Update on COVID-19 Dark Site Policy

As we continually re-evaluate our policies as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made a change to the bunkhouse closure we enacted several months back. 

Starting Friday, July 17, we will reopen the families/women's and men's bunkhouses, with the following rules and restrictions in place to maintain safety:

1.  Reservations for the bunkhouses must be made through email at [email protected]org and approved for use by our admins.  Bookings can be seen on the calendar at the bottom of our website at: https://www.astronomyhouston.org/about/has-observatory
2.  One person at a time may use a bunkhouse.  The only exception is for families staying in a bunkhouse together.
3.  A reservation can be made by the same person for multiple consecutive nights.
4.  No-shows will void a reservation.  If you make a reservation for a Friday and Saturday night, but you don't show up for Friday night, the Saturday portion will be cancelled and made available to another member.
5.  Once a stay in the bunkhouse is complete, no additional reservations will be made or permitted for a week.  We feel this is enough time, based on what we currently know, to allow any potential SARS-CoV-2 virus to die on surfaces in the bunkhouses, should an unknowingly infected person stay in the bunkhouses.

Although the observatory roof has been fixed, only those already trained on observatory use can reserve time on the observatory telescopes. In addition, only two telescope operators—one on each telescope—is permitted to enter and use the observatory at a time. The bunks in the chartroom are not allowed to be used. The Observatory building is not yet open for in-person training. 

Observatory / Dark Site Rules

  • The observatory is open only to previously trained operators as described above. Bring your own eyepieces – the observatory eyepiece case is not available.
  • The observatory building is not open for in-person training 
  • Dark Site observing pads, RVs, private observatories, and restrooms are open
  • Tent camping in the designated camping area is permitted
  • All other rules covered in online site training apply

To reserve time on an observatory telescope, email [email protected]. For questions about the observatory and use of the dark site facilities, email [email protected]. To take online site training, log into the website and click button Start Your Training near the bottom of this page https://astronomyhouston.org/about/has-observatory

We hope this allows our members a chance to take advantage of these amenities we have available to you, while maintaining as safe a posture as we possibly can.  We'll monitor the policies in place and make any changes necessary to ensure the safety of our members.  If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected] or Observatory Director Chris Ober at [email protected].  Thank you, and stay safe!

Joe Khalaf
Houston Astronomical Society

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