You'll find questions about following topics answered in the text below:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
NiGHT SKY TOURSHow much does a Night Sky Tour cost?YoucanfindthatinformationatthePrices&ReservationsPage.Therearenocouponsordiscountsavailableatthistime,butgift certificates certainly are!When does the program begin and how long does it last?Typicallyitbeginsaboutanhourorsoaftersunset,andlastsabouttwohours,thoughitcanrunslightlylongerorshorterdependingon thegroupsize,interestandweather.Seethetablebelowforapproximatesunsettimesthroughouttheyear.Tofindsunsettimesfor other dates visit here.Where will we meet?Thereisnofixedlocation,butitwillbewithinonlyafewmilesofthetown'scenter(ChristmasCircle).Thiswillbedeterminedbeforeyou receiveyourfinaltourdetails.Everyonewilldrivetheirownvehicles(no4WDisnecessary);precisedirectionswillbeprovidedaweek or so in advance. Borrego is a very small town, so all lodging, restaurants, etc. are within only a few miles.Do I need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle?No. All programs, while away from main roads, are held where dirt roads are hard sandy surfaces.Is there much walking involved?No. We park our vehicles and our chairs only a few yards from the telescope, so walking is minimal on a hard sandy surface.What is an evening observing program like?They'realldifferent,ofcourse,buttheytypicallybeginwithanoverviewofthestarsandconstellationsvisibleoverhead,followedbya tourofthetelescopeitselfandinstructiononitsproperuse.Then,armedwiththisknowledge,wewillusethetelescopetopeerdeep into our galaxy and far beyond. How is a Night Sky Tour different from other public star parties and events?Public"starparties"offeredbyamateurastronomygroupsareexcellent,buttheydonotofferatrulypersonalizedexperience.Here, however,youwillhavethatexperiencebecausegroupsizesarelimited.Inadditiontoseeingmanymorecelestialobjects,yourpersonal interactionwithastronomerDennisMammanawillhelpyouunderstandnotonlywhatyou'reseeing,buthowitworksandwhyit's importanttoscientists.Itisthiscontextthatmakesyourexperienceunique.Andwithaprofessionalastronomerasyourguide,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?Thatdependsontheseasonandwhetherornotthere'smoonlight.TheMilkyWayGalaxyinwhichweliveformsacircularbandaround usand,therefore,canbeseenonlyabouthalfofthetime.Itsbrightestpartappearsduringthesummerandearlyautumn;itsfainterhalf appearsduringthewinterandearlyspring. AttheothertimesoftheyearwecannotseethebandoftheMilkyWayduringearlyevening hours, but this means that, at those times, we can see other galaxies far beyond our own.Does moonlight affect what we can see?Itcan.Ifyouwanttoseethestarryheavensattheirverybest,youshouldscheduleyourSkyTourwhenthemoondoesnotappear duringearlyeveninghours.NotethattheSkyTourScheduleiscolor-codedtohelpyoudeterminewhicharethedarkestdates.Ifyou're intownonlywhenthemoonisintheskyyouwillstillhavearemarkableexperience;wewillseeallwenormallysee,thoughwitha reducedcontrast.Ifyou'vegotquestionsaboutchoosingthedarkestnights,pleasee-mailDennisdirectly.Beawarethatthereareonly about two or three weeks during each month with moonless conditions, so ideal program dates are limited.What might we be able to see with the telescope?That depends on many factors. The most intriguing examples of various objects in the sky that night will be on the observing list--including the moon and planets if they are up--but conditions might not permit viewing. Every program can be different, and observing decisions will be made by the astronomer during the program. A typical dark-sky program during each season might include the following:Summer: Double star Albireo, Omega Nebula, Hercules globular star cluster, Wild Duck star clusterAutumn: Double Star Albireo, Double Star Cluster in Perseus, Ring Nebula, Andromeda GalaxyWinter: Pleiades star cluster, Double Star Cluster in Perseus, Orion Nebula, Andromeda GalaxySpring: Double star Decapoda, Beehive star cluster, Orion Nebula, galaxies M81/M82SKY TOUR SIZEHow many people are there on a Night Sky Tour?Typically the maximum is betweeen 8-10. Occasionally programs have fewer guests.Why do you limit the size of your audience?Unlikemostpublic"starparties,"thenumberofparticipantshereislimitedsothatyouwillhavethemostenjoyableandeducational experiencepossible.Inthiswayyouwillbeencouragedtopeerthroughthetelescope,askquestionsandopendiscussionswith Dennis.Is there a minimum number required for your tours?Yes...andno.EachpublicNightSkyTourrequiresaminimumoftwoadultstooperate.Thatdoesn'tmeanyoumusthavetwoinyour party,onlythattheremustbeatleasttwoscheduledforthenight.Youmaycertainlyreservespaceforone,butifthetourcannot proceedbecauseoflowattendanceyouwillbegiventheoptionofreschedulingorreceivingarefund.Privatetourshavenominimum limit.What if I don't want to be part of a public tour group?Youmayrequestaprivatesessionforjustyourselforyourgroup.ThecurrentPrivateGroupRateappliesforpartiesof1to8,withan additional fee for each additional guest beyond eight. See below for more details.PRIVATE AND GROUP TOURSI have a group coming to town; do you offer private group sky tours?Absolutely!Ifthedateisoutlinedingreenontheprogramcalendar,andnospaceshaveyetbeenreserved,youmayscheduleitfora Private/Groupskytour.for1to8guests,withanadditionalfeeormorethan8guests.SeePrivateGroupRateformoreinformation. Private tours have complete access to the telescope and astronomer, and can be tailored more to your interests. Can I bring my young children for a Private/Group Tour?Yes.Private/Groupskytoursdonotlimitthatagesofchildren.Keepinmind,however,thatveryyoungchildrenmaynotgetverymuch from the program, but just being out under the stars can be quite an experience for them.What if my group has more than eight people?Thereisanadditionalfeeformorethaneightguests,howeverduringthistimeofCOVIDrestrictions,groupswithmorethantwelve guests cannot be accomodated. See Private Group Rate for more information. My group is holding an event in another town. Can you visit to do a Night Sky Tour there?Ofcourse,aslongasit'swithinreasonabledrivingdistanceofBorregoSpringsandthecalendardateisavailable.Eventsheld elsewhere are charged at the Group Rate, but do require travel expenses.CHILDRENis there an age limit for children?Yes, children younger than 9 years of age are not admitted to public programs. Private Sky Tours have no age limit.My children are younger than 9, but are really smart. Why can't they come along?It'snotamatterofintelligence.First,theeyesofveryyoungchildrenareunabletofocuswellonfaintobjectsatthetelescope,requiring muchmoretimeforinstructionandhelp.Second,adarkenvironmentnearadelicateandexpensiveopticalinstrumentisnotasafe placefortoddlersoryoungchildren.Finally,youngchildrenareunabletocomprehendallweseeandtalkabout,possiblyleadingthem 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.MAKING RESERVATIONSMust I have a reservation or can I just show up?Becausetheseprogramsareheavilybooked,andmeetingtimesandplacescanchangewiththeseasonandweatherconditions, 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?Onceyou'veconfirmedthatspaceisavailableonthedate(s)you'revisiting,youcanpayonlinewithcreditordebitcard,orPayPal.All majorcreditanddebitcardsareaccepted,andalltransactionsaresecureviathePayPalsystem.YoudonothavetohaveaPayPal acount. What if my preferred date is already booked?Ifadateissoldout,youmayrequesttobeplacedonthewaitinglistforthatnight.Cancellationsarerare,butthedooccurfromtimeto time. If space opens you will be contacted right away before the date is opened to the public. I just arrived in town and saw your flyer. Can I make a reservation for tonight? Ifthereremainsspace,possibly,butthecutofftimeforsame-dayreservationsis10:00a.m.(PacificTime).It'salwaysbesttomake 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?Allcorrespondencemustbedonebye-mail,notbyphoneortextmessaging.Sinceallresponses,confirmationsandtourdetailswillbe 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.Youwill ALWAYSreceiveareplywithin24hours.Ifyoudon't,checkyourspamandjunkfolders.Ifyou'venotreceivedareplywithin24 hours,pleasetryagain.Sometimese-mailcanblocked,though,soyoumustalwaysincludeinanycorrespondenceanalternatee-mail address. I made my reservation; now what?ShortlyaftermakingyourreservationpaymentyouwillreceiveareceiptfromPayPal.Youwillthenreceiveane-mailconfirmationfrom Dennisgivingyoupreliminarydetailsandrequestingimportantinformation.Oncethatinformationisreceived―andafewdaysbefore yourNightSkyTour―youwillreceiveanothere-maildetailingtheexacttimeandplacewewillmeet,andofferingmoredetailaboutthe evening'sadventure.You'realwayswelcometoemailDennisatanytimeifyou'vegotquestionsthatarenotansweredintheemailsor this FAQ.LODGING & ACTIVITIES IN BORREGO SPRINGSI've never been to Borrego Springs before. Can you recommend a good place to stay?Avarietyofresorts,motelsandcampingspotsexistaroundthevillageofBorregoandintheStatePark. Youcanfindalistoflodging(as well as other activities, restaurants and more at the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce & Visitors’ Bureau. 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?Ofcourse,butkeepinmindhowfarBorregoisfromjustabouteverywhere.FromSanDiegoit'sa2+hourdrive;fromtheLAareaitcan be4+hours.YourNightSkyTourcanendquitelate,andtheroadsoutoftownarewinding,darkandpotentiallydangerousatnight.You wouldbemuchwisertospendthenightintown,andenjoytheviewsbackthenextday.Infact,youmightevenprefertostayafewdays to explore the ruggedly beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.Is there anything else to do in Borrego?Absolutely!PleasecheckouttheBorregoSpringsChamberofCommerce&Visitors’Bureautoseewhatkindsofmuseums,lectures, desert excursions and more for you to enjoy. But be ready for beauty and solitude... and no traffic!TOUR LOGISTICSWhen are Borrego Night Sky Tours offered?SkyToursareofferedseveraltimesaweek,exceptwhenthemoonisbrightorwhenDennisisnotavailable.Checkoutthecurrenttour 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?NightSkyTourstypicallybegin30-60minutesaftersunset―dependingontimeofyearandwhat’sinthesky―andgenerallylastabout 2+hours.PleasebeawarethatPROGRAMSBEGINONTIME,soplantoarriveearlyoryoumaymisstheall-importantbeginning;there canbenorefundsforlatearrivals.Onrareoccasions,conditionsmaydictatealast-minutechangeofstarttime,andthesechanges wouldbecommunicatedthatdayviatextmessagetothecellphonenumberyouprovided.Pleasecheckyourtextmessagesfromtime to time that afternoon to make sure you don't miss out.What if I'm late?Youmaymissthetour.WebeginPROMPTLYatthescheduledtime,andoncetheprogramhasbegunyouwillbeunabletoreach anyonebyphone,textmessageore-mail.Pleasekeepinmindthattherearenorefundsifyoumisstheprogram.Pleaseplanyour travel and dinner accordingly and arrive early!Where will we meet?Thereisnofixedlocation,butallarewithinonlyafewmilesofthetown'scenter.Itwillbedeterminedbeforeyoureceiveyourfinaltour details.Conditionsmayrequirealast-minutechange,andthosechangeswouldbecommunicatedviatextmessagethatdaytothecell phone number you provided. Please check your text messages from time to time that afternoon to make sure you don't miss out.How should I plan to dress for the evening?Nightscanbecomequitecool(ordownrightcold!)aftersundowninthedesert,exceptduringmid-summer.Alwaysbesuretodressfor theseason,butyouwillbeadvisedbeforeyouradventurewhatweatherwecanexpect.Goodsturdyshoesarealwaysagoodideafor the desert at night, however.Do I need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to participate?No4WDisnecessary.Theobservinglocationsarealllocatedwithinafewmilesofthetown'scenter,andonlyashortdriveonadirtroad 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 HOMEWhat do I need to bring?Youshouldbringwater,solidshoes,seasonalclothing,aflashlight,binocularsandasenseofadventureforseeingsightsand phenomenafarbeyondourdailyworkadayworld.AndduringCOVIDrestrictionsallinyourpartymustbringsuitablefacecoverings.If youwishtositduringthe2-hourprogramyoushouldbringfoldingchairs.Ifyou’retravelingbyplaneandcannotbringchairs,pleaselet Dennisknowinadvanceandhewillhavesomeavailable.PleasedoNOTbringatowelorblankettositontheground;notonlycanit pickupirritatingcactusneedles,ants,scorpions,snakesandothersmallcritters,itisasafetyhazardforpeoplewalkingaroundinthe dark gazing skyward.CAMERAS & OTHER TELESCOPESCan I take photos through the telescope?Thetelescopeisnotdesignedforlong-exposurephotography;theprogramisstrictlyvisual.However,ifmoonisvisiblethatnightyou cantryholdingacameraorphoneuptotheeyepieceandsnappingtheshutter,butthiscanbeabitchallengingsowe'dwaituntilthe end of the evening to try this if you wish.Can I bring a camera and tripod to shoot the sky directly?Certainly,butyou’llbeaskedtosetitupawayfromthegroupforsafety. And,sincelightisnotallowedattheobservingsite,you’llalso needtodisableyourLCDscreen,strobeandwhiteflashlight.Keepinmindthat,ifyouspendtimewithyourcamera,you'llmissmuchof the Sky Tour. You may, however, stay after the program to shoot the sky on your own.May I bring my own telescope?Thisisdiscouragedsinceparticipantswouldbedistractedfromtheprogramforwhichthey'vepaid.Youmay,however,stayafterthe program to set up and use your scope on your own .SEEING THE MILKY WAYWill I see the Milky Way during our Night Sky Tour?It'spossible.TheMilkyWayappearsduringatvarioustimesduringtheyear,andonlyonmoonlessnights(greendatesontheprogram schedule).Wecanseeitduringthewintermonths(December,JanuaryandFebruary),thoughthisportionoftheMilkyWayisrather faint.Thetimetoseeitatitsbestisduringthesummermonths(July, AugustandearlySeptember)whenitappearstoarchighoverhead andstreamsveryfartothesouth.DuringOctoberandNovemberit'sstillvisible,butitssouthernmostsectionisbeginningtovanishin the glow of lights from San Diego.Can I see all the spectacular colors I see in photographs?Absolutelynot.Firstofall,camerasrecordcolorsanddetailsthatthehumaneyecannotsee.Secondly,manyofthosehighly-saturated photosyoumayhaveseenonlineareover-processedbynovicesandgivetheMilkyWayaghastlyandterriblyunrealisticlook.The MilkyWayappearsasaquietandsubtle"cloud"thatarcsacrosstheskyand,totheeye,appearsasarathercolorlessandmottledband of light.RESTRICTIONSMay I bring my pet?No,sorry.Petscanattracthungrycoyotes,andtheycanbevulnerabletosnakebitesandbeingsteppedoninthedark,andsomecan becometempermentalaroundstrangers.Inaddition,someofourguestsmayhaveallergiestopethair.Pleasearrangetoleaveyour precious fur babies elsewhere during the few hours of our program.May I smoke on the tour?Pleasedon't.Otherguests(includingyourastronomer)maybenegativelyaffectedbysmoke. Additionally,thedesertisverydryandfire ofanykindcanbeahazard.Ifyouchoosetodoso,however,youwillbeaskedtomovetoareafardownwindfromourgroup,andyou will miss part of the program. AT THE OBSERVING SITEWill 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?Thoughitmayappearbarrenandlifeless,thedesertisalivewithcritterssuchasants,scorpions,fieldmice,rattlesnakes,lizards, coyotesandmore—someseasonsmorethanothers—butifyou'recarefulyouwon'tbebotheredbyanyofthem.It'salwaysagoodidea towearsolidshoes,useaflashlightwhenwalkinginthedesertand,ifyouwishtosit,dosooffofthegroundonachair,cooler,etc.In general, always be aware of your environment while in the desert. CANCELLATIONSDo I get a refund if I choose to cancel?Ofcourse,butarefundcanbeissuedONLYifyourcancellationisreceivedby5p.m.PacificTimethree daysbeforeyourscheduledsky tourdate.(Forexample,aSaturdayskytourmustbecancelledby5p.m.PTonWednesday;aFridayskytourcancellationmustbe receivedby5p.m.PTonTuesday,andsoon).Becausetheseprogramscanbeinhighdemand,cancellationsreceivedafterthatdate and time cannot be honored. Sorry. Can I reschedule instead of canceling?Absolutely but, like a refund, your request must be received by 5 p.m. Pacific Time three days before your scheduled sky tour date.WEATHERWhat are the desert temperatures like when I’m planning to visit?Deserttemperaturesvaryconsiderablythrougouttheyearandthroughouttheday/nightcycle.Temperaturesduringtheearlyevening programscanrangefrom100F+(38+C)inthesummer,toaslowas35F(2C)inthewinter,soyoushouldalwaysbeprepared.Windcan also be quite strong at times, but if it’s too severe the program will be canceled.What is the best time of year for stargazing?There’sjustno“besttime”.Theskyduringeveryseasonisalwaysexciting,butweathercanbegoodorbad,justlikeanywhereelse.Ontheaverage,Borregodoestendtoseemoreclouds(andoccasionallysomerain)duringthewinterandlatesummer,months,butthis is quite variable from year to year. Be aware that there is no way to know what any particular night will be like until that night.I’ve checked the long range weather forecast and it doesn’t look good. Should I cancel my visit?That’suptoyou.Justrememberthe3-daycancellationpolicy.However,oneshouldnevertrustadesertforecastmorethanafew minutesinadvance.Conditionscanchangequicklyandunexpectedly,especiallyafterdark.Thereareneveranyguaranteeswhenit comes to weather, and occasionally observing conditions turn out to be quite different than expected.What kind of weather can force a cancellation?Keepinmindthataweatherforecastandactualobservingconditionsaretwocompletelydifferentthings.Cloudcoverisonlyonefactor thatcanaffectobservations;strongwinds,blowingsand,highhumidityandairturbulence(whatastronomerscall"seeing")canall influenceobservingconditions,andanyoneofthemcancausecancellationofthenight'sprogram.Unfortunately,someofthesedonot showuponweatherforecastsandcannotoftenbeknowninadvance,andactualdesertskyconditionscansometimesdeviatequitefarfrom the forecasts. What happens if the conditions are bad the day of my Sky Tour?Desertweathercanchangequicklyanddramatically,butonlyrarelydoesitbecomesobadthatwecannotobserve.Denniswillmonitor conditionsthatday,andifhedeterminesthatweatherwillforcecancellationoftheprogramhewillsendatextmessagelaterintheday 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?Sometimesthefollowingnightcanbeusedasabackupforthosestayingintownoverafewnights.If,ontheotherhand,you'releaving 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 for the Night Sky Tour?Neveragoodidea.Ifyouchoosetomaketheround-tripdrivewithoutstayingintown(atleastforonenight)youriskalongdrivefor nothingifalateweathercancellationbecomesnecessary.Borregoisatleasttwohoursdrivefrommostplaces,andthisisnever recommended,especiallyduringthefrequently-unstabledesertweatherpatternsofwinterandlatesummer.Pleasedon'taskDennisto makeaweatherdecisionbeforeyouleavehomesoyoucanavoidthedrive;it'softenimpossibletojudgeanight'sobservingconditions in advance. There are plenty of other things to do in town that would make a longer stay more sensible.AFTER THE SKY TOURHey, 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 and the Borrego Night Sky Tours Facebook Page.Suppose I want to come back... will there be different things to see?Absolutely!Theeveningskychangesgraduallythroughouttheyear,andtherearedifferentcelestialsightsavailableduringeach 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?Occasionallythatmightbepossible,buthisscheduleisoftenbookedmorethanayearahead,andtheseeventsarefrequentlyplanned with local resorts or tour companies. He is available for other special events and presentations, however. Just email Dennis directly.How can I keep up with other astronomical programs and sky events?Thereareseveralwaystostayinformed.OneistocheckoutDennis'website.Youmaysubscribetohisfreee-mailnewsletter,andyou'll findevenmoretimelyinformation—plustheabilitytointeractwithhimandotherskywatchers—onFacebookandTwitter.And,of course,don'tforgethisweeklysyndicatedcolumnStargazers,towhichyoumaysubscribefreeviae-mailsoyou'llnevermissanother celestial event again!COVID SAFETYAre programs operating during this time?Like everywhere else, Borrego is currently under state and county restrictions, but we are operating successfully.What kind of safety considerations are there in the Night Sky Tours?Wewilladheretoallsafetyrecommendationsfortheforeseeablefuture,includinghavingsmallergroups(whichmeansmoretelescope time per person!), wearing face coverings, and appropriate social distancing.Will these restrictions limit what I can experience?Notsignificantly.Westillviewanddiscussstarsandstargroupings,peerthroughthetelescope,andanswerallquestionsaboutthe cosmos just as always… except with face coverings and social distancing.