The American Association
of Amateur Astronomers
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 16: STAR PARTY PLANNING CHECKLIST
This checklist by
Jeff Barton of the
Astronomical Society of Dallas is from his "Star Geezer’s Guide to Planning &
Hosting Star Parties." He regularly presents First Saturday Star Parties in
his home town of Garland, TX. You can contact him via e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org We hope this checklist
will encourage you to establish your own regular public observing opportunities
and help make your next event more successful.
PICKING A SITE
Using public parks:
- Check out the lighting
- Be Safe!
- Check Parks Dept. for curfews, watering schedules
Using State Parks:
- Consider drive time
- Wild animals can be a problem
- What are closing hours?
- Are camping permits required?
PICKING A DATE
- Avoid Conflicts with Local Club Activities!
- Avoid Weekday nights if you want school kids to attend
- Pick the same "day" each month (e.g., First Saturday)
- Pick dates of known celestial events:
- This is harder to coordinate (hard to remember)
- This can discourage regular attendance
- Great for things like Meteor Shower peaks and Eclipses
Your first stop is with your Local Astronomy Club:
- Club members in your area should be willing to help
- Talk with your neighbors, your kids’ teachers
- Notify the police in advance of any night-time outdoor activity that might be viewed by neighbors as unusual
- Use bulletin boards at local schools, golf clubs, churches
- Use newsletters: Scout troops, clubs, homeowner’s associations, recreation centers, retirement homes
- Use Local Club's: Public Observing Calendar, Web Site Events Calendar
- Use sign-in sheet to collect email addresses so you can notify frequent attendees in advance
- Signs, like realtor’s signs
- Magnetic signs for your car or truck
- Flyers for local bulletin boards
- Invitations to send by email (include a map and Mapsco grid numbers
ADOPT A SCHOOL OR CLUB
- Public schools don’t have the funds for equipment
- Teachers need help & expertise
- Scouting groups need guides
- PTAs need "programs"
What facilities does your site offer?
- Water, Restrooms, Sufficient/Close Parking
- Shelter from wind
- Bottled water, ice, and/or cups in warm weather
- Cocoa, tea, or coffee in cold weather (for helpers!)
- Trash bag(s)
- Chairs, tarps, blankets
- Tools (Allen wrenches, crescent wrench, pliers, screwdrivers)
- Spare batteries
- Insect repellent and/or area fogger
- First Aid kit for pinched fingers, cuts, insect bites, scrapes
BRUSH UP ON STAR LORE
For objects that are prominent on your observing date and Review or Learn:
- Mythology of at least one constellation
- Mythology of one planet
- Story behind the naming of a lunar feature
- Interesting fact about distance, size, luminosity of Deep Sky Objects
USE THE MOON
The Moon is usually an observer’s first scope target. Sure, it blots out DSOs if too bright, but that’s only a problem about 10 days a month.
- Bring a Lunar map or software
- Familiarize yourself with the night’s phase and features
LEARN SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT THE MOON
- How far away is it? How big is it?
- How did it form? How long ago?
- Where did the Apollo astronauts land?
- Can we see the lunar landers or rovers? Why not?
GREAT FOR THE MOON
- A zoom eyepiece
- Projection screen
- An electronic eyepiece and monitor or laptop