The month of March and the Yukon Night Skies Star Party at Grey Mountain: these are exciting events that reminds us that spring is on the distant horizon.

A star party is a great place to meet people who share a passion for the night skies and all of the celestial treasures that reside in the cosmos.

Some people are just interested in viewing the Yukon Night Skies with binoculars, while others prefer to observe the Northern Lights. Other people are mostly after planets, and some are just interested in astrophotography.

The star party is where you can talk to people about telescopes, binoculars and astronomy gear, in general. Opportunities abound to observe with different telescopes and to talk with the amateur astronomers who own and operate them.

Are you new to astronomy or interested in getting involved in astronomy? Ever wonder if that computerized telescope you keep seeing in all the astronomy magazines is the answer for all your deep sky observing needs?

Find out which star charts work best with your finder scope and are still user-friendly while in the dark, fumbling around with a red light and gloves on. And, of course, the most important pursuit at a star party is time at the eyepiece to see all those amazing deep sky treasures.

So, what do I bring to a star party? you ask.

Highly recommended items on the list are coffee, a comfortable chair and binoculars or a telescope, if you have them.

If you are bringing a telescope or binoculars to the star party, it is advisable to set up a table for your star charts, coffee and astrology gear. The evening always seems to go much better when everything is laid out properly and easily seen. After all, you don’t want to spill your coffee.

Spilled coffee is a disaster in amateur astronomy: ruined eyepieces, stained star charts and fried electronics can be expensive as well as shut down the evening observing. Also, you have to be aware of the proximity of your coffee to your toys, for the heat of the coffee can distort your view of the cosmos.

So, with the hidden evils of coffee and the extreme benefits of this wondrous beverage in mind, please use caution while at the star party.

Astronomy is not a high-energy activity and chills can set in while you are viewing the great Yukon Night Skies. So remember it will be cold; dress warm: a parka or snowmobile suit, long johns, sweaters, gloves and a toque. It is best to dress in layers, as you will be motionless as you are viewing through telescopes and binoculars.

Bright lights from vehicles and such are deeply frowned upon. Some of the people on-site have spent time to allow their eyes to adapt to the night, and just one quick flash and it is all gone.

Be prepared to let your eyes adapt to the darkness; it is vital for an evening of good views. So when you land at the observing site on Grey Mountain, take 10 to 15 minutes to wander around and give your eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness.

It makes a dramatic improvement in the evenings viewing.

Feel free to ask questions and ask for help. As Yukon amateur astronomers, they are quite a resourceful group of individuals who offer helpful hints on a host of subjects – from cold-weather readiness, to where to find a good astronomy shop.

A star party is an excellent way to see a multitude of objects such as galaxies, nebulas and star clusters. The moon and planets also offer up amazing views that can be seen with many different observing instruments. From binoculars to telescopes, in all sizes and configurations, to the classic, fully manual Dobsonian, there is a view that is just right for everyone.

All we need now is for the weather to co-operate, and we will have a blast.

So, keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and moderate temperatures for the Yukon Night Skies Star Party at the Grey Mountain lookout point on March 13 and 14 weekend, starting at 8 p.m. To get in contact with us with any questions, please send an e-mail to yukonnightskies@yahoo.ca.

Did you happen to look up last Friday evening as Venus and the Moon made a very close passing in the evening sky? Anyone who happened to look up would certainly recognize that this was a truly spectacular event.

But, to a backyard astronomer, this was a rare treat indeed.

This had to be one of the best pairings of these two that I have ever seen. To start with, it was taking place right off my front porch. Imagine that, perfect timing and total convenience. Now that is a rare coincidence.

It started to get interesting just after 6 p.m. with the Moon and Venus on an apparent collision course. Unlike previous pairings in the night sky, these two celestial treasures stayed quite close for several hours. Lunar detail and a planet present you with lots to see, even in the most humble of binoculars.

With great weather and a good observing platform (my front porch), the evening was as good as it gets.

Comet Lulin is moving very rapidly. In a matter of a week this comet sailed right through the constellation of Virgo and is now heading through the constellation of Cancer. Take a pair of binoculars and a star chart, head outside and track this pretty little comet down.

The view is most memorable.

The time has come for a night under the stars, so drag that old telescope or pair of binoculars out of the closet and dust them off. Find your parka and gloves while you are there. After all, nothing beats a clear Yukon Night Sky.

Clear Skies, from James “Deep Sky” Cackette.

James “Deep Sky” Cackette can be reached at yukonnightskies@yahoo.ca. See his photo adventures on Facebook at Yukon Night Skies.