The Visitor's Guidebook for Public Star Parties

Star Party - wrong!

No, not that sort of Star party!

The RASC Ottawa Centre hosts free public stargazing sessions, also called star parties, during the spring, summer and fall (see schedule here) and for special astronomy events. Ottawa Centre members volunteer to bring their telescopes to the star parties, and are eager to show you the Sun or objects in the night sky.

Feel free to ask questions—that's why we're there.

Some Guidelines

Here are a few guidelines to help keep our star parties safe and fun for everybody:

We're all here for the dark sky Any light not coming from stars or planets is really unwelcome.

Vehicles – Arrive early, if possible. Arriving after dark interferes with others because of your vehicle's lights. Park your vehicle away from the observing area and try to point your headlights away from the telescopes. You may be directed by a star party volunteer to park your vehicle in a designated area. Please comply. Your safety is paramount. When you leave, try not to point your car lights at the telescopes.

Please turn off or shield interior lights in your car in advance. If you leave early you can usually disable the daytime running lights by engaging the parking brake one click before starting the car. Drive slowly and carefully when approaching the parking lot and when leaving it.

FlashlightsWhite flashlights or headlamps are a no-no. Instead, use red or amber flashlights turned down as dim as possible and held at waist level to help your eyes adapt to the darkness and see fainter objects in the sky. You might be surprised at how quickly your eyes can adapt and how well you will be able to see in the dark. Even so, aim your flashlight towards the ground, and please don't point it in anyone’s face.

Astronomy Apps – Bring a mobile device with an astronomy app! There are many excellent ones, such as Stellarium and Sky Guide  that show the location of objects in the sky. Please turn on the night feature to avoid bright light coming from the screen.

Binoculars – Bring your binoculars! You will be surprised how much you can see in the night sky with them, especially with guidance from our star nerds.

Cameras – We encourage visitors to bring a camera and try to take photos through a telescope eyepiece, but make sure you turn off the flash.

Dress warmly – You will be surprised how cool it is, even on a warm summer night. Wear layers or bring a sweater or light jacket. 

Telescopes – Feel free to approach any volunteer with a telescope and ask to look through it. That’s why we are here. Be patient if we tell you that it is not yet set up and ready for observing - it takes time. When viewing, please do not touch any part of the telescope. Just bring your eye to the eyepiece. The only exception is if the volunteer shows you how to adjust the focus. Be careful not to kick a tripod leg. Feel free to wander among the many telescopes, as many of them will be looking at different objects. Don’t hesitate to ask to see a specific object in the sky.

Children – Please bring your children, and help us by ensuring that they don't touch telescopes except when asked, and don't play around them. Children are often quick to grab the eyepiece with their hands and it can cause the telescope to lose its alignment. If they are not tall enough to reach the eyepiece, the volunteer may lower the eyepiece for them, or offer a step stool. You might try lifting them to the eyepiece but it will not give them a good steady view.

General – We ask that you not smoke, bring alcohol or play music out loud. Do not spray insect repellent near the telescopes - it kills the optics faster than it kills bugs. A light jacket can provide protection against mosquitoes.

Please: No pets. We have found that they rarely appreciate telescopic views.