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Star Party Basics - What You Need to Know About Attending a Star Party

Dark Skies, Telescopes and Rules of the Sky

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Star Party

Be Careful of Others' Equipment at Star Parties - But Have Fun!

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Updated October 28, 2008
Star Party 101

Star parties are all about dark skies and dark viewing areas. Be sure you understand the rules and plan accordingly. Make necessary preparations ahead of time. Above all learn about star parties and how you can be a good neighbor so everyone can enjoy these dark sky events.

Here are some of the rules common to most dark-sky events:
  • Always check with star party organizers to find out if you can register and attend. Never just show up at an astronomy event unless it is advertised as a public program.
  • Arrive before dark. Follow instructions about cars, parking and moving the vehicle after dark. Be sure inside light are off, so if you need to open the vehicle, they won’t come on automatically. Many star parties prohibit vehicle traffic after dark, except for emergencies.
  • Use red flashlights. Small flashlights with red filters should be the only lighting in the observing area. Always point them down. White light will destroy the eye's ability to see the dim objects in the night sky. Once white light is introduced, it takes a long time for eyes to readjust to the dark. Red wavelength light doesn’t affect night vision.
  • Don’t use a flash camera after dark.
  • Never touch the telescopes or any equipment without permission. Check each star party’s rules about children because they do vary. Some welcome children and offer an astronomy experience for the entire family. In any case, very young children, those too young to look through a telescope or to understand what happening, should stay home with grandma.
  • Leave pets at home. Some events will allow dogs on leash, but many don’t. Even the most well-behaved animals can be a distraction or accidently tip over equipment.
  • Don’t take food or drink around the viewing equipment.
  • Find out about smoking areas. Smoke may not only be annoying but can affect equipment.
  • Take your earphones. Not everyone will appreciate your choice of music or the cacophony that will result if each stargazer plays his own music.
  • Wear warm clothing. Layers are best. Especially at higher altitudes night temperatures can drop quickly. You don’t want to be distracted by being cold and uncomfortable.
  • Don’t litter. When morning comes you don’t want to see a field of trash.
  • Be sure to thank the astronomers and organizers because they spend hundreds of hours behind the scenes so that those attending their star parties can enjoy the beauty of the night skies and learn about astronomy while touring the universe.
Please follow these and all rules for the star party you are attending. Remember that stargazers take their dark skies very seriously and so should you. However, stargazers also enjoy their star parties and love to share the viewing experience with other. If everyone follows the rules and thinks about what they’re doing, star parties can be unforgettable experiences that you’ll add to your list of favorites things to do.

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