Dark Sky Side Etiquette

A dark sky site is an observing area where we can avoid and be free of light pollution. It enhances our view of the night sky from about a few hundred naked eye stars to over many thousands.
There are two ways you can enjoy such a site: alone or in the company of fellow enthusiasts. The first is a quiet, very personal experience, valuable in itself as a way to connect to the cosmos. But the second is probably by far the more enjoyable of the two, provided everyone who shares the experience has respect for all present. That means following the basic rules of etiquette described below.

Plan to arrive before sunset. First, it will be easier to set up in daylight. Second, arriving late with headlights blazing can interfere with other people who are trying to fully adapt their eyes to darkness, which can take up to an hour.

you do unavoidably arrive late, dim your headlights on approach.

time you arrive, slow down your speed of approach to avoid raising dust into the air.

parking is at a premium, leave the closest spots for people with the most (and/or heaviest) equipment. Their back muscles will thank you!

move your car again until it’s time to leave. Especially avoid backing up, since backup lights are white, quite bright and cannot be disabled (only covered).

your vehicle’s interior by turning off your dome lights. Most cars are equipped with a simple switch. Truck lights do not always have a switch but the bulb can be loosened or removed. Do the same for trunk and hatchback lights.

For the same reason, opening, closing and slamming of car doors and trunks should be kept to a minimum. Organise your car at home to reduce the number of times you need to go in for something.

your idle chatter before viewing begins. Thereafter, keep the conversation subdued. Enthusiastic cries of “I’ve found it!” and “Have you seen this?” are exceptions to this rule!

Setting up together is not a problem. but respect each other’s space.

red LED or red-filtered lights while you observe and if you have to set up in darkness. Never use white-light flashlights. Use the smallest possible light needed for reading star charts. Shelter your light with your body, telescope, car or whatever to minimize glare.

approaching a telescope ask if the owner is doing photography or imaging. If they are, be careful not to step in front of the field of view of the telescope or lens. Especially don’t wave a light around in the vicinity.

pollution is as distracting to your concentration as light pollution is to a dark sky. In general, keep radios and CD players off or use headphones. Your taste in music, and the volume at which you like to listen to it, are probably not the same as everyone else’s.

Sharing views is a benefit to finder and seeker, but please ask before you look through another’s telescope. Better yet, wait until you are invited.

touch other people’s equipment or lenses. If you do accidentally touch someone else’s lens or eyepiece, perhaps smudging it in the process, don’t try to clean it yourself. Apologize to the affected party and let them decide what to do.

food and drink away from telescopes. Pets should be kept on a leash.

If there are children present, keep a close eye on them.

you make an early departure from the group, warn the other people when you are about to leave to give them a chance to protect their night vision.

leaving a site as the next-to-last person, inform the person remaining that you’re about to pack it up. It’s not a nice surprise to raise your head from the eyepiece only to find yourself all alone!