What time does the program begin and where do we meet?
We begin around sunset and will meet at a time and place to be determined; this changes throughout the year with the sunset time and weather conditions.  Once you've confirmed with Dennis an available date (via e-mail or phone) and your reservation is paid, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with more details.  You will receive another e-mail with final details a few days before your scheduled night sky tour.
What is an evening observing program like?
Typically a session consists of three phases and lasts about two hours.  As darkness falls, you'll learn about the changing sky and about the telescope we'll be using.  Once it becomes dark, you'll enjoy a fun-filled sky tour for the unaided eye and tips on how to use your eyes properly in the dark. The program culminates with telescope viewing deep into our Milky Way Galaxy and beyond.  Afterwards, you will receive a review e-mail outlining all that you saw during the night as well as links for further learning.
How is a Night Sky Tour different from other public star parties and events?
Public "star parties" 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 the astronomer will help you understand not only what you are 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're sure to come away with a totally new perspective on the universe and your place in it.

When are night sky tours offered?

Tours are offered seven days a week.  There are no pre-set dates; just let Dennis know when you'll be in town, and if the date(s) are available you can pay in advance to hold your date.

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, advance reservations are strongly recommended, and advance payment is required.  Of course, if you happen to be in town, you may also call or e-mail that day for availability.

How do I pay and hold my reservation?

You can pay online with credit or debit card, or PayPal. All major credit/debit cards are accepted, and all transactions are secure via the PayPal system. Joining PayPal is not required.  If there's enough time, you can also send a check or money order to the address listed on the payment page.


Why do you limit the size of your audience?

Unlike most "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 your astronomer. 


My children are under 6 and are really smart.  Why can't they come along?

Children under six years of age are not admitted. It's not a matter of intelligence; the eyes of very young children are unable to focus well on faint objects, and a dark environment near a delicate and finely tuned telescope is not a safe place for toddlers or small children.  Sorry.

What if I don't want to be part of a larger group?

You may, indeed, arrange for a private session for just yourself or your family but, in that case, the Group rate will apply regardless of the number of people you have attending.  Sometimes, however, attendance is light and you may have the session all to yourself anyway!

What do I need to bring?
All you really need to bring is your curiosity about the universe!  But when spending time in the desert, it's always a good idea to bring water and, perhaps a snack; and you might feel comfortable bringing a comfortable folding lawn chair.  And don't forget a flashlight!
How should I plan to dress for the evening?
Nights can become quite cool (or downright cold!) after sundown in the desert.  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.
I have a group coming to town; do you offer group discounts?

Absolutely!  Price for a private sky tour for your group of 9-15 people is only $499.  Larger groups are not recommended since the personal experience then becomes limited.  If you've got a larger group, you might consider breaking it into two separate evening sessions so that everyone receives the best possible experience.

Why is Borrego Springs an International Dark Sky Community and what does that mean?

Borrego Springs has some of the best stargazing conditions in the U.S. because of its dry conditions, low light pollution and clear skies.  While darker locations exist, many are not easily accessible or do not have an infrastructure or nearby conveniences. The designation means that the community has a very dark sky (relative to its surrounding population) and is committed to preserving it for future generations to enjoy.

Who is this Mammana guy I keep hearing about?

Dennis Mammana has worked for decades as a professional astronomer at such institutions as the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum, the University of Arizona and San Diego's Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.  He is a syndicated columnist, a popular public speaker, and an invited member of TWAN (The World At Night)—an elite international team of the most highly-acclaimed sky photographers on the planet.  You can learn more from his website and his popular Facebook Page.

What kind of telescope will we be using?

Usually you will be using a 10-inch, f/6 Dobsonian telescope to gaze skyward.  Its 10-inch diameter mirror captures some 450 times more light than the average human eye, and its two main eyepieces produce magnifications of 48x and 139x.  

What will we see through the telescope?
Since the evening sky changes during the year, what we see depends on the season but can include the moon, planets, double stars, stellar clusters, interstellar nebulae and other galaxies millions light years distant.

Does the moon affect what we can see?

It can.  If you want to see the starry heavens at their best, you should schedule your sky tour when the moon does not appear during early evening hours.  Best times are from a few days after full moon to a few days after new moon.  Check a calendar for this information, or call or e-mail Dennis for the best possible dates.  Please be aware that there are only two weeks during each month with these moonless conditions, so ideal program dates are limited.

Can I take photos of the night sky?
If the moon is up you can try shooting it through the telescope; if not, a camera that you can set and focus manually, along with a tripod, would be necessary.  Though Dennis offers popular night sky photography tutorials and group workshops, he can offer you some quick tips for that night.  But the main focus of the evening is to view the heavens, not photograph them.

Do I get a refund if I have to cancel?

Of course, but a refund can be issued ONLY if your cancellation is received by 5 p.m. Pacific Time two days before the day of your scheduled sky tour. (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 are in high demand, cancellations received after that date and time cannot be refunded.  Sorry. 


What happens if the weather is bad that day?

Desert weather can change quickly and dramatically, but rarely does it become so bad that we cannot do telescope viewing.  Dennis will monitor the weather and will determine later in the day of your sky tour if observing will be possible.  If he determines that weather will force cancellation of the program—something quite uncommon—he will attempt to contact you in advance, and you will receive a full refund


Hey, this sky tour was great!  How can I keep up with other astronomical programs and sky events?

One way is to check out Dennis' website.  He also maintains a free monthly e-mail newsletter, but you'll find much more timely informationplus the ability to interact with him and other sky watcherson his Facebook Page, Twitter and his blog.  And, of course, don't forget his weekly syndicated column Stargazers, to which you can subscribe free via e-mail so you'll never miss another celestial event again!

Suppose I want to come back in another season. Will there be different things to see?

Absolutely!  The evening sky changes gradually throughout the year, so the sky of winter, for example, is significantly different from that of summer.

Can I book Dennis for an upcoming meteor shower, eclipse or other celestial event?

On occasion that might be possible, but Dennis' schedule is often booked more than a year in advance, and these events are frequently planned with local resorts.  He is available for other special events, however.  Just contact him directly.