules - In these situations
there is little tolerance for not obeying the light rules.
The entire purpose of traveling to a dark site is to observe
very dim objects. One mistake can prevent someone from finding
that elusive glob for 30
minutes or more.
- Double Check Your Car's
- It said Dim Red Light- One of the most
common mistakes is to confuse Red with Dim. Even though you may be using a
red light, if it is bright it is a problem. Be aware
of how bright your lights are. Be aware of where
they are pointing
- Unfiltered Laptops
are a No No - Laptops (even those with a "Night
Mode") can be bright enough to cast shadows. TAC recommends
use of plastic filters.
- Announce Before You Leave - Many modern cars
do not allow driver control of the headlights. Announcing
that you are leaving allows everyone to shield their eyes.
Note: Some parties restrict when people can leave.
Be sure you know the rules before you go.
- Green Laser Generally
Not Welcome -See the discussion on TAC for more details.
- Please No Music
- Music tastes differ so violently that it's usually
best to avoid it -- chances are that your favorite band
isn't the favorite of everybody else in the parking lot.
If you really want to listen to music, use headphones
- Some People
Want To Work on their Own - While private
observing sessions are frequently very social, some people
have their own priorities. Anyone imaging would generally
prefer you stay well away from their scopes. Use good social judgment.
We hope you have fun at the star party! After all, that's
what it's all about.
You can also read what
other clubs have to say on this topic.
last updated: 2008 Sept 28