What is a Public Observing Session?
A public observing session is an evening where NEFAS members set up their telescopes and invite the public at large to come do some astronomical observing. Members can answer questions, give advice on telescopes to purchase, and point out interesting objects in the night sky. Public observing sessions are geared toward all ages, and can be enjoyed by adults as much as by young children.
NEFAS holds public observing sessions every month on the Saturday closest to the first quarter moon. Since these dates change, you will need to check our event calendar to see when the date for the current month is.
Public observing sessions are held at Hanna Park, parking lot #8. Hanna Park is located on Mayport Road at Wonderwood Drive, immediately outside the entrance to the Mayport Naval Station. Tell the guard at the gate that you are attending the observing session and they will direct you to the site. A map to Hanna Park is included at the end of this page.
What Happens at a Public Observing Session?
At our public observing sessions, NEFAS members setup telescopes, binoculars and low-light video equipment for visitors to observe with. Objects in the sky change throughout the year, but typically you can expect to see:
- The Moon
- Star Clusters
- Various Deep Sky Objects
NEFAS members typically give "sky tours" utilizing green laser pointers to indicate objects in the sky. This is a great way to become familiar with the night sky for all ages.
NEFAS members use the Clear Sky Clock to determine what observing conditions will be at the site. The Clear Sky Clock is usually very accurate and provides a visual representation of sky conditions. The condensded view of the clock is displayed below, or you can click here and view the full version of the clock.
Finding Out if Observing is Still On
Weather conditions change quickly and can affect our public observing sessions. The best way to find out the status of the session is to call the NEFAS Message Line. We update the status of every session on a recorded message. Call (904) 858-3347 to get the details.
Public Observing Eitquette
Since a NEFAS public observing session is often a person's first exposure to astronomy, people may not understand the "etiquette" that is observed while observing. Here are some quick points to remember when you join us:
- Lights: Observing requires darkness, and is best experienced after your eyes become "dark-adapted" or acclamated to the low light conditions around you. White light disrupts night vision and makes it difficult to observe dim objects. Car headlights, flashlights, and camping lanterns are all sources of white light. When you approach the observing area, please turn off all sources of white light. If your car's headlights cannont be turned off (daytime running lights), please park just inside the entrance of parking lot 8 and walk over to the observing area.
- Pets: If you bring your pet with you to an observing session, please keep him/her on a leash at all times. This is not only for the courtesy and safety of everyone in attendance, it is also Hanna Park policy. Please do not allow your pets to walk under or around observing equipment or tables.
- Young Children: We encourage participation by people of all ages. However, please do not allow young children to run around the observing area unattended. This is for their safety as well as that of other visitors and members. Our observing equipment is very expensive, not to mention very easy to trip over in the dark.
- Observing Equipment: NEFAS members will show you how best to view through a telescope by adjusting focus. Other than that, please keep touching of the scopes and other equipment to a minimum, unless invited to by the owner. Do not grab the scope or pull on the eyepieces.
- No Alcohol: Hanna Park is operated by the City of Jacksonville, and therefore no alcoholic beverages are permitted. Please do not bring any type of alcoholic beverage to the observing area.