Star Party Etiquette

(See also the Canyon of the Eagles Dark Sky Protocol.)

To ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience at our public star parties we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines:    

No Dogs On The Observing Field, with the exception of service dogs.
The dark sky protocol coupled with the presence of astronomical devices as well as public attendance make for a problematic environment for canines.

No Smoking On The Observing Field
Smoke damages telescope optics and can cause sensitive individuals to suffer severe allergic reactions.

No Aerosol Sprays On The Observing Field
One drop of spray can permanently damage telescope optics. Please do not apply insect repellent spray or use any other aerosol spray on the observing field. Lotions or roll-ons are fine.

No White Lights After Dusk
White light ruins the dark adaptation that your eyes develop after about 20 or 30 minutes in the dark. You will need this dark adaptation to see faint deep sky objects. When a white light is used after dark anywhere in the vicinity of the observing field (flashlights, car headlights, even a match) it takes up to 30 minutes for everyone to regain their night vision. Once your eyes adapt to the darkness, you will be able to find your way around and avoid obstructions without a flashlight.

          Red flashlights are available to visitors to borrow.

How to make an astronomy-friendly light
The best solution is to use a red filter or lens on flashlights or to buy special red LED lights. 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 nonflammable red paper or red plastic and securing with a rubber band. Red brake-light tape also works well.

Turn Off Your Headlights And Interior Lights
When you arrive at an observing site after dark, please turn off your car's headlights before entering the parking area. When you leave an observing site after dark, please do not turn on your car's headlights until after you exit the parking area.  Turn off any interior lights that can be turned off.

No Flash Photography
The bright strobe of a camera flash can destroy everyone's night vision for 45 minutes to an hour. Photographs taken under dark conditions using an on-camera a flash seldom if ever turn out well anyway. 

Watch Your Children
Children are always welcome at our star parties, but since the observing field is dark small children are more likely to trip and get hurt, become lost, or bump into and damage expensive equipment.

Ask Before Touching
Some astronomers may be adjusting their equipment or doing delicate astrophotography, or the telescope may not be aimed at any object in particular, so please ask before touching or moving a telescope or other equipment.

Austin Astronomical Society
P.O. Box 12831, Austin, TX 78711


Supporting members of the Astronomical League, Night Sky Network and International Dark Skies Association.

For any questions or more information about AAS - please email us at

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