Star Party Etiquette

Etiquette for Star Parties and other Astronomy Events
1.       Have fun

Once the observing is underway, feel free to go from scope to scope and talk with everyone. They'll be more than happy to let you look through their scopes, and will also be glad to talk about the telescope, what they're looking at and anything else that interests you. Be sure to ask permission (and they don’t mind you asking!) before touching their equipment.

2.       Arrive Before Dark

This allows time to set up, become familiar with the observing field, etc.

3.       No White Light

To see the fainter objects takes full adaption to the darkness. It typically takes 20-30 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt to darkness, and a split-second of white light can undo full adaption. Once your eyes adapt to the darkness, you will be able to find your way around and avoid obstructions without needing a flashlight. Astronomy friendly light, if not too bright, can be used when additional lighting is required, and is the only accepted lighting in the observing field (except for emergencies of course).

How to Make an Astronomy Friendly Light

The best solution is to use a red filter or lens on flashlights, or to buy a special red LED light. However, it is very simple to adapt a regular white flashlight to make it friendly to your eyes. All you need to do is cover it with anything red. Applying several coats of red fingernail polish to the flashlight lens is an inexpensive way to make a permanent astronomy light. Temporary astronomy lights can be made by covering a regular flashlight with a thick layer of non-flammable red paper or plastic and securing it with a rubber band. Some materials that can be used are listed below:

  • Red plastic gift basket wrap
  • Red brake-light tape
  • Small patch of red cloth
  • Printed page of solid red on your inkjet printer

4.       No Aerosol Sprays On The Observing Field

One drop of spray can permanently damage telescope optics. Apply any sprays in the parking area outside the observing field before approaching the telescopes. Please do not apply insect repellent spray or use any other aerosol spray on the observing field. Lotions and roll-ons are fine.

5.       Be Courteous to Others When Leaving for the Evening

Unless you are the last one to leave, let others around you know before you depart from the observing field area with your vehicle—this allows the others to shield their eyes. Specific guidelines vary for each location and event. Generally, honor the white light rule where possible (some events are very strict about this). Try to minimize white light from the interior of your vehicle as you pack your equipment for departure. A little thought beforehand will be appreciated by your fellow club members. Many vehicles have switches that can be used to keep most of the interior lights off when vehicle doors are opened. If your vehicle is parked on or close to the observing field, do not use your headlights until you have left the area. However, be safe, drive slowly to minimize generation of dust, and drive carefully passing by the equipment of others. Use of parking lights may be acceptable. If necessary have someone with an Astronomy Safe Light lead you out.

6.    Additional Tips for Rare Situations. Lest you think us stodgy,

Flame throwers and fifty-caliber stray light eliminators should be equipped with glare shields. Owners of LX-200s must offer coffee to passers-by who mistake the noise of their slewing motors for that of an expresso machine. Hack saws should be checked at the door. (If you cannot find the door, please remain outside of it.) Bears have right of first refusal on anyone's night lunch, except when the observer is very hungry. Abandoned cookies should not be presumed up for grabs, unless nobody is looking. Refrain from pointing out the failings of your neighbor's telescope until your own optics are safely covered. (Authored by Jay Freeman).