Star Party Introduction
Gift Shop access during the Star Party
Cloudy/Partly Cloudy conditions
Reschedules & Refunds
Dress appropriately for the weather. The Star Party takes place outdoors. Our amphitheater seating consists of stone benches, so feel free to bring a pad or blanket for added comfort. Please note that there is some walking (at ~6300 ft in altitude) involved to participate in the program.
Introduction: Guests receive a short introduction in the outdoor Amphitheater at the Visitors Center, covering the progrm overview and objects we'll view through telescopes. The introduction is ~15 minutes.
Constellation Tour: Visitor Center staff point out brighter stars and constellations, relating some of the practical uses of the stars, the mythology of some constellations, and the scientific understanding of objects in the night sky. These constellation tours serve as an orientation to the night sky. Guests may skip the constellation tour and move directly to telescope viewing following the introduction. The constellation tour is ~ 25-35 minutes.
NOTE: On brightly moonlit nights, the Constellation Tour may be shortened, altered or replaced with alternative content.
Telescope Viewing: Guests rotate among a number of telescopes, viewing different objects with guidance from staff and volunteers. Our telescopes range in size from 8" to 22". Visitors Center staff and volunteers assist with views and answer questions. After about 90 minutes things wind down as guests take their last views through the telescopes.
Gift Shop Access during the Star Party: The Visitors Center, exhibit gallery, gift shop and restrooms remain open throughout the Star Party.
Cloudy/Partly Cloudy conditions: Occasionally a clear evening clouds over, a cloudy evening clears off, or the evening alternates between clear and cloudy conditions. We make every effort to appropriately plan based on the best available satellite and weather radar information. We will take every reasonable opportunity to do telescope viewing with guests. Program refunds are offered when conditions do not look promising.
In the event that weather is likely to prevent views of the night sky, Visitors Center reservations staff will contact (via text and email) program participants to explain available options. Please be sure to include your mobile phone number and email address when making your reservation.
When conditions don't allow for telescope viewing, we offer various indoor talks and demos: virtual sky tours with sky simulation software, video/animations, and images from ground-based and space-based telescopes, demonstrations of principles of spectroscopy as it applies to research conducted at McDonald Observatory, and others. Many of our visitors who have joined both clear-night and cloudy-night programs tell us that they learned as much about astronomy and more about how astronomers know so much about the Universe during a cloudy-night Star Party.
Reschedules & Refund: On cloudy nights, refunds (minus a $3 processing fee) are offered. Refunds may only be claimed on the night of the program at the Information Desk. Except for weather emergencies (flooding, snow, ice, etc), no-shows will not be rescheduled or refunded.
On occasion, conditions may be such that we will offer some sort of hybrid program of telescope viewing of a few brighter objects that may be visible through thin cloud-cover as well as indoor talks.
*The Observatory reserves the right to ask visitors to leave the program venue if their behavior becomes disruptive.
Programs may be cancelled at any time due to weather or public health concerns. Evening programs take place mostly outdoors.