CHAPTER 8: Choosing YOUR OBSERVING SITE — What’s New?Chapter_8__Choosing_an_Observing_Site.htmlChapter_8__Choosing_an_Observing_Site.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0
Star Party Etiquette

Everyone should attend a star party. Beginners learn a lot, veterans get re-energized, and everyone can have a lot of fun. See our Chapter 8 Links page to find a party near you.

When you go, you’ll enjoy the party a lot more (as will others!) if you’re aware of a few simple rules of etiquette that apply just about everywhere astronomers gather under dark skies:

Red Lights Only, Please
After dark, it’s the #1 Rule. White camping lanterns, bright flashlights, exposed RV windows, even campground fires are usually not allowed. If you have an RV camped on site, please black out the windows. Family inside can then have the lights on without disturbing the stargazers outside.

Use The Right Flashlight
Even the required red flashlights should be dim. We see (all too well!) novices walking around with red lights so bright they are still blinding. People travel a long way for dark skies and cherish their night vision to see those skies well. Shatter the night with bright lights and you’ll be made to feel most unwelcome.

Is Your Car “Star Party” Friendly?
With that in mind, check that all the interior and exterior lights on your car will stay off as you open and close trunks and doors, and that lights won’t flash if you lock the doors with your remote button. Remove light bulbs from dome or trunk lights if you have to. Some parties won’t allow cars to stay on the field unless they pass inspection by the “light police.” And please! — make sure you won’t set off your own car alarm.

Arrive Early
Always plan to arrive well before dark. That way, you can see where you are going and have time to set up any gear you bring. There’s nothing worse than a thoughtless late arriver driving around the campground, headlights blazing, looking for a vacant campsite.

Leave Without Disturbing
If you aren’t camping overnight on the field, please park near the entrance of the park or observing field, facing out. That way, when you leave in the middle of the night you can drive straight out. You don’t want to hit your white back-up lights. Even red brake lights can be glaring.

Handling Your Headlights
Most cars have daytime running lights that come on as soon as you start the ignition. To prevent this, and drive only with your dim park lights on, try leaving your parking brake on a notch or two. It works on some cars. Then, when you are far enough from the site, release the brake to turn on your headlights. If necessary, have someone with a flashlight walk in front of your car to lead you out of the site safely — you don’t want to run over a telescope … or telescope owner.

Music of the Night? Or Just Noise?
You might like Pink Floyd as a soundtrack for your stargazing, but others won’t. Please keep the music off, or in your personal headphones only. In the morning, keep it down — the clattering of breakfast pots and pans and the voices of excited kids will disturb those sleeping in after an all-nighter.

Watch Where You Step
Please be careful not to trip over power cables, computer cords and tripods.

Watch Where You Flash
And please don’t shine even that dim flashlight at someone’s scope to check it out — they might be taking a photo you just ruined.

Ask Before Touching
Please respect that the telescopes are all the cherished personal property of your fellow partiers. Sure, they’re on a common field, but that doesn’t make them common property. Ask before touching any gear. While many owners set up their telescopes for all to look through, some are there to pursue personal projects and won’t be able to show you stuff.

Come Prepared
Nothing ruins the night more than being cold. Dress warm, and bring a hot beverage and some snacks. And be sure to bring that “approved” astronomer’s red flashlight, if nothing else. You don’t need to bring telescope gear as there are always some scopes there for all to look through and enjoy. But binoculars are good to have along, perhaps to take part in ...

Take in the Program
Many star parties offer conducted “starwalks” in the early evening when guides will tour you around the sky with the aid of green lasers. They’ll point out objects suitable for binoculars.

Read the House Rules
Check with the local organizers for their house rules on the use of green lasers and laptops once it gets really dark, as well as their policies on pets, alcohol, smoking and other sins.

It might all sound a little puritanical and rule-bound, but once you attend a star party you’ll soon realize why most insist that the proper etiquette be observed, to preserve the night sky we’ve all come to see.