Note: On nights when observatory public events coincide with
the monthly MAS star party at Baylor, the
observatory public event goes
on regardless of weather, with a program substituting for telescope viewing
if necessary. The MAS star party, on the other hand, may
be canceled if weather is not favorable. (See "Visiting
an MAS Star Party" for more details.)
review the "Visitor Guidelines"
section before visiting the observatory (particularly the section on
"Headlights" and "Flashlights"). By following its simple guidelines,
you'll enjoy your visit much more and earn the gratitude of others in
What to Expect -- Clear Nights
Approximately 1 hour before sunset, the volunteer
observatory staff arrives and prepares for the evening's activities. The observatory roof is rolled back
and portable telescopes set up. Occasionally, one or more of these
portable scopes provide viewing of the sun and its sunspots, using special
filters (the ONLY safe way to view the sun, by the way). This setup period
is a good opportunity to see the telescopes and related equipment. Once
it turns dark, the observatory is operates "lights off" until closing.
It takes a good hour after sunset for the
skies to darken sufficiently. However, during that time there is still
plenty to see. The telescopes will focus on the Moon or some of the
brighter planets if they are visible. Looking for the first bright stars
(and learning their names), or watching for the first constellations to appear
are other ways visitors pass the time waiting for darkness.
As the sky darkens, earth-orbiting manmade satellites appear, including an
occasional pass of the International Space Station. This is also a great
time to meet the volunteer staff and ask questions in preparation for the night
ahead. There occasionally is a slide program or other presentation during this time as well.
Once night falls, the
volunteers point telescopes to various parts of the sky so visitors can see nebulas,
galaxies and clusters
of stars. The moon and planets (if up that evening) are also popular targets
for the telescopes. The volunteers will generally call out the name or
type of object they are viewing (or you can just ask one of them what they're
currently viewing). Form a line by the telescope and the volunteer will
help you view the object. Avoid touching or bumping the telescope.
If you're having difficulty seeing the object, please don't hesitate asking the volunteer for help with
focusing or other assistance.
What to Expect -- Cloudy Nights
On a cloudy night when telescope viewing isn't possible, presentations by the
volunteer staff take place. The observatory lights are on and there is a slide show or talk by a
member of the volunteer staff. There is also an opportunity to get a
close up view of the telescopes and their operation.
Cloudy nights are also a great time to get your questions answered -- amateur
astronomers love to share the information they've collected over the years.
If you're thinking about buying a telescope cloudy nights can be your best
opportunity to get some expert, unbiased advice!