For a Star Tour, I like to say about two hours, and for a Moon Tour one hour. The reality is that tours almost always go over the stated amount of time. The longest Star Tour and Moon Tours were just over three hours, and two hours respectively. The majority of Star Tours are around two and a half hours, and most Moon Tours run an hour and a half. Do they ever go shorter than that? Sure they can, but it is usually at the client's request for a wide variety of reasons. Here is the skinny of it; these tours are an interaction between the guide and the group, and there is no rote memorization, no hard formula, and no two outings have ever been the same. If the group is quiet and they just want to look through the eyepiece, we would probably finish in about thirty minutes. Fortunately, that has never happened. It is my biggest fear, right after getting hit by a meteorite!
That is a good question! When Leigh-Ann and I started Coyote Telescope I had just retired from the Marine Corps, and I was very steeped in a lock-step approach to just about everything. Needless to say, we HAD a refund policy. In the last two years, my approach to life sans military stuff has drastically changed. After meeting so many cool people from so many different walks of life, I have mellowed just a little bit, so the new policy is this, just be upfront with me if you want to cancel. I am not going to judge you. I ask that you don't wait until the last minute to cancel, if possible because that might keep other potential groups from having an excellent experience. In a nutshell, yes, I will refund you. Having said that it usually takes a few days for you to get your money back. Credit and debit cards are quick to extract that money from you but are slow in refunding it back. That part is out of my control, unfortunately.
Another excellent question, and here is the no BS answer. Joshua Tree National Park enjoys around 280 sunny days a year. However, you can have a sunny day and still have enough clouds to ruin a night of stargazing. Fortunately, it does not affect most clients because clouds have a habit of disappearing an hour, or so after it gets dark. It is a subjective call. To the uninitiated eye the sky can seem clear, but upon further inspection, there could be a slight filmy haze that will blur every object you view. Astronomers refer to it as "seeing" conditions. If it looks to be dicey, I will give you a heads up via text message periodically through the day so that your vacation plans don't come to a screeching halt because of Coyote Telescope! The bottom line is if we cannot view you will get a full refund as I have yet to figure out how to control the weather! Most clients will not have any issues with clouds, however.
Absolutely! There are some sweet vacation rentals in the area, and I do tours at them all the time. Here are some caveats, though, when you give me the address the first thing I am going to do is to check it against my light pollution map. If your rental sits in a red yellow, or green zone, I am going to let you know that your place is in a less than an optimal area for a Star Tour. What does that mean? That means I will do the tour at your location, but I am going to make it clear to you that you might not feel like you got your money's worth if we do. Why would I do that? While many people scheme to separate you from your money my priority is that you are ultimately happy with Coyote Telescope. My reputation is too important just to take your money knowing you're going back to the big city. I want your glowing reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp, and I can't get those if you are not truly satisfied!
Possibly, but I have never had it happen. Most vacation rental homes are in areas where there is a lot of acreage separating the homes, and usually, in those neighborhoods, the property owners like to keep the outdoor lights to a minimum. If you are renting a home in a "regular" neighborhood, I wouldn't recommend doing any stargazing there except for a Moon tour. A word to the wise; property owners like to advertise how awesome the night sky is above their rental homes, and that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They aren't fibbing to you. It is a matter of perspective. If you are coming in from L.A., New York, London, or even Paris, where you can see only three or four stars then by comparison a home nestled in downtown Joshua Tree does seem to have an amazing night sky. However, a telescope is nothing but a giant light bucket that gathers and amplifies light, and it cannot be fooled.
Every tour is different because I feed off of the group if that makes sense. There is no presentation that I have memorized that I present the same way to every group. But roughly for a Star Tour, I begin with an orientation of the night sky pointing out various constellations, and from there I describe at a wave-top level how we think that the Universe began. I describe the formation of the first generation of stars, and how they produced following generations of stars and eventually how the galaxies assembled. We use the telescope to check out individual stars and star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. If planets are up, we hit those guys up too!
My Moon Tours begin once the moon gets over 40% illuminated. Even though it is bright, we can still faintly see some other cool deep-space things until the Moon reaches a point to where it is about 60% illuminated. Once that happens, we pretty much focus solely on the Moon and any planets that might be up. Moon tours are way cool because we discuss the theories on how the Moon formed, and how the geology of the Moon is going to allow further space exploration. Through the telescope, you will see an incredible view of the Moon. We start first with a broad view and using different eyepieces we progressively zoom in closer to landmarks like craters and mountain ranges. Once the Moon reaches about 80% to 100% illumination, the view becomes flat as defining shadows disappear, and the price of the tour is reduced to reflect that on those days.
If you do not have a campsite or vacation rental, it isn't a problem as there are many public access places where we can conduct a telescope tour. Give me a call, and we can discuss the details.
Awesome! Within minutes you should get a confirmation email from the booking system with a receipt attached. The day before the tour, between the hours of 10 am to 12 pm PST, you will get a text message, from my private number, to the telephone number you listed when you originally booked. It is simply a courtesy text letting you know that I haven't forgotten about you! There will be some coordinating instructions in the message, but there is no rush to respond back. The day of the tour, at about the same time, you will get another courtesy text. Again, don't worry about having to respond back right away because I know that you are probably inside the Park where the reception is spotty at best. At the latest though I need to know what time you want to start the tour a minimum of two hours before sundown. I try to keep it as simple as possible for you!
I do not do tours outside of the immediate area of Joshua Tree National Park. Palm Springs and its greater area is completely in the red zone. While there are others that might do it, I just do not think that you would be happy with the value received for your money.
I have in the past, but then I stopped. To be honest weddings and telescope tours don't go hand-in-hand for a variety of reasons.
I have done telescope tours for family reunions, corporate events, and even for a rave. Each event was on a case-by-case basis, and as a result, over time I have learned what kind of activities lend themselves towards telescope tours. Sometimes integrating a telescope into an event is just not advisable. Telescopes require some degree of darkness unless it is a Moon tour. If I commit, it is because I know you will be happy with the result!