Star Parties - A Gathering of Telescopes
One of the best ways to get involved with telescopes and astronomy is to attend a Star Party in your local area. You would be surprised how close you are to an astronomy club or university that welcomes the public to observe. A Star Party is gathering of fellow astronomers with their telescopes - if you are going to attend a Star Party, it is important to understand some Star Party etiquette.
Rule Number One : Light Restrictions. You always want to be thinking that light is bad - from your cars headlights on the drive to the location or your flashlights for the walk-around. If you are setting up your telescope at a Star Party it is important to arrive early enough to get everything set up before dark. Telescope users spend a great deal of effort gradually adjusting their night vision for best visualization with a telescope. If you show up with a bright flashlight, you could potentially ruin someone's already adjusted night vision. Flashlights should be covered with red colored cellophane. It is a good idea to purchase yourself a good flashlight just for astronomy use. You can even coat the flashlight lens with some red nail polish for a more permanent effect. Many stores also offer red LED flashlight that last a very long time.
More about light : Most Star Parties will not allow campfires - so you will want to dress warm. The light from a campfire can greatly effect the viewing conditions - the smoke from a fire can ruin a nights observing very quickly.
Watch where you are going - It is important that you are very careful walking about from telescope to telescope. You never know what has been set down on the ground for a moment. You will want to be extra careful not to trip over tripod legs that may not be seen.
Music - Many Star Parties will have a list of rules or a check-in station depending on how large the event. Be considerate of others with loud music. Headphones may be the best idea.
Alcohol - The best thing to keep in mind about Alcohol at a star party is that the location may be in a park that prohibits consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is best to ask.
Keep it clean - It is important to take with you everything you bring. Including your garbage.
Star Parties can range from a small group of 2 or 3 casual observers to 50+ telescopes set up across a huge field. Many star parties will provide a list of basic rules and regulations. These are just some simple things to keep in mind.