One stardate to rule them all

Here’s some hints on how to survive a Stardate without harming yourself or other astronomers.

Join us in Wairarapa
for stargazing

Or, be an armchair astronomer

If you can’t make it to Wairarapa or New Zealand,  learn astronomy online with us and SLOOH. 

Love this photo? Take your own!

Also check out our favourite astrophotography guide

Learn from 
award-winning photographer Alex Conu

We had such a great time in Staveley last weekend that we just can’t stop writing about it and posting some of the pictures that try to capture the fantastic skies and amazing sights that we saw. Of course at any stardate or star party there’s some things the ab initio astronomer needs to remember. The first thing is that white light is a punishable crime, make sure you have a red filter on your torch. The biggest gotcha with this is the cell phone. These are generally back lit with a light strong in the blue part of the spectrum, which is really bad for night vision. Many cell phones now have options where you can select red light and many astronomy applications will run in a night mode as well so you can protect your night vision while still being able to make use of these great apps.

The Magellanic Clouds from Stavely (Credit: Hari)

The coolest thing about these nights with other astronomers is that you can get to see the night sky through a range of telescopes that you would otherwise never get to experience. Of course, there’s some things to think about when using other people’s telescopes. First, remember these are very expensive instruments so need to be treated with care and respect. One does not generally grab the telescope and move it around to the objects of their own chosing unless invited to by the owner. Another good idea is to not go and replace the eyepiece unless the owner says you can (unless you have an Ethos, then you can swap out my eyepieces anytime).

The Milky Way (Credit: Hari)

We generally do astronomy at night, so it’s dark, and if you leave stuff lying around the base of your telescope then people are going to trip over and land in your light bucket and scratch your mirror. Lucky I had safety bars (trusses) on my telescope to prevent that, but I certainly spread around quite a few obstacles to trap the unwary novice. Another non-fun thing to do to people at a star party is hold a lengthy conversation in front of someone’s telescope so that all they see is a dark zoomed in image of your head. Try to be mindful of the people around you who might actually be doing some astronomy.

Some more of the Milky Way (Credit: Hari)

Telescopes can be very dangerous weapons. Take my large dobsonian, for example, it weighs a considerable about and can actually knock someone over if it’s swung around to quick and ploughs into an unsuspecting fellow astronomer – not to mention the pain of embedding your focuser in someone’s back. This is really another plea to be mindful of what is going on around you. Us astronomers are used to plying our art in the dark of night and on our own so we are not often thinking of what other people might be doing around our telescopes.

The Corolla (Tardis) and 400mm Meade (Credit: Hari)

So the end’th the lesson on what to not do and what to do at stardates/parties, plus it was a cheeky opportunity to show off some of our photos from the the fantastic dark sky location of Staveley.