Star Party Etiquette for the Uninitiated
by Jeff Baldwin, from Stockton Astronomical Society Valley Skies, February 2012
Amateur astronomers attend dark sky star parties for one purpose: observing or imaging faint, deep sky objects. Dark adaptation is critical to seeing faint objects.
Anything that hinders dark adaptation, or interrupts long exposures, defeats the whole point of being there – for everyone.
Here are the star party etiquette parameters for the SAS high altitude and Highway 4 star parties:
- NO non-red lights at star parties after dark. Place a red filter over your flashlight.
- [specific to SAS site at] Hwy 4/Shirley Rd: park only on the north side of the road, leaving the south side of the road clear. Don't set up equipment in this pathway.
- If you plan on leaving before the end of the star party, park well away from the telescope area with your car facing outward so you can leave without putting your car in reverse, which turns on backup lights. Parking lights are also too bright for star parties.
- Rig your door lamps and dome lights so they are either thoroughly taped over or reddened by cellophane.
- Don't smoke at star parties. Lighters are too bright, the end of the cigarette is too bright, the smoke coats the optics (not yours, other's), smoke stinks, cigarettes are a fire danger at our rural sites, and the smoke restricts the blood vessels in your eyes.
- Do not use a computer, cell phone or other type of display where it can be seen by others. Even the 'red mode' doesn’t satisfactorily preserve the darkness.
- Do not use stoves or camping lanterns at star parties, and, of course, no campfires. Even daytime campfires will glow in the dark if left smoldering.
- If you have friends show up to a star party, make sure they know and obey star party etiquette.
It is up to your peer astronomers to decide whether what you are doing is violating the ambient darkness. Respect their decision, and please have the courtesy to disable or discontinue that activity.
We welcome all who respect these rules of star party etiquette....Jeff Baldwin