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Star Watching Etiquette

Star Party white light warning sign at Greenbank, W.V. 2011 (67,030 bytes) You do not have to know the night sky, own or bring a telescope or binocular to these events. If this is your first star hunt with us, or if it has been a while since you have been to one then feel free to bring your own gear or plan to look through telescopes that are being provided by the host organization and other attendees. Most events occur at a public park where admission is free. Please take a few minutes to review these following guidelines:

    1. NO WHITE LIGHTS! It takes the human eye over thirty minutes to get fully dark adapted. ANY white light can make that cycle start all over again. If you absolutely have to turn a light on, yell out a warning: "WHITE LIGHT" and wait 30 seconds.

    2. DIM RED LIGHTS A red flashlight, particularly when dialed to a dim setting, will not adversely affect night vision. Use these instead of unfiltered flashlights, but keep them dim. But still be considerate since even dim red lights pointed in the wrong direction could ruin someone's astrophotography efforts.

    3. TO LASE OR NOT TO LASE? The popularity of laser pointers, particulary green models, has grown over the recent decades. But these are not always welcome at these events. Whether or not to use one at an event is a question that can be answered by the host(s) of the event.

    4. NO OPEN FLAMES No campfires or camping stoves. Be careful while lighting up if you smoke; keep smoke away from telescopes and accessories.

    5. PLAN YOUR DEPARTURE We organize departure times of 10:00 P.M. and midnight. If you absolutely have to leave at any other time, yell out a warning five minutes before you leave so that astrophotographers have time to save their photos, and others can shield their eyes. Use only your parking lights until you are away from the observing site. Remember your car interior lights, trunk lights, and automatic headlights; pull a fuse or remove a bulb if necessary.

    6. PARK BASED ON YOUR OBSERVING PLAN If you plan to stay all night, park away from the exit. If you are leaving early, park near the exit. Park so that you will not have to back up (white lights!), and avoid passing others or drive slow to avoid kicking up dust. If you do not bring a telescope, then park away from the observers and walk over.

    7. BRING OBSERVERS ONLY With plants and animals, power cords, and the darkness, a star party has its risks. Small children, pets, and many adults too are bored by starlight. If they do not enjoy hours of looking at faint, fuzzy objects then they might prefer to remain elsewhere. Also note toilet facilities at these events may be primitive or none at all.

    8. DO NOT LITTER If you brought it, take it when you leave. Please leave the dark wilderness the way you found it.

    9. NO-NOS Please, no loud radios, no consumption of alcoholic beverages, and no discharging of firearms. Use common sense, and courtesy (just this once!).

    10. DON'T TOUCH! Do not handle instruments that you are not familiar with without permission and supervision of the owner, or that of a guide.

    11. PREPARE for the weather. Bring proper gear for any possibility (cold, or hot). Do not plan on rainwear since we will not be out if it does rain, but have a shelter (vehicle or tent) available to you and your equipment.

    12. DRINK/FOOD You may bring provisions (a thermos of hot coffee or tea, or a jug of water), in the cold dehydration can be a problem. Do not bring alcoholic beverages - these can have no positive effect physiologically or mentally at events such as these where your senses must be at their best to appreciate the sky.

    13. REMEMBER If you bring a telescope, especially one that has many parts or accessories, then it may be prudent to prepare a check list to help insure you do not forget something vital such as recharging a power pack, or an important tool.

    14. QUESTIONS: If you are new or do not understand something, then ask questions. Most experienced observers enjoy talking about their hobby!

As an aside, be aware that many State/County Park Authorities are putting in place 'No Smoking' laws that apply at parks and public buildings. If you are a smoker, then you might do well to speak with the host of the event to determine whether or not such a law applies.


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