Frequently Asked Questions
What will I see?
A variety of objects will be visible. Exactly what is offered to view depends upon the time of year and the seeing conditions during our session. Often we can view some of the planets that share our solar system. Then, there are the deep sky objects. Some of them like nebulae, supernova remnants, stars and star clusters, are within the Milky Way Galaxy while other objects are much more distant.
What do these objects look like?
To the human eye, celestial objects appear very different than what you might expect based upon images from the Hubble Space Telescope or books. Our vision is not very sensitive to dim objects. Deep sky objects like nebulae and other galaxies have a subtle, almost ethereal quality challenging the limits of perception. Planets and many stars on the other hand, will reveal color views and are sure crowd pleasers. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing the rings of Saturn in ‘real time’!
What kind of equipment do you use?
My main telescope for night sky tours is a 20 inch (.51 meter) aperture Newtonian Reflector. It collects nearly 10,000 times more light than the unaided human eye. Taller than most people when pointed straight up, one or two steps on a sturdy step stool brings the eyepiece within easy reach
For larger groups I bring along additional telescopes ranging from 4 to 8 inches aperture. Having extra equipment to view through allows me to acquire more than one object at a time and gives my guests a smorgasbord of the sky.
When do the tours start and how long do they last?
Tour start times vary with the season. 8PM is our start time during autumn and winter before daylight saving time returns. During the weeks leading up to and following summer solstice, start times are 9PM or later. When possible, I like to continue with the tour as long as people remain interested and want to keep viewing. Generally, I find that folks seem satisfied after about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Do you provide transportation?
No, I do not provide transportation. The dark site is located near the village of Cerrillos – 15 miles south of Santa Fe along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway (NM State Hwy 14). Since most folks rent a car after arriving in Albuquerque, this issue is usually not a problem. Plus, because each party has their own car, they can choose to leave when they are ready rather than wait for a group departure via bus or van. Detailed directions to the dark site are provided once your booking has been confirmed by payment. There are chairs, a warming hut and a toilet at the dark site.
What is your background?
I have been a student of the sky since childhood. I believe that because my astronomy knowledge is from a grass-roots level it makes what I share with people at my tours more accessible, interesting and fun. My approach to astronomy is that the night sky belongs to all of us. It is not just for highly trained and educated scientists to explore. Anybody can experience the magic of the heavens. All you need to do is look up.
How large a group will I be observing with?
As people contact me with dates in mind, I request they be open to observing with other folks visiting Santa Fe around the same time. I try and keep observing groups to a manageable size (4-10 people, if possible) so that everybody gets enough eyepiece time. I find that if the party is too small, the juicy questions may remain unasked. If you are interested in booking a tour exclusively or for a special occasion, please let me know. A supplemental charge may apply. I reserve the right to cancel a tour if there are fewer than 4 people booked.
The weather doesn’t look promising for a tour tonight. Are you still going ahead as scheduled?
Absolutely! I keep a very close watch on weather and sky conditions. Often what looks threatening and overcast during daytime clears up in the hours before an Astronomy Adventure. Even if conditions aren’t ideal, we can often view through gaps between the clouds. In the unlikely event there is severe weather expected, I will be in touch to cancel or reschedule the tour.