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Breech of lighting etiquette at star parties.....

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#1 okieav8r

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 08:53 PM

This is a rant I've been meaning to get off my chest.

I've noticed over the last few years that many attendees at star parties seem to have gotten lax about adhearing to rules and etiquette regarding the use of light after lights-out rules go into effect. Too many people think that just because they have a red light, it doesn't matter how bright it is. I was surrounded by knuckleheads at Okie-Tex this year who either had no idea what light etiquette is, or had no intention of following said etiquette. A guy on one side of me had red lights that lit the area around him. The guy on the other side of me was using a white-light ball cap light after lights out and was practically painting the field with it. You could hear people across the field hollaring at him. We would ask him nicely and repeatedly to refrain. "Oh, sorry about that!". Thirty minutes later, he'd fire it up again! If you have a red light, get something with a dimmer. If you have a white light, please don't fire it up. I go to lengths to keep my observing site unlit. People travel hundreds, even thousands of miles for that rare dark sky experience. Please don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Oh, and another thing. I don't like your loud *BLEEP* music either. Keep it to yourself--or at least keep it turned down below intrusive! E-A-R-B-U-D-S dude!

If I sound curmudgeonly, sorry--just telling it like it is. Rant over.

#2 omahaastro

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 01:39 AM

I agree... and I'm going to say it, they tend to be the astrophotography guys. I'm also sick of the trend of using lasers as finders.

Also, note... just because that strap on, head light you got from Walmart is red, doesn't mean it isn't still exceedingly bright. The fact is... maintaining dark seeing sensitivity is less about 'red' and more about 'dim'.

#3 Stacy

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 03:49 AM

Seems you will almost always encounter this issue at a star party. The bigger the party, the more likely it will happen. Which is why I have come to expect just about anything at a large SP. I no longer attend the bigger parties with an expectation of doing any serious observing. I save that for smaller get togethers with like minded people. The big star parties seem more like a social and promotional function than aything else.

In the case of the oaf with the white light however, sometimes you just have to throw politeness (or him lol) out the door.

The big parties are becoming less atractive to me anyway as I travel hundreds of miles through open country, just to be wedged in like a sardine with hundreds of other campers from every experience level.

I'm not picking on the newcomers. Accidents can happen. My first star party, I found a new love of dark skies and the incredibly civilized social aspect of it all. But despite my best efforts, I accidently unleashed a light show on the main field when I mistakenly hit a button on my key fob that lit my car up like a christmas tree.

I do not plan to attend many large parties. A few people at a remote site has proven to be much more rewarding. Here in the NW, a new moon on a clear night is a precious thing. JMHO

#4 okieav8r

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:08 AM

In the case of the oaf with the white light however, sometimes you just have to throw politeness (or him lol) out the door.


You're right. I don't like being like that, but after several times of being nice about it, that's what I had to do. I even loaned the guy one of my dimmable LED lights to use, but he kept turning on that white light. You'd think a guy with a brand new Webster telescope would have a little more common sense. Maybe it was his first rodeo, but even a newbie gets it after a few times of saying 'please'. Go figure.

Having said that, I will of course continue to attend Okie-Tex. When it comes to observing in truly dark skies, it's the closest option for me. And I enjoy the social aspect of it when not observing. That's never been an issue. Most years are good, but the last two years have been the problem ones. Later in the evening, things settle down and I can get down to what I'm there for. I've also started going up to the Black Mesa area in the spring the last few years to get some observing done. Being the only one there, it’s bliss.

#5 amicus sidera

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:29 AM

Regarding the issue of light discipline and courtesy, many folks new to amateur astronomy fail to appreciate that light, while preferably red, must also be dim. One can, and must, forgive their ignorance, as they're but fledglings trying out their new wings. Another factor is youth... many years ago, when light discipline at star parties was not so strict as at present, the occasional inadvertant flash of bright red light, or even white light, failed to affect my night vision to any great degree; however, as I've aged, the recovery time after exposure has increased substantially.

In my experience, a considerable percentage of folks attending star parties today are age 40 or better, as opposed to the overall younger demographic that seemed to be extant 30 or 40 years ago... perhaps this is the reason behind the low tolerance level for inappropriate lighting at these events. I can certainly attest to the fact that years ago almost no one at the functions I attended found the occasional use of white light to be the mortal sin it appears to be currently.

As for music... considering that taste in music varies so widely, it's doubtless best to prohibit its audibility at any besides small private gatherings. I'm a music enthusiast and collector myself, and enjoy many, many varied styles, but wouldn't think of imposing my selections on others without their consent; that's simple good manners, as well as consideration for one's fellow man.

#6 mogur

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 11:35 AM

What irks me most about this subject are those who find it necessary to constantly lock and unlock their cars. These same people will disable their dome lights (nice), but forget that the headlights or parking lights flash when they push that button. When you're camped 10 feet from your car, why do you need to lock it anyway!?

#7 zerro1

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 03:49 PM

I agree... and I'm going to say it, they tend to be the astrophotography guys.


actually it's just idiots that do it. I'm an imager and the last thing I want is some fool destroying every other ten minute sub-exposure by shining a light at the end of my scope.

when you join together a bunch of people from all corners of a region... you will get fools along as well. It's the organizers responsibility to see that the rules are followed. It shouldn't be up to the people paying to attend these gatherings to be the "light police".

#8 amicus sidera

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 03:59 PM

When you're camped 10 feet from your car, why do you need to lock it anyway!?


Agreed, they could as easily use the key to open it... as for why they feel the need to lock it, probably for the same reasons I and many others do - that we aren't too trusting around other unknown folks in the dark.

It wasn't always this way... up until the late 1980's I never bothered locking my car at a star party, but the craze surrounding Halley's Comet had succeeded in attracting a rather wider audience to amateur astronomy than had existed previously... among these new folks were those whose intentions were less than honest.

I remember what big news it was, back around 1985 or so, when a vendor had items stolen from his table at the TSP; such a thing had not occurred before in living memory. By the time the 1990's had rolled around, this sort of theft was not so unusual... I know of many observers who had eyepieces, cameras and other items pilfered at various star parties. What more could a thief ask for - small, valuable items left unattended in near-total darkness - it was easy pickings.

Common sense dictates that care must be taken with one's valuables when attending any event which is open to the general public, star parties sadly included. At one time it could be posited that star parties were effectively not open to the general public, so relatively small was the interest in astronomy. One could say that people are less honest today, but I think that might be incorrect... I consider it more likely that a much narrower cross-section of the public attended amateur functions back in the pre-Halley days, which cross-section, by virtue of it being inherently much less a broad sample of the population at-large, was also less prone to criminality than that seen today.

#9 TL2101

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 04:04 PM

I remember the guy next to me that went into his SUV 5 or 6 times blinding me each time with the side light on his side view mirror. I kept thinking make a list what is it you keep forgetting to get!! I always thought astronomers should be more organized than this.

#10 star drop

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 08:26 PM

At this year's Black Forest Star Party a helicopter flew nearly over the field with its belly light on. Later on it did the same while flying in the opposite direction.

#11 mogur

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:04 PM

Yes. Small valuables that would easily grow legs need to be kept safe. That's why I keep my EP case, binos, laptop, and the like in the tent with me when not in use!

#12 DeanS

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:11 PM

At this year's Black Forest Star Party a helicopter flew nearly over the field with its belly light on. Later on it did the same while flying in the opposite direction.


One year at WSP a boat went by us with all his spotlights on directed right at our island. I think the green lasers probably made a point :)

#13 square_peg

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 11:47 PM

If the organizers of your star party don't enforce the lighting policy then you just need to find another star party. And be sure to let them know why the attendance is dwindling.

#14 edwincjones

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 06:05 PM

If the organizers of your star party don't enforce the lighting policy then you just need to find another star party. And be sure to let them know why the attendance is dwindling.


did you report the breach to the star party management?
did they do anything about it?
the rules are in place, but they HAVE to be enforced

edj

#15 okieav8r

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 06:17 PM

If the organizers of your star party don't enforce the lighting policy then you just need to find another star party. And be sure to let them know why the attendance is dwindling.


did you report the breach to the star party management?
did they do anything about it?
the rules are in place, but they HAVE to be enforced

edj

I did mention it to them, but they don't want to get involved unless you press the matter, and I never really expected them to be proactive about it. I think they pretty much consider the field to be self-policing. I finally got the schlub to put the thing away though. If I can take care of a conflict on my own, I prefer doing it that way. Might have to be gruff about it at times if being nice doesn't work at first, but that's how it goes.

#16 LivingNDixie

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 08:32 PM

I am a little surprised by the Okie Tex folks not enforcing the lighting rules. At Texas Star Party, they don't play with folks about lights, they actually have folks who have as their job enforcement of the rules... and they do enforce them.

#17 George N

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 11:11 PM

I’m pretty much in agreement that folks need better light discipline at star parties. Perhaps the organizers need to do more to make sure new folks know exactly what is expected? Maybe hand out detailed “light rules” sheets at the entrance?

All of the new auto lock systems can be a problem, but if folks check out their auto’s behavior before coming they can cover lights that come on when opening doors, etc. My problem is always from accidently “hitting the button” when sitting with the keys in my pocket. Apparently people are accidently dialing 911 the same way: pressing the key while their phone is in a pocket.

Music? A couple in their 20’s near me at Black Forest 2011 had an Australian bullroar (not exactly the kinda thing you expect to hear in the dark) and a guitar, felt the need to sing, and from the smell, I’m sure they weren’t smokin’ tobacco! ….and this was in a state park!!

The one exception to all of this is safety and health issues. Over the past 4 or 5 years I’ve been right next to persons experiencing sever health issues: a heart attack and a fellow observer’s girl friend almost dying from an asthma attack. In the latter case we were lucky that one of the star party organizers was also an MD. Needless to say, in both cases there were needs for lights for a while. I’ve also seen people tripping and falling over stuff like black cases and tripod legs, and if they fall over your gear left out in the dark, guess who gets sued: both you and the organizers. When you have large groups of people together you will have issues.

#18 okieav8r

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 11:46 PM

I am a little surprised by the Okie Tex folks not enforcing the lighting rules. At Texas Star Party, they don't play with folks about lights, they actually have folks who have as their job enforcement of the rules... and they do enforce them.


Had I pressed the issue, they probably would have acted. I brought it to their attention, but I left it at that and we were able to get the situation resolved on our own.

#19 okieav8r

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 11:54 PM

I’m pretty much in agreement that folks need better light discipline at star parties. Perhaps the organizers need to do more to make sure new folks know exactly what is expected? Maybe hand out detailed “light rules” sheets at the entrance?



Okie-Tex does that. It's also outlined on their web site.

I’ve also seen people tripping and falling over stuff like black cases and tripod legs, and if they fall over your gear left out in the dark, guess who gets sued: both you and the organizers. When you have large groups of people together you will have issues.



Most of the star parties I'm aware of require attendees to sign a waiver of liability. However, I don't know how effective these are in court. I have a hard time seeing how an attendee can be sued in such a situation where someone comes be-bopping along into your observing site. But, stranger things have happened.

#20 bicparker

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:02 AM

Light enforcement at star parties is not easy and is even more challenging these days because of the newer and brighter forms of lighting that are coming onto the field. Tablets, phones, laptops (more of them and they are brighter), various pilot and status lights on cameras and mounts, and often surprising things that don't even come to mind initially (such as USB hubs, charging stations, etc.).

Another challenge is having someone willing to tell another person to correct their problem. Most of the times, this goes pretty well, but every now and then it gets more confrontational. I don't think anyone goes to a star party wanting to get into a confrontation, but sometimes it happens. Often it is because of other frustrations happening; the most frequent reason is that the person in question is having difficulties getting their equipment working.

It is tough. I would just simply recommend to those who are asked to dim their lights, understand that there are probably several others who are being affected who aren't making the request, but want the light intrusion to go away. I would also recommend to those who are enforcing light etiquette (whether as an individual or as star party management), make sure you understand the problem and have suggestions handy (one, of course, may end up being simply "turn it off"). Make it a learning experience where appropriate.

A final recommendation for the star party organizers... have at least two people, who are level headed, take on the responsibility of responding to light rules complaints and make sure everyone knows who it is. In many cases, just knowing that there is some accountability creates better self enforcement. But when that doesn't work, then there is someone to ensure that firm enforcement of the rules is accomplished. Also, with more people that the star party gets involved in this, you get a larger base of attendee ownership in the star party.

One other practical thing that we found handy as of late for TSP... carry a small roll of black electrical tape for the bright pilot/status lights on cameras, power supplies, USB hubs, et al. That often solves some simple problems easily, quickly, and to everyone's satisfaction.

Since safety was also mentioned here, I will add on that we do have volunteers at TSP who work on light rules enforcement (as Preston pointed out). But they also serve other functions in those roles. During the walkthroughs, they also look for any safety issues (such as tent guy lines intruding into walking paths, or fire hazards), and power line violations (since we do provide power on the field for TSP).

#21 okieav8r

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 11:42 AM

Light enforcement at star parties is not easy and is even more challenging these days because of the newer and brighter forms of lighting that are coming onto the field. Tablets, phones, laptops (more of them and they are brighter), various pilot and status lights on cameras and mounts, and often surprising things that don't even come to mind initially (such as USB hubs, charging stations, etc.).

Another challenge is having someone willing to tell another person to correct their problem. Most of the times, this goes pretty well, but every now and then it gets more confrontational. I don't think anyone goes to a star party wanting to get into a confrontation, but sometimes it happens. Often it is because of other frustrations happening; the most frequent reason is that the person in question is having difficulties getting their equipment working.

It is tough. I would just simply recommend to those who are asked to dim their lights, understand that there are probably several others who are being affected who aren't making the request, but want the light intrusion to go away. I would also recommend to those who are enforcing light etiquette (whether as an individual or as star party management), make sure you understand the problem and have suggestions handy (one, of course, may end up being simply "turn it off"). Make it a learning experience where appropriate.

A final recommendation for the star party organizers... have at least two people, who are level headed, take on the responsibility of responding to light rules complaints and make sure everyone knows who it is. In many cases, just knowing that there is some accountability creates better self enforcement. But when that doesn't work, then there is someone to ensure that firm enforcement of the rules is accomplished. Also, with more people that the star party gets involved in this, you get a larger base of attendee ownership in the star party.

One other practical thing that we found handy as of late for TSP... carry a small roll of black electrical tape for the bright pilot/status lights on cameras, power supplies, USB hubs, et al. That often solves some simple problems easily, quickly, and to everyone's satisfaction.

Since safety was also mentioned here, I will add on that we do have volunteers at TSP who work on light rules enforcement (as Preston pointed out). But they also serve other functions in those roles. During the walkthroughs, they also look for any safety issues (such as tent guy lines intruding into walking paths, or fire hazards), and power line violations (since we do provide power on the field for TSP).


David, everything you say in your post makes sense and you have some good ideas.

I will say that the problem regarding the guy with the white lights was kind of perplexing. Several times we asked him, nicely, to refrain, and he said he would. It was his first star party, so we explained light etiquette to him. I even loaned him a red light with a dimmer. But then, thirty minutes later, he'd turn that white light on again. I don't get people like that. It was almost like it was a battle of wills between him and other observers around him.

#22 bicparker

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 02:00 PM

Rex,
That is too bad this guy you describe was like that. It sounds like you did everything correctly, too, and I don't get that kind of behavior as a response, either. Sometimes, certain people only respond to a punitive measure (i.e., stop it or pack it up, fines, etc.). Of course, those can only come from the star party itself.

By the way, I don't want to sound like what we do at TSP is the perfect solution (in fact, I know that Okie-Tex, RTMC, WSP, et al have some really excellent volunteer operations for handling problems like this, too). There are no set solutions in dynamic settings. TSP is just the model with which I am most familiar. A lot of what we do at TSP has come about from over 30 years of experiences with a wide range of problems and situations. We do some things simply because we could give a hundred reasons why we do them, but the most important ones are the ones we can't think of.

However, we still get new things thrown our way and they always precipitate a bit of head scratching and inward looking as to how we can handle things better. The best solution is to be as proactive and prepared as possible. And part of that preparation should include the unexpected.

#23 TL2101

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 02:41 PM

The few star parties I have been to have dark enforced areas and casual viewing areas. I assume when I setup in a casual area there will be some leeway in enforcing the rules but dark enforced areas should have a zero tolerance rule. IMHO

#24 RobbW

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:00 PM

What irks me most about this subject are those who find it necessary to constantly lock and unlock their cars. These same people will disable their dome lights (nice), but forget that the headlights or parking lights flash when they push that button. When you're camped 10 feet from your car, why do you need to lock it anyway!?


Just yesterday, I returned home from the Enchanted Skies Star Party in Socorro, NM. I had flown into Albuquerque and rented a car for the trip. As this was a rental car and not my own, I was not familiar with how the lighting worked. I was able to turn off the dome light so it would not come on when the doors were opened. However, there were side lights in the doors that would come on when doors were opened and there was no way to turn them off, save pulling a fuse. Since this was a rental, I did not feel comfortable messing with the fuses and the electronics. Also, the car would flash its lights every time you locked/unlocked the vehicle. To avoid upsetting anyone at night, what I ended up doing was leaving the car unlocked so that I wouldn't have to operate the key fob and blast the site with multiple flashes of light. I felt pretty secure about leaving it unlocked because in the dark of the night, it would be pretty obvious if anyone tried to open a door as the side lights would light up the area. The other thing I ended up doing was rolling down one of the back windows in the car. Any gear that I did not have with me in the field, I left on the floor of the car in the back with a blanket over it. That way, I could reach into the car and grab what I needed without having to unlock or open any doors. Plus, my gear was covered so that no one could easily peer into the car to see what I had. Everything worked out fine for me.

#25 Jamesbaird

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 06:14 PM

At a recent visit to Mount Pinos CA a group of about 30 "night hikers" wandered down from the higher elevations using very powerful forehead lights. When they came into our larg group gathering, they flat refused to turn the lamps off, away or down. Nice going Sierra Club drop outs. Worse still, they knew our gathering was engaged in astronomy... :foreheadslap:






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