Longmont Astronomical Society

LAS Star Parties


What is a Star Party?

A Star Party is when a group of people (3, or 30, or more…) get together to observe stars, planets, moons, constellations, nebulae and other objects. Star parties are an excellent way to learn about the night sky and to discover the types of views that different astronomical instruments provide.

You don’t need to bring your own telescope, but you can if you want to. Many LAS members bring their telescopes, and they are happy to have you look through them.

See our Events Calendar to find out when the next LAS star party is.

For directions to some places we commonly hold star parties, check out our Observing Sites page. 

Guidelines for star parties supported by LAS

Timing

The best part of the month for star parties is near the first quarter moon. In general we do not support events that are near the full moon or the new moon. 

Friday nights are usually a good time for school events. 

The event should begin about 45 minutes to an hour after sunset and end a couple hours later.

   

 ‘He had no idea where he was...He took a seat on a small log and waited for total darkness. If the clouds gave out, the stars would appear, which was all he needed to map his way back home.’


from 'The Sweetness of Water', by Nathan Harris

We will set up our telescopes at sunset; it usually takes us about 20 minutes to set them up and the same to pack them up. We do not want or need any assistance in handling equipment.  

In Colorado, the evening sky is cloudy around 40% of the time so cancellation is always a possibility. It's not always obvious that an event should be cancelled, but if so we try to give at least a three-hour notice and do our best to reschedule the event.


Location

You should choose a location that has reasonably clear views to the southeast, south and southwest. There should be no street lights  less than a block away in the viewing direction. The glare from street lights is annoying for everyone and makes it very difficult for us to locate objects. If lighting at your location is excessive try contacting your city or county parks department for suggestions.

Some of our telescopes are large and quite heavy; some weigh a couple hundred pounds or more. It is important for us to be able to park our vehicles close to the site for loading and unloading.

Typically we only support events that are less than 30 miles from Longmont. Otherwise the travel time and expense are excessive for our members.


Preparation


For school events, we suggest you have one adult volunteer for every 20 to 25 students. These volunteers can help with wait lines, remind students of viewing tips, arrange step stools for viewing, etc.

Please provide us with a rough estimate of the number of people attending so we can plan accordingly. We can handle a maximum of about 150 people per evening.

For classroom discussion prior to the event, we can provide information about the various objects the students will be seeing.

You can get information on how to enhance your viewing experience at NASA's Night Sky Network viewing tips.

You can improve attendance at the star party with plenty of advance publicity. Remember to include a link to our website! 


Viewing tips

Enjoy the view, but don't touch the telescope lens or move the telescope.

Don’t use flashlights or smart phone lights in the viewing area. Astronomers use red light filters when they need illumination. You can also buy headband-style lights with a red light setting.

It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyesight to maximally adjust to the dark. Ask questions-our astronomers are very knowledgeable, and they love to talk about their favorite topic!

Take enough time at the eyepiece for your vision to adjust to it (at least 5 seconds). Ask the astronomer for help if you are having trouble seeing through the eyepiece (this is normal).


Observing the Night Sky on Your Own

We offer some helpful advice for DIY stargazing under Observing the Night Sky on our Astronomy Resources page.

Photo: Zach DiBlasi demonstrates his behind-the-back, no-look focusing technique as he gets ready for a Star Party at Rabbit Mountain.

Copyright Longmont Astronomical Society, 2020. All rights reserved.
The Longmont Astronomical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. P.O.Box 806, Longmont, CO 80502-0806, USA

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