School Star Party

Jim Van Nuland (Co-ordinator)

Jim Van Nuland (Coordinator)

jvn2smThe San Jose Astronomical Association conducts evening observing sessions (commonly called “star parties”) for schools in mid-Santa Clara County, generally from Sunnyvale to Fremont to Morgan Hill.

Outside of that area, we suggest:

  • North of Fremont: Eastbay Astronomical Society;
  • South of Morgan Hill: the Mira Observers Group;
  • North of Sunnyvale: Peninsula Astronomical Society;
  • North of Palo Alto: San Mateo County Astronomical Society;
  • Nearer San Francisco: San Francisco Amateur Astronomers.

The AANC (Astronomical Association of Northern California) maintains an extensive list of clubs on their Northern California Astronomy Resource Guide, including contact information for the above clubs and many over the northern part of California.

The co-coordinator for SJAA is Jim Van Nuland.

A step-by-step procedure for setting up a star party:

  • Read the Teacher’s Page to get an overview of what is needed.
  • Consult the list of available dates and your school calendar to find a suitable date. Recheck there to be sure the date is still available. Be sure to obtain the Principal’s permission for the event, and for us to drive onto the grounds.
  • Write Jim and ask him to assign the date. If you have questions, ask him to hold the date while you/we get answers.
  • Get some idea where we might enter and set up. Ask Jim for an evening visit at school, to identify lighting problems and decide how we’ll enter the grounds.
  • Continue the e-mail dialog to hammer out all the details:
    1. agreed-on date;
    2. sunset time, which dictates the earliest starting time;
    3. what celestial objects might be visible;(Jim supplies the above two items.)
    4. approximate school enrollment, what grades will be invited.
    5. With that set, you can prepare publicity for the event.
    6. We need to talk (just a few minutes) on event day, for weather considerations and as a final readiness check.Please supply:
      1. a phone number for Jim to call you on event day; and
      2. the time when you can take a call, ideally 11:40 am.

      Now for the physical plant information:

    7. name and address of the school;
    8. where we will enter to bring in the telescopes, often from the back or side;
    9. where we will set up, typically basketball or other paved play area;(These are best determined by a preliminary visit.)
    10. what time the gate must be unlocked, typically 90 minutes before start time;
    11. what lights must be turned off or covered;
    12. what sprinklers must be turned off.
      (Two more topics for that preliminary visit.)
  • Enjoy the evening! — the payoff for all that hard work.
  • Make preliminary plans for next year.

Suggestions for teacher asking for an event
Suggestions for enjoying the star party
Current events, directions, available and assigned dates
Suggestions for astronomer that is new to school events
About SJAA schoolyard star parties
School star parties are not open to the public. Though school grounds are open during these star parties, it is the school, not SJAA, that is the host. Therefore, information on these pages is not an invitation for non-students to come to the school, even though it is unlikely that anyone would object.

For astronomers bringing telescopes for Yosemite star party
For others coming to the Yosemite star party who will not be bringing a telescope.
Annual Yosemite N.P. public star party
SJAA participates in the star party program in Yosemite National Park. The observing is conducted atop Glacier Point on Friday and Saturday evenings during July and August, with a different astronomy club each weekend.The events are open to anyone; simply come to the Park. Those who are bringing a telescope for the public to use should read the web page (top left link) and contact me.

Pictures are needed that were taken at schools. Click image to see a larger version.

gordnsmGordon’s Questar and student

jvn1smJim’s 8-inch, children waiting patiently

jvn2smWhen parents wander away


Mail to Jim Van Nuland.

Last updated: 2013 January 24, 1416, 1532 hours, pst