What should I wear?
The main essentials are warm clothing - and perhaps also bring a warm drink and something to eat. No matter how warm it may have been during the day and what the weather forecast says, if you are stood under a clear dark sky for several hours it will be COLD and we don't want any hypothermia cases on our hands! It will also be dark, so you may be tempted to bring a torch. If you do, please make sure it gives out only a red light. It takes about 20-30 minutes for the human eye to become 'dark adapted' for optimum night viewing, and a white light will cause you (and others) to lose that dark adaptation. Using a red light avoids that, while allowing you to avoid obstacles and to read star charts etc. You can buy special red light torches, but you can just cover a standard torch with some red plastic and tape it on to get the same effect.
How long do observing sessions last?
This all depends on the weather and, perhaps most importantly, how cold it is! Normally, people start to drift away after 2 to 3 hours and only a few hardy souls make it past midnight. On a particularly clear night with plenty to see things may carry on into the small hours, but don't feel obliged to stay to the end if you'd rather be in bed.
I'm a complete beginner. What do I need to know before I come along?
There is no 'required level'. There will always be more experienced people who you can learn from, and you probably know more than you think anyway. It really is just a case of turning up, introducing yourself, and enjoying the view.
Etiquette for observing evenings
We don't have strict rules for observing sessions and keep things very informal. However, a few common sense points of etiquette will help things run smoothly:
- Ask before you use someone someone else's telescope
- Don't shine bright lights around where people are observing
- If you are arriving late or leaving early, try to avoid car headlight beams shining where people are observing
- Do not smoke near the telescope - smoke particles damage the optics.
Astronomy is not a dangerous pastime, but there are a few things to remember: It will be dark at the site and there will be plenty of things to trip over such as telescope tripods, cables, storage boxes, carrying cases etc. Take care to avoid obstacles and try to leave space between telescope set-ups, if you can. It will be cold. Make sure you dress appropriately. If you are unsure about anything, just ask. There are plenty of people there to help.