How to Party with the Stars

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 tips and guidelines for your visit

We're all here for the dark sky.
In 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.

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.

Cars - no headlights
Cars - no headlights

White 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.

Red lights only
Red lights only

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.

Dress warmly
Dress warmly

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.

Bring binoculars
Bring binoculars

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.

Ask to see stuff
Ask to see stuff

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.

Kids and scopes
Kids and scopes

Bring bear repellent - no, not really. We'd like to see Urasae major and minor.

No bear repellent
No bear repellent
We really hope you'll enjoy at least one of our public start parties whenever next summer visits Ottawa's shores.
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