Our outdoors observing sessions are referred to as "Star Parties," but there's always more "star" than "party" involved. Not that people don't have a good time ... these are always great experiences for novices and veterans alike. If you're going to attend a Star Party, there are some protocols and advice you should be aware of to maximize the experience for all concerned. We present them here for your edification and enlightenment:
- Know where you're going. And if you're traveling alone, let someone know where you'll be going. You can download and print a map for any of our venues HERE.
- Check the weather outlook for the site. If you have internet access this is a useful link: www.intellicast.com. You can also call any of the officers or organizers from PAS. There's nothing worse than driving all the way for a Star Party and finding nobody there due to a weather cancellation.
- Dress for cool weather. Even a warm day can turn chilly at night, especially out in the open desert where radiative cooling is enhanced by clear skies.
- Don't wear sandals or other open footwear. There are critters in the desert you really don't want to step on.
- Bring a source of light, preferably RED light. Red plastic taped over a regular flashlight works fine. Red light helps preserve your night vision. If you turn on a WHITE light at a Star Party you will interfere with the observations of other participants. It takes about 20 minutes to recover your night vision after a flash of bright white light.
- Bring food and water for nourishment, but don't handle any astronomical equipment with greasy or sticky fingers.
- Bring a chair, cushion, sleeping bag, or whatever works best for you. You will be staying up later than usual at these type of events.
- Arrive before sunset to provide time for setting up your equipment. It's tough finding level ground in the dark, and you don't want to find out later that you set up your scope directly over a fire ant mound (this has actually happened!).
- If you must arrive after sunset, use your low-beam headlights near the observing area (or better yet a flashlight) when arriving and leaving in your car. Turn off your dome light, and don't turn on your headlights while pointed at observers. They will throw rocks at your car. Of course, drive slowly near the observing site. Clouds of abrasive dust are bad for telescope optics.
- If you don't bring your own equipment, know that everyone who does is happy to share their celestial views. Just walk up to any telescope and ask, but if there is a line, please respect the other viewers.
- If you bring young children, please control them. No running or shouting will be tolerated. There are usually electrical cords on the ground, as well as portable tables holding expensive equipment.
Members of PAS came up with some of their favorite objects to view in the night sky using different telescopes and using binoculars. The following links will give you a fine list of heavenly objects to enjoy:
Telescope Objects to View
Binocular Objects to View
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