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Light Up Signs- Star Party Crowd Control Ideas?

Star Party Outreach
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#1 BeardedBen


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Posted 17 April 2024 - 07:41 PM

Hi fellow astronomers, 

Our local public star parties have grown to over 400 attendees arriving in over 200 vehicles to where crowd and parking control have become an issue. Not to mention white light mitigation from vehicles coming and going from the events. 

I'm looking to see if there is any type of signs that can glow in the dark or be lit with red LEDs to help direct crowds to the observing area and remind them to turn off their white light sources on their vehicles, mobile devices etc. I got the idea from someone mentioning star parties at Griffiths Observatory in California had some form of red LED signs at each scope, highlighting what object it was tracking for the night. 

Our location is in a rural area on a flat grassy/gravel field where cars park in a dirt lot 300-500 yards away. 

Any insights, ideas, or experience in hosting large star parties would be appreciated! 

#2 phonehome



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Posted 19 April 2024 - 10:38 PM



I've attended a lot of western outreach events and star parties and never seen anything like the signs like you've described.  However, the best organized public-attending SP I've ever visited (and similar to your event description) was over in your neck of the woods at the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival (Utah).  On the first day of the 4-day event we attended a group meeting for orientation, were handed early-pass IDs, given free camping sites for the week (in our own loop too!) and had a Star-B-Que!  And this before we even visited the observing field!


Below are a few photos to illustrate the area's setup. 


All public parking was remote from the observing field and headlights fully shielded by layers of hundreds of feet of screening.  Separate sets of screens and access were provided for handicap vehicles.  This was in addition to the often-filled shuttle buses constantly running back & forth from the nearby town. 


A cadre of NP interps and volunteers manned the shuttles and also gathered-up folks into small groups as they came from the parking areas.  Before reaching the field they were indoctrinated on light edicate and how to best interact with the volunteer astronomers and equipment.  They offered tips on navigation of the observing field, layout, etc.  They also carried red cellophane and tape to cover folks flashlights when needed.  I don't recall seeing a white light on the field during the entire event!


When a group approached the observing field they were alternately directed to one side or the other of the illuminated (glow-in-the-dark) row of traffic cones placed down the middle.  Cones placed up high on posts outlined the field's entrance and all this helped visitors to maintain their [dark] orientation while on the field and assist the organizers with crowd management (with a much higher attendance than your description).  The glow cones were "supercharged" with UV flashlights and the porta-pots had red rope lighting inside and out.  Out of bounds areas were similarly marked.  The field was freshly graded and a water truck sprayed down the gravel for dust control a few hours before setup time each afternoon!


From my amatuer astronomer perspective, even with the large crowds, it was a wonderful experience, much much better than any other public outreach event I've attended.  Wait lines were well-managed, with small to large scopes receiving equal attention, yet people were free to roam and ask as many questions as they wished.  Security/safety was never a concern as law enforcement & medical had their presence at the field entrance.  After the event was closed for the evening (IIRC around 1am) we astronomers remained for our own dark-site observing and a guard kept everyone else out.


IMHO, that particular event worked spectacularly, not from any particular signage, but from the organizers accumulated knowledge and an adequate quantity of informed staff & volunteers.




Observation field "last line of defense" screening



Some of the remote field screening



About 40 astronomers setting up



Ready to show!


Edited by phonehome, 20 April 2024 - 10:38 AM.

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#3 Bob4BVM



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Posted 11 May 2024 - 12:39 PM

Hey Ed !

I like those screens, but how did the get the wind gods to stop breathing for 4 days ! ?  :)

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