Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Star Party?
A Star Party is an event where a group of people gather to star gaze. Naked eye and telescope aided observing are included. It is a peaceful time to view the beauty of the heavens. Stars, Galaxies, Open and Closed Star Clusters, and Nebula are all visible. In addition, the participants in a Star Party view Constellations and Asterisms associated with the season. Typically, fact sharing, stories, and mythology abound via a heightened sense of comaraderie.
What will we see?
There are uncountable named Stars. Many Stars are "double stars" or "pairs". Some pairs are of mixed color. Galaxies outside our own Milky Way Galaxy are visible. Open and Closed (or "Globular") Clusters are prevalent. Constellations and Asterisms associated with the season and the mythology from the Ancients are revealed.
What do the 4 stars in the Wine Country Star Party logo represent?
The 4 stars in the Wine Country Star Party logo represent "Spectacular Beauty, Memorable Friends".
What should I wear?
Sonoma and Napa County evenings can be quite cool, even after a warm day. We suggest you wear layers - much like a day at the beach. Prepare for cool conditions. Bring a hat and gloves. Consider wearing boots instead of sneakers as feet tend to get cold.
What kind of equipment do you provide?
We have 2 Orion Newtonian Telescopes. One telescope has a 10 inch mirror on a German Equatorial Mount that is fully computer controlled. The other telescope has a 12 inch mirror on an equatorial platform. We also provide binoculars for your use and we use laser pointers to help direct you to Constellations and Asterisms.
Is this an activity suited mostly for "Nerds"?
No! We don't call anyone names like that and you will find the experience enjoyable no matter what your personality style. A partial list of people who enjoy star gazing includes: lovers, families, professionals, vacationers, students, dreamers, and people on dates.
What about the weather and moonlight?
Clouds and bright moonlight can make star gazing difficult. Your event must be planned carefully if the weather is threatening or the moon rises during the evening.
Is there a bathroom available?
Yes. We pick locations with public restrooms or bring our own facilities.
How late will we be at the Star Party?
We like to start as early as possible. This way we often arrive at the observing site at dusk to set up. We are happy to stay on site as long as our guests are willing. Some Star Parties end by 9:00pm while others go past midnight.
Do I have to be part of a group to attend a star party?
At Wine Country Star Party, we are pleased to offer our tours to individuals as well as groups.
Will I be viewing with other people I don't know?
Yes. We often book multiple groups on a single night. This means that you could be viewing with others.
May I reserve Wine Country Star Party for a special event with my group?
Yes, Wine Country Star Party can accommodate your event. The cost of the reservation depends upon the number of guests in your party.
Will it be cold?
Possibly. Sonoma and Napa County evenings can be quite cool, even after a warm day. We suggest you wear layers - much like a day at the beach. Prepare for cool conditions. Bring a hat and gloves. Consider wearing boots instead of sneakers as feet tend to get cold.
What is your cancellation policy?
Any Wine County Star Party event cancelled due to weather is fully refundable. If you cancel at least 24 hours before 6:00pm on the day of your reservation, your payment will be fully refunded. A reservation cancelled with less than 24 hours before 6:00pm on the day of the Star Party is not refundable. See our Terms and Conditions.
What if the weather turns bad?
As Astronomers, we are also good Meteorologists. We follow detailed weather reports every day. It is unlikely that we would venture out with guests on a marginal night. Any Star Party cancelled due to the weather is fully refundable. See our Terms and Conditions.
Is a Star Party appropriate for my children?
Yes. Stargazing can be a wonderful introduction to science for children. The experience can also be good for parent-child bonding. Young children should attend with an adult.
Will I have to let my eyes adjust to the darkness?
Yes. It takes 30 to 40 minutes for one's eyes to adjust to darkness. During the first minutes of darkness, the pupils in our eyes dilate. Additional time is required to fully "dark adapt" one's eyes for the best experience with the telescopes.
Should I bring my own flashlight?
Yes, but only if you can cover the lens with red cellophane (we will provide the cellophane and a rubber band) or install a red lens first. Bright white light ruins the "dark adaption" that naturally occurs when in darkness. Therefore, we discourage the use of white lights and electronics with bright displays such as iPads or cell phones.
What about wheelchair access?
Our observing locations are well suited for wheel chairs. Occasionally we pick a site with a gravel surface, and we make every effort to assist persons in a wheel chair to move up close to the telescopes. To view some objects, our telescopes require us to use a small step ladder. However, we can find objects low to the horizon which often work well for a seated person.
I wear eye glasses. Will I be able to see well in the telescope?
Yes. This is an often asked question. Many Astronomers see fine with or without their glasses. We take time when you view to allow for you to see with or without your glasses.
What is good telescope/astronomy etiquette?
It is most important not to display any device at a Star Party that emits bright white light. This includes iPads and cell phones. It takes up to 30 or 40 minutes for one's eyes to complete adjust or "dark adapt". A flash of white light can ruin your viewing sensitivity and cause you to have to readjust your vision. We provide red flashlights that preserve dark adapted vision. When arriving by car at an observing site, please keep vehicle headlights to a minimum. Even backup lights from cars in reverse can be objectionable to some. Generally, we are quiet as this fits the mood of the night. We always encourage good safety practices and encourage our guests to watch their step in the darkness and move about carefully around the telescope equipment and other guests.
How many people do you include at a Star Party for a given night?
We typically book 5 to 15 people for each Star Party. Smaller or larger groups can be accomodated.
Will there be a place to sit?
Yes. We provide a special observing chair for you right at the telescope and we bring folding chairs for the rest of our guests.
Do you operate the telescopes for us?
Yes. As the evening progresses, we are willing to have you assist in position the telescopes if you wish. This can be quite fun. However, it is not necessary if you just want to sit back and enjoy the view.
Are we talking about Astronomy or Astrology?
We are Astronomers. We also know a lot about the Constellations in the Astrological sky and point these out during the evening.
Do you support non-profits with donations to fundraisers?
Yes, we have donated Star Parties to: