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 program plan and the objects to view through telescopes. The introduction is about 15 minutes.
Constellation Tour: Visitor Center staff point out brighter stars and constellations, discuss the mythology of some constellations, and relate our scientific understanding of objects seen 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 lasts about 25-35 minutes.
Telescope Viewing: Guests rotate among a number of telescopes, viewing different objects with guidance from staff and volunteers. Our telescopes range in aperture from 8" to 22". 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 hall, 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 may be 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 unique, live indoor talks and demonstrations: 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 study the Universe during a cloudy-night Star Party. 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.
Reschedules & Refund: On cloudy nights, refunds (minus a $3 processing fee) may be offered. Refunds may only be claimed on the night of the program. Except for weather emergencies (flooding, snow, ice, etc), no-shows will not be rescheduled or refunded.
*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.