Many visitors bring their own telescopes to get help with "setting up" or operation. Many bring binoculars, and many just use their own eyes. There is always a telescope with a wonderful view of some celestial treasure just waiting for a novice eye to enjoy. The AAAP members are happy to answer questions about astronomy, buying a telescope, or protecting our dark sky resource (actually you may have a hard time getting some of the members to quit talking once you get them started).
Several times throughout the evening an AAAP member will give a "guided tour" of the sky an introduction to the constellations and brighter stars. The two large permanent telescopes at each observatory are open as well with an AAAP member at each to answer questions, adjust the telescope, and keep people from toppling off the viewing ladders. There are also displays within the observatory's "warm-up" room covering a wide variety of subjects of interest to amateur astronomers, and the science of astronomy in general.
Star Parties are usually scheduled around the time of the first quarter moon; that way very nice high contrast views of the craters and mountains of the moon can be seen, but the moon still sets early enough that good views of deep sky objects such as nebulae, clusters, and galaxies become available. The positions of the planets vary from month to month, but there is always something interesting to observe.
The handicapped are encouraged to attend AAAP Star Parties. Portable telescopes are easily positioned for viewing by anyone. The Brashear Refractor at Wagman is handicapped-accessible for most observations as well as both telescopes at Mingo. A parking pad outside the front door allows wheelchair vans to land passengers where they can easily roll right into the building.
There is no running water at either observatory; comfort facilities consist of a portable toilet. No food or beverages are served, so bring your own coffee to stay warm on those cool autumn nights; and bring chocolate chip cookies to bribe your way to the head of any lines.
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted since the sites are inside a County park. Smoking is not permitted within or near the observatory buildings. In fact, since any kind of smoke tends to leave a film on optical surfaces, and there are sensitive portable telescopes set up all over the grounds, smoking of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes is strongly discouraged anywhere on the site.
Lastly, even though every member can appreciate the tranquility and relaxation of lying on one's back on a blanket or just the grass to observe the canopy of the heavens, several nearly disastrous close calls between automobiles (no headlights, remember?) and human bodies have constrained the AAAP to enact a "no lying on the ground" rule, except in certain designated areas far from parking. Please observe this new rule so we won't have to observe the flashing lights of an ambulance.
There are some items that may make the night more enjoyable and comfortable. Even the summer nights can get quite cool after dark, so a sweater, jacket, or light coat is always in order. For the other seasons, blankets, head coverings, gloves, and extra layers of clothing (including socks) are recommended. For comfortable views of the whole sky, for instance for meteor watching or constellation identification, a folding lounge chair is helpful.
|Februrary 25||Wagman Winterfest||Wagman Observatory|
|March 31||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory|
|April 27,28||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|May 25,26||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|May 25||Public Star Party||Keystone State Park|
|June 22,23||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|June 23||Wagman 25th Aniversary
|Deer Lakes Park|
|July 6,7||Public Star Party||Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|July 6||Public Star Party||Keystone State Park|
|July 20,21||Public Star Party||Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|July 27,28||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory|
|August 10,11||Public Star Party||Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|August 17||Public Star Party||Moraine State Park|
|August 24,25||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory|
|September 7||PRIVATE Star Party||Boyd Community Center|
|September 8||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|September 22||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|October 6||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|
|October 20||Public Star Party||Wagman Observatory and Mingo Creek Park Observatory|