Thanks to everyone who helped make Astronomy Day 2017 a great success! Check back here in early 2018 for details on next year’s event!
Astronomy Day is a world-wide event to promote and share amateur astronomy. Come out at 3 pm to observe the Sun! View the waxing crescent moon during daylight and twilight. Stay after nightfall to see Jupiter and its Galilean moons, double stars and deep sky objects!
Enjoy wonderful views of the sky. The program features solar observing through safe filters, telescopes to look at and look through when the stars come out, and presentations about astronomy and the night sky. Crockett Park is the closest public park to Washington, DC from which you can see the Milky Way.
The presentation portion of Astronomy Day is rain or shine (we’ll have tents set up). Presentations cover a range of topics in amateur and professional astronomy and are generally appropriate for all ages. Younger children will appreciate our field activities and events that are more interactive and hands-on.
No astronomy experience or equipment is needed to enjoy Astronomy Day. Free star maps and brochures about amateur astronomy will be available to help you get started. Experienced amateur astronomers will show you how to use them to learn and enjoy the night sky. Just ask.
If you own a pair of binoculars, bring them. Binoculars are great for looking at the night sky. The free star maps point out features in the night sky that are best viewed with binoculars.
There will be no shortage of optics of all sizes and shapes offering views of everything overhead. Walk around and enjoy the sights through the equipment on display. Just about any telescope owner will be glad to let you have a look, but please ask the owner before using.
Crockett Park charges $7 per vehicle if you’re not a Fauquier County resident, but the event itself is completely free. NOVAC members are admitted free upon presentation of a membership card (available from the members-only section of the website). If you’re not a member but would like to become one, you can join the club online and print your membership card in only a few minutes.
What you should know before you visit…
- Bring layers of clothing to add as the evening cools. Temperatures can be chilly and little body heat is generated while standing still to peer through a telescope eyepiece. Check the forecast for Midland, VA before you start out to get an idea of what the weather will be like.
- Bring water and other beverages to keep hydrated. No food concessions will be available at the park so you may want to bring snacks and a picnic dinner. Crockett park is truly rural. There are no restaurants nearby; the closest are in Bealton, Warrenton or Bristow, 7, 8 and 12 miles away, respectively. NOVAC will provide some finger foods and beverages plus hot water and coffee after sundown, but they may be quickly consumed if the weather is nice and the crowd is large.
- Bring a flashlight, but cover it in layers of red cellophane, the darker the better. Astronomers use red lights because of a phenomenon called dark adaptation. Our eyes slowly increase in sensitivity to light in dark environments but very quickly lose it when exposed to white light. Red lights, specifically those with a wavelength longer than 620 nanometers, dark ruby red, don’t cause this, so we use them to illuminate our path or charts.
- Children are welcome, of course, but please help us to encourage them to be careful around the astronomical equipment. Scouts are encouraged and this is a great way for Girl Scouts to work on their Space Explorer Try It or work on the Sky Search Program. Webelos can work on their Astronomy belt loop and Boy Scouts on their Astronomy Merit Badge!
- No smoking around the telescopes. Telescope mirrors (and some of the owners) are sensitive to tobacco smoke. Move far away from the telescopes if you use any kind of spray. A tiny droplet of insect repellent spray could significantly damage the coating on a telescope lens or mirror.
- Pets, except service dogs, are not permitted on the observing field.