You'll find questions about following topics answered in the text below:  
NIGHT SKY TOURS   What is an evening observing program like? They're   all   different,   of   course,   but   they   typically   begin   with   an   overview   of   the   stars   and   constellations   visible   overhead,   followed   by   a tour   of   the   telescope   itself   and   instruction   on   its   proper   use.   Then,   armed   with   this   knowledge,   we   will   use   the   telescope   to   peer   deep into   our   galaxy   and   far   beyond.     After   your   cosmic   adventure   you   will   receive   an   e-mail   that   recaps   all   that   you   saw   during   the   night   and offers links for further learning.   How is a Night Sky Tour different from other public star parties and events? Public   "star   parties"   offered   by   amateur   astronomy   groups   are   excellent,   but   they   do   not   offer   a   truly   personalized   experience.      Here, however,   you   will   have   that   experience   because   group   sizes   are   limited.   In   addition   to   seeing   many   more   celestial   objects,   your   personal interaction   with   astronomer   Dennis   Mammana   will   help   you   understand   not   only   what   you're   seeing,   but   how   it   works   and   why   it's important   to   scientists.      It   is   this   context   that   makes   your   experience   unique.   And   with   a   professional   astronomer   as   your   guide,   you'll surely come away with a totally new perspective on the universe and your place in it. Will I be able to see the Milky Way? That   depends   on   the   season   and   whether   or   not   there's   moonlight.   The   Milky   Way   Galaxy   in   which   we   live   forms   a   circular   band   around us   and,   therefore,   can   be   seen   only   about   half   of   the   time.   Its   brightest   part   appears   during   the   summer   and   early   autumn;   its   fainter   half appears   during   the   winter   and   early   spring. At   the   other   times   of   the   year   we   cannot   see   the   band   of   the   Milky   Way   during   early   evening hours, but this means that, at those times, we can see other galaxies far beyond our own. Does moonlight affect what we can see? It   can.      If   you   want   to   see   the   starry   heavens   at   their   very   best,   you   should   schedule   your   Sky   Tour   when   the   moon   does   not   appear during   early   evening   hours.      Note   that   the   Sky   Tour   Schedule   is   color-coded   to   help   you   determine   which   are   the   darkest   dates.      If   you're in   town   only   when   the   moon   is   in   the   sky   you   will   still   have   a   remarkable   experience;   we   will   see   all   we   normally   see,   though   with   a reduced   contrast.      If   you've   got   questions   about   choosing   the   darkest   nights,   please   e-mail   Dennis    directly.      Be   aware   that   there   are   only about two or three weeks during each month with moonless conditions, so ideal program dates are limited.     SKY TOUR SIZE   How many people are there on a Night Sky Tour? Typically the maximum is 10-12. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, there may be a few more or less.   Why do you limit the size of your audience? Unlike   most      public   "star   parties,"   the   number   of   participants   here   is   limited   so   that   you   will   have   the   most   enjoyable   and   educational experience   possible.      In   this   way   you   will   be   encouraged   to   peer   through   the   telescope,   ask   questions   and   open   discussions   with Dennis. Is there a minimum number required for your tours? Yes...   and   no.      Each   Night   Sky   Tour   requires   a   minimum   of   4   adults   to   operate.   That   doesn't   mean   you   must   have   4   in   your   party,   only that   there   must   be   at   least   4   scheduled   for   the   night.   You   may   certainly   reserve   space   for   1   or   2   adults,   but   if   the   tour   cannot   go   because of low attendance you will be given the option of rescheduling or receiving a refund.   What if I don't want to be part of a larger tour group? Groups   are   not   large―usually   ten   or   fewer   people―but   you   may   request   a   private   session   for   just   yourself   or   your   group.   In   that   case, however,   the   Private   Group   Rate   will   apply   for   parties   of   1   to   15.      On   occasion,   however,   attendance   in   the   public   programs   is   light   and you   may   have   the   session   all   to   yourself   anyway!      For   private   group      tours,   you   may   also   consider   the   White   dates   on   the   calendar, though some of them may not be available.     CHILDREN   is there an age limit for children? Yes, children younger than 9 years of age are not admitted. Sorry.   My children are younger than 9, but are really smart.  Why can't they come along? It's   not   a   matter   of   intelligence.   First,   the   eyes   of   very   young   children   are   unable   to   focus   well   on   faint   objects   at   the   telescope,   requiring much   more   time   for   instruction   and   help.   Second,   a   dark   environment   near   a   delicate   and   expensive   optical   instrument   is   not   a   safe place   for   toddlers   or   young   children.   Finally,   young   children   are   unable   to   comprehend   all   we   see   and   talk   about,   possibly   leading   them to become bored, frustrated and, sometimes, disruptive to the rest of the group.   Can I drop off my children and pick them up at the end of the tour? No, sorry. No unaccompanied minors are permitted, and all must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.     RESERVATIONS   Must I have a reservation or can I just show up? Because   these   programs   are   heavily   booked,   and   meeting   times   and   places   can   change   with   the   season   and   weather   conditions, reservations and advance payment are required.   How do I select a date? Check the Tour Schedule  page for scheduled dates, then follow the instructions to learn if your choice(s) are available.   How do I make a reservation? Once   you've   confirmed   that   space   is   available   on   the   date(s)   you're   visiting,   you   can   pay   online   with   credit   or   debit   card,   or   PayPal.   All major   credit   and   debit   cards   are   accepted,   and   all   transactions   are   secure   via   the   PayPal   system.   You   do   not   have   to   have   a   PayPal acount.   What if my preferred date is already booked? If   a   date   is   booked,   you   may   choose   to   be   placed   on   a   waiting   list   or,   if   you'll   be   in   town   for   a   few   days,   you   can   book   another   date.     During   the   winter   months   (when   darkness   comes   earlier)   you   might   be   offered   a   tour   later   in   the   evening   if   maximum   attendance   has been   reached.      It   would   be   the   same   tour,   but   would   allow   a   more   personalized   experience   than   overfilling   the   earlier   tour. And   if   you'll   be in   town   only   on   an   unscheduled   (white)   date   and   have   a   group   of   four   or   more   adults,   please   feel   free   to   e-mail    to   see   if   something   might be available.   I just arrived in town and saw your flyer. Can I make a reservation for tonight? If   there   remains   space,   possibly,   but   the   cutoff   time   for   same-day   reservations   is   12:00   noon   (Pacific   Time).      It's   always   best   to   make advance reservations if you can. Either way, e-mail (not telephone or text messaging) is the preferred method of communication.   I called the phone number but there was no answer. Now what? All   correspondence   must   be   done   by   e-mail,   not   by   phone   or   text   messaging.   Since   all   responses,   confirmations   and   tour   details   will   be sent via e-mail ALWAYS within 24 hours, please make sure that these are not going to your spam or junk folders.   I sent an e-mail, but never received a response. You   will ALWAYS   receive   a   reply   within   24   hours.      If   you   don't,   check   your   spam   and   junk   folders.   If   you've   not   received   a   reply   within   24 hours,   please   try   again.      Sometimes   e-mail   can   blocked,   though,   so   you   must   always   include   in   any   correspondence   an   alternate   e-mail address .   I made my reservation; now what? Shortly   after   making   your   reservation   payment   you   will   receive   a   receipt   from   PayPal.      You   will   then   receive   an   e-mail   confirmation   from Dennis   giving   you   preliminary   details   and   requesting   important   information.   Once   that   information   is   received―and   a   few   days   before your   Night   Sky   Tour―you   will   receive   another   e-mail   detailing   the   exact   time   and   place   we   will   meet,   and   offering   more   detail   about   the evening's   adventure.      You're   always   welcome   to   email   Dennis    at   any   time   if   you've   got   questions   that   are   not   answered   in   the   emails   or this FAQ.     LODGING & ACTIVITIES IN BORREGO SPRINGS   I've never been to Borrego Springs before. Can you recommend a good place to stay? A   variety   of   resorts,   motels   and   camping   spots   exist   around   the   village   of   Borrego   and   in   the   State   Park.   You   can   find   a   list   of   them   (as well as other activities, restaurants and more) at the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce . How far are hotels from where we'll be meeting? Borrego is a very small town, and all hotels and resorts are within only a few miles of our meeting place and observing site. I don't want to stay overnight in Borrego; is that an option? Of   course,   but   keep   in   mind   how   far   Borrego   is   from   just   about   everywhere.      From   San   Diego   it's   a   2+   hour   drive;   from   the   LA   area   it   can be   4+   hours.   Your   Night   Sky   Tour   can   end   quite   late,   and   the   roads   out   of   town   are   winding,   dark   and   potentially   dangerous   at   night.   You would   be   much   wiser   to   spend   the   night   in   town,   and   enjoy   the   views   back   the   next   day.      In   fact,   you   might   even   prefer   to   stay   a   few   days to explore the ruggedly beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.   Is there anything else to do in Borrego? Plenty!      Please   check   out   the   Borrego   Springs   Chamber   of   Commerce    to   see   what   kinds   of   restaurants,   museums,   lectures,   desert excursions and more for you to enjoy.  But be ready for beauty and solitude... and no traffic!     TOUR LOGISTICS   When are Borrego Night Sky Tours offered? Sky   Tours   are   offered   several   times   a   week,   except   when   the   moon   is   bright   or   when   Dennis   is   not   available.   Check   out   the   current   tour schedule  for dates and send an e-mail to confirm that space is open; if there is, you must pay in advance  to hold your spaces.   What time does the program begin and how long does it last? Night   Sky   Tours   typically   begin   30-60   minutes   after   sunset―depending   on   time   of   year   and   what’s   in   the   sky―and   generally   last   about   2 hours.      Please   be   aware   that   PROGRAMS   BEGIN   ON   TIME,   so   plan   to   arrive   early   or   your   may   miss   our   departure;   there   can   be   no refunds   for   late   arrivals.   On   rare   occasions,   conditions   may   dictate   a   last-minute   change   of   start   time,   and   these   changes   would   be communicated   that   day   via   text   message   to   the   cell   phone   number   you   provided.   Please   check   your   text   messages   from   time   to   time   that afternoon to make sure you don't miss out.   What if I'm late? You   may   miss   the   tour.      We   begin   PROMPTLY   at   the   scheduled   time,   and   once   the   program   has   begun   you   will   be   unable   to   reach anyone   by   phone,   text   message   or   e-mail.      Please   keep   in   mind   that   there   are   no   refunds   if   you   miss   the   program.      Please   plan   your travel and dinner accordingly and arrive early!   Where will we meet? There   is   no   fixed   location,   but   all   are   within   only   a   few   miles   of   the   town's   center.   It   will   be   determined   before   you   receive   your   final   tour details.   Conditions   may   require   a   last-minute   change,   and   those   changes   would   be   communicated   via   text   message   that   day   to   the   cell phone number you provided. Please check your text messages from time to time that afternoon to make sure you don't miss out.   Can't I just drive to the observing site without meeting first? Sometimes   that   might   be   possible.   Normally   during   our   brief   gathering   we   will   over   important   details   about   our   evening's   session,   and will look over and sign a waiver form before heading out to the observing site together.   How should I plan to dress for the evening? Nights   can   become   quite   cool   (or   downright   cold!)   after   sundown   in   the   desert,   except   during   mid-summer.   Always   be   sure   to   dress   for the   season,   but   you   will   be   advised   before   your   adventure   what   weather   we   can   expect.      Good   sturdy   shoes   are   always   a   good   idea   for the desert at night, however.   Do I need a special vehicle to participate? No.   The   observing   locations   are   all   located   within   a   few   miles   of   the   town's   center,   and   only   a   short   drive   on   a   dirt   road   may   be necessary.   I'd prefer not to drive at night in the desert; can I ride with you? No, sorry.  We're not licensed to carry passengers and, besides, the telescope gear takes up the entire vehicle!     THINGS TO BRING ALONG... OR TO LEAVE AT HOME   What do I need to bring? You   should   bring   water,   solid   shoes,   seasonal   clothing,   a   flashlight,   binoculars   and   a   sense   of   adventure   for   seeing   sights   and phenomena   far   beyond   our   daily   workaday   world.   If   you   wish   to   sit   during   the   2-hour   program   you   should   bring   folding   chairs.   If   you’re traveling   by   plane   and   cannot   bring   chairs,   please   let   Dennis   know   in   advance   and   he   will   have   some   available.   Please   do   NOT   bring   a towel   or   blanket   to   sit   on   the   ground;   not   only   can   it   pick   up   irritating   cactus   needles,   ants,   scorpions,   snakes   and   other   small   critters,   it is a safety hazard for people walking around in the dark gazing skyward.     CAMERAS & OTHER TELESCOPES   Can I take photos through the telescope? The   telescope   is   not   designed   for   long-exposure   photography;   the   program   is   strictly   visual.   However,   if   moon   is   visible   that   night   you can   try   holding   a   camera   or   phone   up   to   the   eyepiece   and   snapping   the   shutter,   but   this   can   be   a   bit   challenging   so   we'd   wait   until   the end of the evening to try this if you wish.   Can I bring a camera and tripod to shoot the sky directly? Certainly,   but   you’ll   be   asked   to   set   it   up   away   from   the   group   for   safety. And,   since   light   is   not   allowed   at   the   observing   site,   you’ll   also need   to   disable   your   LCD   screen,   strobe   and   white   flashlight.      Keep   in   mind   that,   if   you   spend   time   with   your   camera,   you'll   miss   much   of the Sky Tour.  You may, however, stay after the program to shoot the sky on your own.   May I bring my own telescope? This   is   discouraged   since   participants   would   be   distracted   from   the   program   for   which   they've   paid.      You   may,   however,   stay   after   the program to set up and use your scope on your own .     PRIVATE AND GROUP TOURS   I have a group coming to town; do you offer group discounts? Absolutely,   as   long   the   date   is   outlined   in   white   on   the   program   calendar ,   and   remains   available.   Keep   in   mind   that   some   of   these   nights may   have   overwhelming   amounts   of   moonlight   and   would   not   be   recommended.   Please   e-mail   Dennis    to   inquire. A   Private/Group   Tour   is $499 for 1-15 guests.   What if my group is larger than 15 people? Groups   with   more   than   15   are   not   recommended,   since   the   personal   experience   then   becomes   more   limited.   In   that   case,   each   additional guest   (beyond   15)   is   $30.      If   you've   got   a   single   group   with   more   than   15   people   you   might   consider   breaking   it   into   two   separate   evening sessions   so   that   everyone   receives   the   best   possible   experience.      If   that's   not   possible,   we'll   do   our   best   to   make   it   work   though   the number   of   objects   seen   through   the   telescope   will   be   limited.   Please   e-mail   Dennis    directly   to   work   out   details,   and   see   the   Prices   & Reservations  page for Group Rate information.   My group is holding an event in another town. Can you visit to do a Night Sky Tour there? Of   course,   as   long   as   it's   within   reasonable   driving   distance   of   Borrego   Springs   and   the   calendar   date   is   available.   Events   held elsewhere are charged at the Group Rate and do require travel expenses.     SEEING THE MILKY WAY   Will I see the Milky Way during our Night Sky Tour? It's   possible.      The   Milky   Way   appears   during   at   various   times   during   the   year,   and   only   on   moonless   nights   (green   dates   on   the   program schedule).      We   can   see   it   during   the   winter   months   (December,   January   and   February),   though   this   portion   of   the   Milky   Way   is   rather faint.   The   time   to   see   it   at   its   best   is   during   the   summer   months   (July   and   August)   when   it   appears   to   arc   high   overhead   and   streams very   far   to   the   south.      During   September   and   October   it's   still   visible,   but   its   southernmost   section   is   beginning   to   vanish   in   the   glow   of lights from San Diego.   Can I see all the spectacular colors I see in photographs? Absolutely   not.      First   of   all,   cameras   record   colors   and   details   that   the   human   eye   cannot   see.   Secondly,   many   of   those   highly-saturated photos   you   may   have   seen   online   are   over-processed   by   novices   and   give   the   Milky   Way   a   ghastly   and   terribly   unrealistic   look.      The Milky   Way   appears   as   a   quiet   and   subtle   "cloud"   that   arcs   across   the   sky   and,   to   the   eye,   appears   as   a   rather   colorless   and   mottled   band of light.     RESTRICTIONS   May I bring my pet? No,   sorry.      Pets   can   attract   hungry   coyotes,   and   they   can   be   vulnerable   to   snake   bites   and   being   stepped   on   in   the   dark.   In   addition, some of our guests may have allergies to pet hair.  Please arrange to leave your pet elsewhere during the few hours of our program.   May I smoke on the tour? Please   don't.   Other   guests   (including   your   astronomer)   may   be   negatively   affected   by   smoke.   If   you   choose   to   do   so,   however,   you   will be asked to move to area downwind from our group, and you  will miss part of the program.     AT THE OBSERVING SITE   Will we be doing much walking? Not at all; we will park our vehicles at the observing site and walk only a few feet on flat sandy terrain to the telescope.  That's it!   Are there rest room facilities at our observing site? Since we'll be out in the desert, there are no restrooms there (OK, there are thousands of them!). Please be prepared for that.   What about rattlesnakes and scorpions? Though   it   may   appear   barren   and   lifeless,   the   desert   is   alive   with   critters   such   as      ants,   scorpions,   field   mice,   rattlesnakes,   lizards, coyotes   and   more—some   seasons   more   than   others—but   if   you're   careful   you   won't   be   bothered   by   any   of   them.      It's   always   a   good   idea to   wear   solid   shoes,   use   a   flashlight   when   walking   in   the   desert   and,   if   you   wish   to   sit,   do   so   off   of   the   ground   on   a   chair,   cooler,   etc.      In general, always be aware of your environment while in the desert.     CANCELLATIONS   Do I get a refund if I choose to cancel? Of   course,   but   since   ut   a   refund   can   be   issued   ONLY   if   your   cancellation   is   received   by   5   p.m.   Pacific   Time   two   days   before   your scheduled   sky   tour   date.   (For   example,   a   Saturday   sky   tour   must   be   cancelled   by   5   p.m.   PT   on   Thursday;   a   Friday   sky   tour   cancellation must   be   received   by   5   p.m.   PT   on   Wednesday,   and   so   on).      Because   these   programs   can   be   in   high   demand,   cancellations   received   after that date and time cannot be refunded.  Sorry.   Can I reschedule instead of canceling? Absolutely but, like a refund, your request must be received by 5 p.m. Pacific Time two days before your scheduled sky tour date.     WEATHER I’ve checked next week’s weather forecast and it doesn’t look good. Should I cancel my visit? That’s   up   to   you.      Desert   forecasts   are   often   worth   exactly   what   one   pays   for   them.      One   should   never   trust   a   desert   forecast   more   than   a few   minutes   in   advance,   and   even   that   can   be   risky.      Conditions   here   can   change   quickly   and   unexpectedly,   especially   after   sunset. There are never any guarantees when it comes to weather. We take what we get and we work with it. What kind of weather can force a cancellation? Keep   in   mind   that   a   forecast   and   actual   observing   conditions   are   two   completely   different   things.   Cloud   cover   is   only   one   factor   that   can affect   observations;   strong   winds,   blowing   sand,   high   humidity   and   air   turbulence   (what   astronomers   call   "seeing")   can   all   influence observing   conditions,   and   any   one   of   them   can   cause   cancellation   of   the   night's   program.   Unfortunately,   some   of   these   do   not   show   up on   weather   forecasts   and   cannot   often   be   known   in   advance,   and   actual   desert   sky   conditions   can   sometimes   deviate   quite   far    from   the forecasts.   What happens if the conditions are bad the day of my Sky Tour? Desert   weather   can   change   quickly   and   dramatically,   but   only   rarely   does   it   become   so   bad   that   we   cannot   observe.   Dennis   will   monitor conditions   that   day,   and   if   he   determines   that   weather   will   force   cancellation   of   the   program   he   will   send   a   text   message   later   in   the   day to the cell phone number you provided (as well as a detailed e-mail), and you may then reschedule or receive a full refund.   I'll be in town for a few days... if weather cancels the program can we do it the next night? Sometimes   the   following   night   can   be   used   as   a   backup   for   those   staying   in   town   over   a   few   nights.   If,   on   the   other   hand,   you're   leaving town, you can look over the program calendar to select another date that would be convenient for you or choose to receive a refund..   Suppose I'm just driving into Borrego and then home that night? If   you   choose   to   make   the   round-trip   drive   without   staying   in   town   (at   least   for   one   night)   you   risk   a   long   drive   for   nothing   if   a   late weather   cancellation   becomes   necessary.   Borrego   is   at   least   two   hours   drive   from   most   places,   and   this   is   never   recommended, especially   during   the   frequently-unstable   desert   weather   patterns   of   summer   and   winter.   Please   don't   ask   Dennis   to   make   a   weather decision before you leave home so you can avoid the drive; it's often impossible to judge a night's observing conditions in advance.     AFTER THE SKY TOUR   Hey, this Sky Tour was great!  How can I let others know about my experience? You can write a review of the program—and read others'—at TripAdvisor , Yelp .and  the Borrego Night Sky Tours Facebook Page .   Suppose I want to come back... will there be different things to see? Absolutely!      The   evening   sky   changes   gradually   throughout   the   year,   and   there   are   different   celestial   sights   available   during   each season. For example, if you want to see the Milky Way in all its glory, the summer months are best.   Can I book Dennis for an upcoming celestial event? Occasionally   that   might   be   possible,   but   his   schedule   is   often   booked   more   than   a   year   ahead,   and   these   events   are   frequently   planned with local resorts or tour companies.  He is available for other special events and presentations, however.  Just email him  directly.   How can I keep up with other astronomical programs and sky events? There   are   several   ways   to   stay   informed.   One   is   to   check   out   Dennis'   website .     You   may   subscribe   to   his   free   e-mail   newsletter ,   and   you'll find   even   more   timely   information—plus   the   ability   to   interact   with   him   and   other   sky   watchers—on   Facebook    and   Twitter .      And,   of course,   don't   forget   his   weekly   syndicated   column   Stargazers ,   to   which   you   may   subscribe   free    via   e-mail   so   you'll   never   miss   another celestial event again!
© Dennis L. Mammana.  All rights reserved.
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