Stargazing is simply observing the night sky. It’s an enjoyable hobby enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts and amateur astronomers. Stargazing is an activity that can be done any time of the year, alone, with friends, or at a group “star party”. Regardless of your experience level, a star party is a great time to learn and see things for the first time or for the thousandth time.
At a star party, you not only share great views of the sky, you have the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about astronomy. Below we list some information about attending star parties, what to bring, plus some do’s and don’ts.
You’ll also find information about star parties throughout the Puget Sound region. Most are outdoors, but some have contingency plans for an indoor presentation. You know, just in case it’s cloudy or raining….
What to bring to an outdoor stargazing event
If you have a telescope or binoculars you want to share, bring it along.
If you don’t have any stargazing equipment, group star parties typically have several different telescopes or binoculars brought by people attending who are happy to share. If you are thinking about getting a telescope, it can be a great opportunity to try and compare equipment and ask questions about cost and features.
Even in summer, it can get chilly at night and you will be standing most of the time. So, dress in layers warmer than you think you might need and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a thermos with something warm to drink (such as coffee, tea, or hot cider), plus a snack if you think you might need some extra energy.
Bring a red flashlight. Red light has almost no effect on our night vision. If you don’t have a red flashlight, put red cellophane over a white lens with a rubber band, or paint the lens in red nail polish, or cut a circular piece out of a red plastic report binder and place it under the lens.
Stargazing do’s and don’ts
Arrive before dark to orient and introduce yourself. Check the weather report and plan to arrive no later than sunset, or up to 30 minutes prior.
If you come to a star party without a telescope, leave the parking spots closest to the observing site for those with heavy equipment to carry.
After dark, be especially careful around the telescopes: don’t move or turnaround quickly. There are cables connecting equipment that are easy to trip over in the dark. And remember to not use any white light, only red light (see “what to bring” above).
Do not use white flashlights anytime during a star party. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to get dark-adapted and only a second or two of white light to make you start over again.
Do not touch the glass eyepiece of a telescope or binoculars.
Do not talk loud or be rowdy. Star-gazing is a quiet, peaceful activity.
Do not litter…pack it in, pack it out!
Do ask questions of other more experienced attendees. Stargazers love to talk about their hobby and are usually happy to answer questions.
Free stargazing events in Seattle-Tacoma
The following groups and organizations regularly hold free public stargazing events throughout the region.
Stargazing in public parks around King County
Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) organizes monthly star parties in area parks. These outdoor stargazing events are free, family-friendly, and open to the public. To enhance your experience, you may want to download and print your own copy of the current Evening Sky Map at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. This 2-page guide contains a detailed sky map, the current monthly sky calendar, and a descriptive list of the best objects to see with binoculars, a telescope, or using just your eyes. It is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy. And, unlike other star charts on the Web, The Evening Sky Map will print clearly on any printer. A typical star party gathering features observing through two or more different types of telescopes provided by SAS members, along with the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the observation process, and learn about astronomical topics. Weather cancels the events; last minute updates are available on their website.
See the list below for the upcoming SAS stargazing events, or visit: http://www.seattleastro.org/news_and_events/star_parties
- DEC 14 Covington Community Park Star Party at 07:00 PM
- DEC 15 Kent Star Party in the Green River Natural Resource Area at 06:00 PM
- DEC 15 Shoreline Paramount School Park Star Party at 06:00 PM
- DEC 15 Seattle Green Lake Star Party at 06:00 PM
Stargazing at UW Seattle Theodor Jacobsen Observatory
A dedicated group of SAS volunteers offer twice-monthly programs April through October at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) on the University of Washington Seattle campus. The program includes a short presentation by SAS members and/or UW undergrads, history of the observatory and its beautiful telescope (over 100 years old), and if the weather permits, the dome is opened for views through the telescope.
See the list below for the upcoming TJO astronomy and stargazing events, or visit: http://depts.washington.edu/astron/outreach/jacobsen-observatory/#a2
- 2019 events have not been announced for April – September
Stargazing in Tacoma
Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS) hosts free public viewing sessions each month at Pierce College near Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood (about 10 miles south of Tacoma). On nights with clear skies TAS volunteers provide telescopic observations of the Moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars and more. Each season boasts something new and exciting for frequent guests. On cloudy nights, indoor lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be available at public events regardless of the weather. There is no charge for stargazing and observing the night sky through TAS telescopes. However, donations are gladly accepted. The donations are used to further public education and outreach programs.
See the list below for the upcoming TAS viewing and lecture events, or visit: http://www.tas-online.org/public_nights.php
Winter Hours: 7:30pm to 11:00pm, October 1st to March 31st.
- 12-01-18 Telescopes as Gifts – Types of Telescopes with Dave Armstrong
- 12-15-18 The Christmas Star (Movie) with TAS
- 01-05-19 110 Celestial Objects with Jerry Armstrong
- 01-26-19 Orion – Winter’s Mighty Hunter with John Pettit
- 02-09-19 Binocular Astronomy with John Finnan
- 02-23-19 The Zodiac with John Pettit
- 03-09-19 Galaxies! with TAS Students
- 03-23-19 Jupiter with V J Huff
- 04-06-19 Space Exploration (2 Shows at 7:30 and 9:00) with John Pettit
- 04-27-19 Space Rocks with Alice Few
- 05-11-19 Women in Space with Regina Rector
- 05-18-19 Mars with Chuck Jacobson
- 06-01-19 Astronomy with a Stick! with Alice Few
- 06-15-19 The Sun with Chuck Jacobson
- 07-13-19 Black Holes with Matt Flood
- 07-20-19 Saturn – Lord of the Rings with John Pettit
- 08-10-19 Astronomy Fair 4pm – 9pm; viewing after 9:00 with TAS
- 08-17-19 Reasons for the Seasons with Alice Few
You might also like:
Pierce College Fort Steilacoom 9401 Farwest Drive SW, Lakewood, WA USA 98498
Covington Community Park, 17649 SE 240th Street, Covington, WA 98042
Paramount Park, 946 NE 147th St, Shoreline, WA 98155
Seattle Public Theater at the Bathouse, 7312 West Green Lake Dr. N, Seattle, WA 98103
Green River Natural Resource Area, 22209 Russell Road, Kent, WA 98032