Safety Tips

From !astrophotography Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Observational Safety

By /u/Orangelantern

When you think of a word to describe Astronomy, "Dangerous" doesn't normally come to mind. Its not.

There are however, dangerous things you can do while observing.

A telescope is a light amplifying device. Pointing it at a bright object such as the sun and looking through the eyepiece can severely damage your eye.

As /u/Orangelantern experienced, even having your telescope pointed NEAR the sun without a proper filter attached to the aperture can cause catastrophe.

Fortunately for /u/Orangelantern, he was not looking through the telescope when the sun burned through his eyepiece

"It was really really clear outside today, so i decided to put my solar filter on my telescope and take a look at the Sun. I made the mistake of not putting the glass filter on before i aligned the scope near the sun. After about 3 or 4 seconds I smelled burning plastic. I made a joke to my Dad who was making pancakes about how he was burning the pan when i noticed it was actually my own fault."

Imagine that being your eye. Solar observing is nothing to joke about. Before each observation you must first go over a mini checklist in your head.

  • Is the filter properly attached to the telescope?
  • Does it have any cracks or holes?
  • Is the Glass/Mylar firmly attached to the inner perimeter of the holder?
  • Is my Finderscope attached or filtered as well?
  • Am I in an environment conducive to the possibility of the filter falling off? ( Sunday football game with rowdy drunk people about is not a very safe time to stare at an object capable of burning a hole through your skull)

Environmental safety

Venturing out of the safety of your backyard poses some risks to astrophotographers. Because of the nature of light pollution, dark sites tend to be very remote, and don't usually have cell reception. If something bad were to happen while you were far out in the middle of nowhere you could be in trouble. Always be wary of the indigenous population. An angry bear is usually not the most welcome guest at your camp. Also be careful of snakes if you live in a climate where they live. They can easily ruin your day.

One of the biggest problems people face when heading out into the desert is that the desert can actually get freezing cold at night. A place that can be 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) during the day could drop to below freezing at night. Packing T-Shirts and Shorts wont help you if you are huddled up inside your tent while its 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 Celsius) outside. Also, ALWAYS bring extra water. Dehydration is especially dangerous because people tend to try to conserve water while out in the desert. Rangers have found people dead from dehydration with water still left in their canteens. If you are thirsty, drink. A good way to check if you are dehydrated is to observe the color of your urine. If it's too brown, drink some water. /r/HydroHomies

Radios and white lights are also useful at a dark site. While preserving your night vision may help with the star gazing, having a bright light around in case of an emergency is a must.

Try to not get your car stuck in the mud or snow! If you cant get out by yourself, have no cell service, and are somewhere so remote that there aren't any other people around, you might be in trouble. That's why you should always pack extra water and some food.

Finally, if at all possible, camp with a buddy, that way you can eat them when you starve. Or, better yet, tell someone you're going out somewhere remote, and give a time you should reasonably be back home to check-in.

Preparing for your observing session

Always remember to pack:

  • Plenty of Water
  • Food
  • First Aid Kit
  • Appropriate Clothing
  • GPS
  • Satellite phone (if you are truly heading out into the middle of nowhere, these can be very useful)
  • Power Source (for telescope and imaging equipment)