Photo by Barb
Star parties for the public are regularly scheduled at our
Hidden Valley Observatory in the summer, and sometimes for
groups as needed. Also, star parties are sometimes held for members only at various dark-sky locations, and, if conditions
warrant, the public may also be invited to one of these.
Summer (May or June through August or early September) star parties for the public are scheduled on Friday nights that are not too close to a full moon. Please note that star parties are held "weather permitting", i.e. a star party is cancelled if the weather is rainy or cloudy. We usually begin each summer star party starting at about 9:00 P.M.
Star parties may be arranged for private groups, summer or winter, by contacting the Observatory Director (see our home page). A public star party may be announced at any time with short notice on our home page.
Our calendar of events open to the public is posted here.
STAR PARTY ETIQUETTE
Flashlights: If you wish to use a flashlight, please cover the end with a red balloon or a red filter. You may not realize it, but after you have spent about 20 minutes in the dark your eyes adjust to the darkness allowing you to see much fainter light. It only takes a fraction of a second of looking at a bright light, other than red light, to destroy the dark adaptation and you will need to wait before you can again see clearly in the dark.
Food and drink: Sticky fingers, crumbs, and liquids are very bad for the equipment. If you need to eat or drink while at a star party, please keep a short distance away from the telescopes, and wipe your hands when you are done. Also, no alcoholic beverages are permitted at our star parties. Please deposit your trash in a waste bin, or take it home and throw it away there.
Look With Your Eyes and Not With Your Hands: Do not place your hands on the telescope. This will cause the telescope to move and the object you should be viewing will move out of the field of view.
Parents, please mind your children: Children are used to running around. However, in the dark, it is easy to trip on things. We don't want anyone to get injured, and we also don't want our equipment damaged by someone running around.
Headlights on your car: At our observatory and other sites, you will park your car very near to where we set up our telescopes. When arriving at the site, please turn off your headlights so you will not temporarily blind someone. When leaving, please keep your headlights off until the front of your car is facing away from the telescopes and other people. For those vehicles that turn on the headlights automatically, please consult your owner's manual for a way to turn off this "convenience". It is a good plan to park with your headlights pointed away from the observatory, the telescopes, and any people who remain behind for more observing.
Laser pointers: While laser pointers are very useful to point out objects in the sky, please be careful when using one. Do NOT target an aircraft with a laser pointer, and do NOT let children play with a laser pointer. Do NOT allow the beam to enter your eyes or anyone's eye! The damage may prove to be permanent. The maximum output beam power level of a laser pointer allowed at a star party is 5mW (milliWatts). LASER POINTERS MAY BE USED ONLY WITH PERMISSION.
Cell phones: A cell phone should only be used within your vehicle. If you receive a call, please ask your caller to hold the line until you can move away from other people, or better yet move away before answering the call. Please keep in mind that you will need to avoid exposing other people to the bright screen that most cell phones have - that light will be enough to damage other people's night vision for many minutes.
Photography: Absolutely no flash photography allowed until after all observing is concluded. Keep in mind that most point-and-shoot cameras and cell phone cameras will respond to darkness by using flash. Even one flash can rob others of their visual adaptation to the dark.