Q: Will you have public star parties on any other night besides Saturday?
A: No, Sky's The Limit has free public star parties only on the Saturday nights when the Moon is not full (or near full).
Q: I am visiting the area during the week, will the observatory be open?
A: Sky's The Limit public star parties are only on Saturday nights. The campus is always open, however, to explore during the day or to enjoy an evening under the awesome desert sky. You are welcome to bring your own telescope or binoculars. No overnight stays or camping is allowed on campus.
Q: Why are no star parties on some Saturday Nights?
A: Sky's The Limit does not have star parties on the Saturday nights where the moon is full, or very close to full. The bright moon washes out the sky and detracts from observing the stars.
Q: What can I expect at a Sky's the Limit star party?
A: The event is very casual: You will find a variety of telescopes set up outside on our concrete walkway, each viewing a different object in the night sky. As you wander among the telescopes, simply approach the astronomer and ask what they are looking at. Each astronomer will explain in detail what is being viewed and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Some astronomers will have green laser pointers to identify constellations and asterisms in the sky.
Q: Is there a set program to your star parties? Do I have to stay for the entire duration?
A: There is no set program for our events; you may come and go as you please. Most guests are satisfied with 1 to 1.5 hours of telescope viewing.
Q: What is the cost of your events?
A: Star parties at Sky's The Limit Observatory are free of charge. The only exception is the Night Sky Festival fundraiser in November. Proceeds from that event sustain us throughout the rest of the year.
Q: I couldn't figure out how to sign up or register for the star party event on your website.
A: No registration or sign up is required for our free public star parties.
Q: What are the Hours of the Sky's the Limit?
A: Docents are at Sky's The Limit every Saturday from 10am - 2pm, and an average of three Saturday nights per month, from approximately sunset to 3 hours after sunset (Please note, our evening hours change throughout the year.) The campus is always open – to explore during the day or the enjoy and evening under the awesome desert sky. No overnight stays or camping is allowed anywhere on the property.
Q: What time do the star parties start?
A: The start time for star parties varies with the season. The viewing starts approximately 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. Viewing lasts approximately 2 hours.
Q: What time should we plan on arriving to a star party?
A: You may arrive at any time during the estimated event times, but we strongly urge you to come shortly after sunset to get oriented and to have an Orrery tour before dark. If you arrive after dark, please be aware that your headlights and the dome light inside your car are painful for the guests whose eyes are accustomed to the dark (night vision), so please use parking lights and drive very slowly until your own eyes adjust.
Q: What are the Star Party Rules?
A: No smoking or alcohol anywhere on campus. No pets. No camping or overnight stays anywhere on the property. No white light or flash photography...red light only. (This includes cellphones and clothing and footwear that light up.) No touching the observing equipment. Children must be accompanied at all times by an adult who is responsible for their safety and behavior.
Q: Are Dogs and Pets Allowed at Your Events?
A: No, dogs and pets are not allowed at any Sky's The Limit event. This is for the safety of other guests and the very valuable equipment (leashes and tripods don't mix) as well as the safety of the pet. The desert has plants and animals that are dangerous; pets are also dangerous to desert wildlife.
Q: Do we have to bring our own telescope?
A: No, you are not required to bring your own telescope to participate in our events. We have several telescopes of various types and sizes for guests. You are welcome to bring your own scope or binoculars if you wish.
Q: Are Your Events Good For Children? Are there activities for kids?
A: Of course, it depends on the maturity of your child, but our experience is that kids younger than 6 have a very hard time looking through a telescope. Their natural tendency is to grab the scope or the eyepiece, which, of course, throws it out of alignment and can take a few minutes to bring back around. Even if the child can be trusted to keep hands behind their back, it is still difficult to find the object and get it in focus. Plus, the campus is kept very dark for optimal viewing, and young kids can get bored with the slow pace of the evening.
If kids are of an age that they are learning about the planets and constellations, the night viewing session will be meaningful.
Saturdays 10 - 2 at STL is great for all ages. Even very young kids can enjoy hopping along the stepping stones of the planets' orbits in the Orrery and can appreciate hearing about cactus and desert plants on the Nature Trail. Grade school kids will know a lot about the Solar System and will appreciate the scale of the Orrery. Almost everyone can see the Sun (safely) through the Solar Scope. The Nature Hike, however, is recommended for ages 12 and above.
Q: Is the dome open to the public?
A: Yes, the dome houses our 14" Celestron Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope, which is in operation during star parties.
Q: Are the star party events normally crowded? Is there a limit to group size?
A: Attendance at typical star parties during the summer ranges from 100 - 200 guests. During the winter months, the attendance is smaller. We encourage guests to carpool, as our parking is limited to about 100 cars. If you plan to bring a large group, please let us know ahead of time so we can be prepared.
Q: Can I Camp OR stay in my CAR, RV or Trailer overnight at Sky's the Limit?
A: Camping or overnight stays in any vehicle are not permitted anywhere on Sky's The Limit property.
Q: DO YOU HAVE PROGRAMS FOR SPECIAL CELESTIAL EVENTS, LIKE METEOR SHOWERS, SUPERMOONS OR ECLIPSES, THAT DON’T TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAYS?
A: Sky's The Limit does not regularly schedule events around meteor showers, supermoons, or eclipses. The campus is always open, however, so visitors may enjoy these celestial events. Please be respectful of other guests and the environment.
Q: CAN WE TOUCH THE TELESCOPES?
A: No, please refrain from touching the telescopes unless the astronomer specifically gives you permission. Even a slight touch can send the equipment out of alignment, often requiring a few minutes to bring back around.
Q: CAN I TAKE A PICTURE THROUGH THE EYEPIECE WITH MY CAMERA OR IPHONE?
A: Sky’s The Limit telescopes are set up for viewing only at our free events. A camera requires a special kind of mount that requires taking the eyepiece set up off the telescope, and would take away from the viewing experience of others.
Q: I BROUGHT MY TELESCOPE AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE IT, CAN YOU HELP?
A: Not usually at regular events, just because the astronomers keep really busy tending their own scopes. Sky's The Limit hosts telescope clinics from time-to-time for those that have telescopes sitting around but just need help using them. Watch our schedule for telescope clinic dates.
Q: I AM AN AMATEUR ASTRONOMER WITH A TELESCOPE, CAN I OBSERVE AT SKY'S THE LIMIT DURING THE WEEK?
A: Yes, Sky's The Limit is always available to amateur astronomers who wish to use the campus as a dark sky site.
Q: WHY DO WE HAVE TO USE RED LIGHTS?
A: Red lights do not upset people’s night vision, and when we are outside in the dark it is important that we do not disturb others’ night vision. All of the volunteers use red flashlights and we encourage guests to do so at well.
Q: I SEE CLOUDS IN THE SKY, WILL THE STAR PARTY STILL BE TAKING PLACE?
A: Please look for a post on our Facebook or Twitter pages for day-of updates if the weather is questionable. Unless it is raining or too windy to be outside, the volunteer docents will have an alternative program if it is not possible to view the sky. For last-minute info, call 760-490-9561.
Q: IS THE OBSERVATORY AFFILIATED WITH JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?
A: Sky's the Limit is not directly affiliated with Joshua Tree National Park, nor the City of Twentynine Palms. We are an independent organization founded and run by volunteers. STL often works with the Park and the City on special events, such as the Night Sky Festival.
Q: WE ARE LOOKING FOR A VENUE FOR A WEDDING. DO YOU RENT YOUR FACILITY FOR PARTIES OR PRIVATE EVENTS?
A: The observatory campus is available for wedding ceremonies, but not receptions. Private events may be arranged, but no alcohol is allowed, and there are strict rules for use of the property. For costs and details email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: IS SKY'S THE LIMIT A GOOD PLACE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY?
A: Yes, Sky's The Limit is a fantastic place to view and photographed the Milky Way. The Milky Way in summer is more dramatic than in the winter.
Q: I AM LOOKING TO BUY A TELESCOPE. CAN ONE OF YOUR ASTRONOMERS RECOMMEND A FIRST TELESCOPE?
A: Our astronomers would be happy to recommend a telescope. Expect to spend around $500 for a quality piece of equipment you can enjoy. Telescopes priced less than this won't provide a satisfactory viewing experience. Several brands make quality telescopes in this price range, such as; Orion, Celestron and Meade.
Q: IS IT OK IF I SIT BY MYSELF AND JUST GAZE UP AT THE STARS?
A: Yes, absolutely. Bring a comfortable camp chair or find one of our benches or picnic tables. The Meditation Garden is a very peaceful place to enjoy the awesome desert night sky.
Q: I WANT TO SCHEDULE A PRIVATE STAR PARTY AT MY CAMPGROUND IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CAN YOU COME DO A SHOW AT MY CAMPGROUND?
A: Sky's The Limit volunteers do not do star parties at campgrounds or private residences, but we can recommend other groups that might be able to accommodate you.
Q: I AM LOOKING TO GET MY SCOUT GROUP AN ASTRONOMY MERIT BADGE, CAN SKY'S THE LIMIT PROVIDE THIS SERVICE?
A: No, Sky's The Limit does not provide the teaching necessary for scouts to earn their Astronomy Merit Badge.
Observatory and Nature Center 9697 Utah Trail P. O. Box 1 Twentynine Palms, California 92277 760-490-9561