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Big Bend Trip / Astronmy Etiquette

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#1 mlh25

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 08:45 AM

I am headed to Big Bend TX next week to see the milky way for my 40th birthday bucket list. We were planning on going to Bozeman but Big Bend is a much shorter flight. Anyhow I am extremely new to astronomy and the community. Would it be considered rude to walk up to someone and talk to them about what they are doing while they are using their telescope? Most my other hobbies people seem eager to share knowledge, but I am not sure if that applies the same when your approaching someone in a dark parking lot or whatever. Id love to ask questions and learn but I don't want to burden anyone.

 

As far as my trip goes, we are flying so I cant take my Dob. But I have some hunting binoculars and one of those cheap galileoscopes. By my main goal is to just naked eye the Milky Way.


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#2 csa/montana

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:01 AM

That's a difficult question to answer.  Many would be more than happy to share "looks" and knowledge while they are viewing; while others may not want the interruption.  I guess you would just have to approach with caution, and don't be offended if they don't wish to talk while they are viewing, imaging, etc.


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#3 Stellar1

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:03 AM

The vast majority of us are welcoming and eager to share our passion for the hobby, I love when people are curious cause I greatly enjoy giving them a peek through the scope. Approach every situation differently as an imager with a scope in process of imaging may not be able to let you see anything and their rig may need their full attention so just read the situation and be conscientious of what they’re doing at the time. What I like to do when I’m curious about someone with a scope is not approach without first announcing my curiosity with a “oh nice telescope! I’m in this hobby too!” this lets them know your intention rather than approaching quietly till they’re wondering why you’re getting close (especially in the dark) lol. No flashlights or phone lights around their rigs, you may ruin a session, who knows.


Edited by Stellar1, 21 September 2021 - 09:05 AM.

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#4 wrvond

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:07 AM

I've always been a bit of a germ-a-phobe and do not appreciate impromptu outreaches, really. I prefer to plan ahead and use the set of eyepieces I have set aside specifically for that purpose.

If you initiate a conversation and the other person seems willing to talk, enjoy that, but if they don't offer to let you look, don't ask.


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#5 Barlowbill

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:27 AM

My suggestion would be to arrive before it is completely dark.  Speak to folks who are are setting up their equipment and talk to them about it.  If they are imaging, then you will know.  If quite a few folks are around an area, you probably will not be perceived to be a threat.  I would be reluctant to approach someone by themselves out in the middle of nowhere.  It is Texas, after all. 


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#6 csrlice12

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:33 AM

Simple, borrow the TeleVue night vision prototype from Al, we will be the ones reenacting the wall scene from the Z movie.


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#7 MikeTahtib

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:52 AM

I've been approached a number of times at Acadia, where I'm with my girlfriend.  Normally I don't mind being approached, but sometimes my girlfriend gets nervous; other times she encouragesw people nearby to take a look.  As others have said, try to read the person you are considering approaching, gauge their friendliness.  And then don't overstay your welcome.  If he happily shows you some objects, then stops suggesting new thigns to look at, that may be a sign for you to move on.

Last time at Acadia, my girlfriend invited a whole family or two over, and we ended up spending a big chunk of time showing them stuff.  At first I was a little annoyed (more at my girlfriend thant the people she invited), as that wasn't how I was expecting to spend my night, but everyone seemed very happy, so it was good.

But overall, watch for cues - Come on over; stay away; that was nice, now leave me alone.


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#8 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:52 AM

My suggestion would be to arrive before it is completely dark.  Speak to folks who are are setting up their equipment and talk to them about it.  If they are imaging, then you will know.  If quite a few folks are around an area, you probably will not be perceived to be a threat.  I would be reluctant to approach someone by themselves out in the middle of nowhere.  It is Texas, after all. 

100% show up when people are getting their scopes setup and ask beforehand if you can come back for a look when it's dark.  If you have to drive to/from wherever they are located after dark, be mindful of headlight etiquette as you approach their spot.


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#9 Ed Wiley

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:53 AM

When I went to Australia to see the South I took a good pair of binoculars, a red light, a decent Star Atlas and a planisphere. I didn't bother bother taking a scope. I bought a comfortable camp chair. I have no idea what you expect when you get there. Are you going to a star party where you expect to see people or just setting up on your own? If a star party then make your introductions during the day and follow up at night if they are inviting. Most people I know at star parties love to show off their scopes. Some are loners who resent intrusions. Some are doing very complicated things and are friendly enough but in the middle of doing those things. Sort them out in the daylight.

Ed


Edited by Ed Wiley, 21 September 2021 - 09:54 AM.

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#10 Notdarkenough

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 10:20 AM

If you want a dark sky experience where questions are necessary and observing from many different scopes is part of the deal, check out The Dark Rangers: https://www.darkrang...scopetours.com/ At the edge of an International Dark Sky location, Bryce Canyon in Utah, these guys have an Observatory with multimedia presentations, and best, tons of hands-on viewing at a true Dark Site. You can bring your own rig, or use theirs. If you show proficiency, then you can spend the night viewing to your hearts desire. Pretty cool I think. They help beginners learn their rigs better, offer advice for images, etc.  Just thought that might be of interest. 



#11 mlh25

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 01:18 PM

Thanks for all the advise. I really do not know what to expect. I had more or less free rein to do what ever for my birthday. After thinking about it a bit I just wanted to see the Milky Way. So anything beyond that is a bonus.

I just had another thought about being polite. How close is to close to someone with a flashlight or cell phone. The last thing I want to do is mess up someone’s photography. But I also don’t want to step off a ledge. I also lean on my star finder app a lot. It’s pretty dark but obviously getting through my phone to get to it is bright.

#12 wrvond

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 01:58 PM

Thanks for all the advise. I really do not know what to expect. I had more or less free rein to do what ever for my birthday. After thinking about it a bit I just wanted to see the Milky Way. So anything beyond that is a bonus.

I just had another thought about being polite. How close is to close to someone with a flashlight or cell phone. The last thing I want to do is mess up someone’s photography. But I also don’t want to step off a ledge. I also lean on my star finder app a lot. It’s pretty dark but obviously getting through my phone to get to it is bright.

When you are in an area illuminated by the MW, you won't even need a flashlight. As for your phone, make a bag or envelope of rubylith, you'll be able to use your phone without harming your night vision.

 

As an aside, is there an event scheduled in Big Bend for next week?  There are several dark sky sites within driving distance of Tennessee. Grab a tent and bring your Dob. 


Edited by wrvond, 21 September 2021 - 02:00 PM.

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#13 MEE

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 03:29 PM

Re, your phone: if you have an iPhone, you may be be interested in this:

Turning the screen red: Settings>Accessibility>Display and Text Size>Color Filters on>Color Tint checked>Intensity slid all the way right>Done.

(Color filters off to go back to regular)

Android phones likely have a similar option


Also, where are you flying into? Are you camping? Are you making reservations?

Edited by MEE, 21 September 2021 - 03:29 PM.

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#14 spkerer

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 04:42 PM

My two cents (and worth nothing more than that)...

 

If I'm observing at one of our astronomy club's public events, I expect and welcome people wanting to see what I'm doing, ask questions, look through the scope, etc.  That's the whole purpose of those events!  If I'm out on my own observing, it really depends on what I'm doing whether I'm into something I'm wanting to concentrate/focus on or just kind of grazing the heavens.  There would be no way for you to know what mode I'm in.  Be prepared for someone to be in the middle of something and not want to be interrupted.  In that case, don't make it awkward or difficult to have the conversation be VERY brief.  And don't take that as a sign of rudeness.  If I've travelled somewhere out of the way for an opportunity to do some particular thing, that's what I want to do - not spent that time being interrupted or answering questions.  But there are other times I may welcome the interruption.  Don't take either personally.

 

As for lights... it depends.  Is the observer doing imaging or visual astronomy?  If doing imaging, you can get a feel for how worried they are about their dark adaptation by observing them.  Does their screen seem pretty bright?  Are they looking at their screen pretty much constantly?  If the observer is doing visual observing (as I do), keep far away with lights.  Some people think "oh, my headlamp has a red light setting so I'm good" and then walk right up to someone trying to keep their dark adaptation as their headlamp shines right at the person.  That's not polite. But also take into account the environment.... is the moon up?  If the moon's bright, I'm not as worried about dark adaptation (but am still somewhat worried, just not as much).  


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#15 rajilina

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 04:54 PM

I am headed to Big Bend TX next week to see the milky way for my 40th birthday bucket list. 

I guess it kinda just makes me sad that we have to make a bucket list item out of something that in an ideal world, everyone should be able to see from their own backyard...light pollution affects us all in so many varied ways. I think your birthday choice is wonderful...you will love the Milky Way. For all the times I've seen it, it still never fails to impress me, especially when I think of what the Milky Way means in the grand scheme of things and where we are in relation to it. Take a zero gravity chair, some binoculars, and lay outside for a while to let your eyes dark-adapt and enjoy the vastness of it all. Maybe you'll even get treated to a few shooting stars!

 

100% show up when people are getting their scopes setup and ask beforehand if you can come back for a look when it's dark.  If you have to drive to/from wherever they are located after dark, be mindful of headlight etiquette as you approach their spot.

This. The absolute worst is when I'm trying to set up for a star party and early birds pressure me with requests to see what I'm looking at *when I haven't even got the scope up and aligned yet*. A quick, polite request to come back after dark when I'm ready and relaxed is much appreciated and at that time I'm more than happy to share what's in my scope. 

 

I just had another thought about being polite. How close is to close to someone with a flashlight or cell phone. The last thing I want to do is mess up someone’s photography. But I also don’t want to step off a ledge. I also lean on my star finder app a lot. It’s pretty dark but obviously getting through my phone to get to it is bright.

Please ask before using any kind of light source around telescopes, especially someone doing photography. For visual, I usually have my own appropriate light sources and prefer that visitors not use theirs at all. I have small red lights to let people know where my tripod legs are so they don't trip over them, and a handheld red so that I can direct people to the eyepiece when they can't find it in the dark. Do not take pictures of anything without asking first. Your flash is likely to go off, which will ruin everyone's night vision. Do not ask to take pictures with your cell phone of what you see in the eyepiece of a visual scope; the likelihood of anything turning out is not good, and you run the risk of turning on your phone's bright light by accident (I've had this happen multiple times at star parties with a non-astronomy public in attendance). 

 

Someone earlier suggested turning on your phone's color filter set to red. This is absolutely great to do, and is a trick I use often, but along with this, turn your brightness down far enough that you can just still read everything. 

 

Be aware of not only your car headlights, but any interior lights in your vehicle.


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#16 mlh25

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 05:03 PM

When you are in an area illuminated by the MW, you won't even need a flashlight. As for your phone, make a bag or envelope of rubylith, you'll be able to use your phone without harming your night vision.

 

As an aside, is there an event scheduled in Big Bend for next week?  There are several dark sky sites within driving distance of Tennessee. Grab a tent and bring your Dob. 

No event, I just googled best places to see the Milky Way. Big Bend was closest highly recommended. I will for sure check out some dark sky places close by but most of the ones I found are a pretty good drive. I am in Chattanooga which is right in-between Atlanta, Nashville and Knoxville. There is not any really dark places that I know of. But to be honest I probably haven't searched as well as I could.

 

Re, your phone: if you have an iPhone, you may be be interested in this:

Turning the screen red: Settings>Accessibility>Display and Text Size>Color Filters on>Color Tint checked>Intensity slid all the way right>Done.

(Color filters off to go back to regular)

Android phones likely have a similar option


Also, where are you flying into? Are you camping? Are you making reservations?

Thanks a ton for the iPhone tip. That will really help me out anytime I am viewing. We are flying into El Paso, then driving, Staying at hotels, one night in Marfa and the rest in Marathon. Plan to drive from there to the park and the observatory. I don't have any concrete plans of yet. Do some hiking in the day and viewing at night. There are some star parties at the observatory but they are booked solid. I am on the wait list though, so fingers crossed.



#17 Keith Rivich

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 08:08 PM

Unless you know someone out there is observing I seriously doubt you will stumble across any one with a telescope. Its a really big park! If you have the time I would recommend heading north to the McDonald observatory. Not sure if they have restarted through the eyepiece observing during their star parties but you can usually find someone in the "old" parking lot with a scope set up. 


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#18 csrlice12

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Posted 22 September 2021 - 12:34 AM

Seeing the milky way from a true dark site is a real treat....you really do question if a cloudbank is moving in...then it dawn's on you, those clouds aren't of Earthly origin....and the darker it gets the more obvious they become.... there's nights I've just sit at the dark site in a lawn chair and watch the Milky Way come out and not even use a telescope.  It really makes you realize how small you are.


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#19 Escape Pod

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Posted 22 September 2021 - 03:52 PM

I would echo what Keith said. I was out there last winter and the viewing was amazing, but it was hardly a star party. There’s campgrounds that I didn’t visit at night, but it’s hard to imagine more than the sporadic viewer.

 

I say treat yourself to a pair of 70mm Astro binoculars and a monopod and get out there! Oberwerk have a nice kit for under $250.
 

https://oberwerk.com...ght-binoculars/


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#20 Pete W

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Posted 23 September 2021 - 08:56 AM

 Staying at hotels, one night in Marfa and the rest in Marathon. Plan to drive from there to the park and the observatory. I don't have any concrete plans of yet. Do some hiking in the day and viewing at night. There are some star parties at the observatory but they are booked solid. I am on the wait list though, so fingers crossed.

Big Bend is definitely worth the effort!  Might I suggest the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mtns.  Is a bit strenuous, but a fine view from the top.

 

I've observed in BBNP many times, but never found or heard of impromptu "star parties."  As Keith mentioned, the park is huge and most times I've observed I reserved primitive drive-in campsites that that are off the paved roads - You'll never find them.  And even in the developed campgrounds I've only seen other observers perhaps one or two times.

 

A couple other tidbits.  The drive time from the main visitor center in Big Bend to Marathon or Alpine is about 70 minutes - and that's in the daylight.  Be wary for critters while driving at night (javelina, deer, coyotes, etc.).  There are absolutely no facilities on the way and cell service is unreliable.  You'll be passing through border checkpoints when you leave the park on the roads to Alpine and to Marathon. 

 

Keith's mention of McDonald Observatory NW of Ft. Davis is a good one.  It is your best bet to find folks with telescopes that may be happy to let you look.   If you want to observe with eyeballs or binos, the area around Marathon or Marfa will be plenty dark enough.  Fourteen miles south of Marathon on Hwy 385 is the Los Cabella picnic area.  The picnic area is off the main road so it is safer than just pulling off the road.  Plus, it's only 15 minutes back to Marathon, not the 70 min drive from BBNP.   Ten miles east of Marfa on Hwy 67 is the Marfa travel center - I don't know if there are parking lot lights, but it may be a good spot to check out too.


Edited by Pete W, 23 September 2021 - 10:52 AM.

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#21 GeneT

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Posted 23 September 2021 - 04:54 PM

People are nervous when observing in remote locales with few people. Maybe a friendly wave, and approach slowly. You will get some type of response which I believe will be a good indicator. If they are imaging, they might not want to be bothered. And, be very careful of light--don't turn on any such as flashlights, smart phone lights, or lasers. These will ruin imaging sessions, and affect dark sky adaption.   


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#22 je2000

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 04:52 PM

It's a big place. Tell us where and when you are staying and I can help. If you're in the Ghost Town then yeah maybe expect some lookers. Other places you could run screaming naked for hours and not hear or see another soul. Except for some coyotes or javelinas.

McDonald is mostly booked up. I'd be interested in their solar observing but not sure what they offer.

I'll be in Terlingua end of November. Check the moon phase it'll make a huge difference. Get a headlight for your head. Those tiny shiny dots on the ground are spiders.

#23 Galaxy Michael

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 11:52 PM

Re, your phone: if you have an iPhone, you may be be interested in this:

Turning the screen red: Settings>Accessibility>Display and Text Size>Color Filters on>Color Tint checked>Intensity slid all the way right>Done.

(Color filters off to go back to regular)

Android phones likely have a similar option


Also, where are you flying into? Are you camping? Are you making reservations?

Thank you for sharing this.  I had no idea you could turn the display red on an iPhone.  I just tested it and yes it works.  

 

While observing I have SkySafari set to night mode so it's red.  When I unlock my iPhone, I occasionally make a mistake and blast my eyes with bright standard display while attempting to get to SkySafari that's in red mode.


Edited by Galaxy Michael, 24 September 2021 - 11:54 PM.


#24 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 25 September 2021 - 06:09 AM

My two cents:

 

Normally, I am very open, encourage conversation and will switch gears to show them some interesting things to see through a scope.  

 

But right now, this pandemic is far from over and even with my friends who are vaccinated, I am very cautious, we wear our masks.  If we look though the other guys scope, we use our own eyepieces. Keep this in mind when approaching strangers. 

 

Beyond that, the red screen on your phone is probably not enough to protect your night vision.  If you have an AMOLED screen and it set so it is barely readable when fully dark adapted, then you are probably OK. But with a non-AMOLED screen, they leak white light, a red film screen of some time is recommended.

 

Jon


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#25 mlh25

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 08:12 AM

I saw the Milky Way for the first time last night. It was supposed to be overcast so we went and ate dinner. I walked out of the restaurant and boom there it was. Magical. I went to the hotel grabbed my camera chair and binoculars headed to the hotel volley ball court. I was so excited until I couldn’t find it. I was so excited in fact I didn’t even notice that only a handful of stars were visible. Dang cloudy nights. Tonight is supposed to be good though.

Big Bend is HUGE. Thinking I would happen on another star gazer is now laughable.
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