Cars on the Observing Field: Lights and A Safety Reminder


August President's Message

Trout Lake Star Party is an annual event that is especially welcome and wonderful, but this year there were a couple of reminders that ultimately, moving cars and expensive telescopes don’t mix well and we need to be careful. Throw in a couple extra accident factors, like people walking around in the dark and cars flashing white light across the field destroying everyone’s night vision and it becomes clear that we need to be cautious as we take our cars out at night.

1. Always arrive before dark

It is simply irresponsible to drive on or near an observing field after dark, and by dark, we mean twilight.

2. Drive slowly

Really, really slowly. Like five miles per hour. You don’t want to take out a $10,000 scope OR a priceless person.

3. Park responsibly

Park where your headlights will not flood the field if you should accidentally turn them on or if you know you are going to need to leave before the end of the evening. Park where you don’t interfere with someone else’s observing set up. Park in gear and on the flat.

4. Stay away from the car.

Once you are set up, stay away from the car. Modern cars have the frustrating habit of turning on all kinds of lights in all kinds of situations, whether you want them to or not. Be a good observing citizen and don’t risk the flash. Leave the car alone.

5. Practice good light management

Finally, practice good light management even away from the car. Don’t use cell phones or tablets at all. Put your laptop in a box and cover it with a red plastic shield. Use dimmable red LED flashlights, but don’t use red LED headlamps. They are too bright and don’t dim down. Never use white light.

Cars are terrific for travel and carrying gear, but we don’t want to turn them into menacing objects on the observing field. We’ve had close to thirty years of safe and happy star parties. With some common sense, responsibility and caution, we can have another thirty. Drive safely, think ahead, and have a great time.

Margaret McCrea, RCA President

Insuring Your Telescope

Whether you purchase or make your telescope, it’s a significant possession. It would make sense to investigate how, or even whether, your telescope is insured. If it’s not insured, consider spending the probably small amount of extra money it would take to insure it, plus the eyepieces, trackers, imaging equipment, and even all the accessories, which can add up.

Homeowners insurance, renter’s insurance, maybe car insurance, personal property insurance and umbrella policies can all cover your possessions, but there are variations. It may depend on where the damage took place (at home or someplace else), what kind of incident caused the damage (fire, flood, accident), who caused the damage, what the items are worth, and so forth. The best thing to do is to contact an insurance agent for the company you are with and find out, as clearly and as definitively as possible, whether your insurance will cover the loss of your observing equipment should they become damaged or destroyed. If you are not covered as much as you think you should be, it may take a surprisingly small extra amount of money to add your prized possessions to your insurance.

You’ve made an investment; it’s smart to protect it. And remember, the other person may not have insurance.