Although it is nearly impossible for us to cover every possible instance which could jeopardize an observer’s safety, as with any outdoor activity, common sense dictates most situations.
Never Look Directly at the Sun
Looking at the Sun with the naked eye or through binoculars, telescope or any other magnifying device without proper solar filters in place, permanent and irreversible damage may occur. Just the act of looking at the Sun with your naked eyes can cause serious damage. When you introduce an device that magnifies light many times, all that is needed is a glance at the Sun to do serious damage. If you think about when you were a child and used a magnifying glass to burn things. It is the same thing which will happen to your retina and the damage is irreversible!
Never Use Solar Filters That Attach to a Telescope Eyepiece
Never use solar filters that attach to the eyepiece of a telescope. This type of filter usually is small in diameter and screws into the bottom of a eyepiece. When being used, heat builds up inside the telescope, not only doing damage to the telescope, it heats the thin plastic filter film and after several uses, causes the film to crack and allow unfiltered light to enter the eyepiece and your eye, causing damage!
Never Try to Observe a Solar Eclipse With the Naked Eye or Sunglasses
When planning to observe a Solar Eclipse, always be sure to use Approved Solar Eclipse Glasses. Check the number printed on the glasses. According to the American Astronomical Society, (AAS), a real and safe pair of solar eclipse glasses should be labeled with ISO 12312-2 (sometimes written in more detail as ISO 12312-2:2015), which is an international safety standard that denotes the glasses reduce visible sunlight to safe levels and block UV and IR radiation. Unfortunately, Fake Glasses may also be labeled as being compliant with ISO 12312-2. Always obtain your solar glasses or handheld filters from a reputable vendor.
Never Leave a Telescope Unsupervised
Never leave a telescope unsupervised, either when children are present or adults who may not be familiar with the correct operating procedures of your telescope. This is especially true when you are setting-up your equipment and the Sun is still up.
Always Leave Word With Friends or Family
Always leave word with friends or family when you plan to go observing. Where you are going to be observing and when you plan to return home. Now days, most people have cell phones. Make sure you have your phone with you and charged. If you decide to stay longer than planned, let someone know.
Observe With a Friend or Relative
Especially when going to remote locations to observe, it is best to have others go with you. If you belong to a club, try to get a group together. If you are going to a public park, let the police or rangers know you are going to be there observing. Invite them to stop by and let them look through your scope. Not only do they enjoy the view, they will make stops when they know you are there observing.
Keep an eye on the Weather
The weather can change very quickly. Always check the weather reports before leaving. If storms are possible, keep an eye out for them and don’t wait until the last minute to breakdown and load your equipment. Seek safe shelter well before a storm. Being caught in an open area during a violent storm can be life-threatening. If there is a high probability of storms moving in, the best thing, is to not put yourself in a dangerous situation. Staying home and waiting for another day might be best.
Dress Appropriately and Always Have a Blanket in the Car
Because it is a nice, sunny, warm winter day, does not mean it will stay that way. Always have warm winter clothes in your car and appropriate footwear. You can not put on what you don’t have with you. Because you have a car with a nice warm heater, doesn’t mean you couldn’t have car trouble. Always take the attitude of “what if?”
Allow Your Eyes Time to Adjust
Always allow your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. It takes the average person about 20 minutes for their eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. As your eyes begin to adjust, you will start to see more and more stars with the naked eye. This not only makes for better observing, it makes moving around not only easier, but safer.
Always Have Both a White and Red Flashlight with you
The random use of flashlights emitting white light while observing is always frowned upon. The reason for this, it causes you and others observing to lose your night vision. While in the presence of others and while you are observing, you should get in the habit of using a red light rather than a white light. Many cell phones have the feature of a red light on them and in some cases, apps can be downloaded. The headlights with adjustable elastic bands to hold the light to your forehead work very nicely for this and free you hands. Most of them have built in red and white lights. A lumens of 80 – 200 works well. They are more than bright enough, in the red mode to help you get around, make adjustments and change eyepieces in your scope. Once observing is over you can change to white to check your have not left anything behind and to safely find your way back to your car. Always be aware of others who might still be observing. Sometimes it is just not possible or safe to drive away without having your car headlights on. At least make the others aware before you do it. It will allow them time to shield their eyes as you leave.
Take Proper Precautions for Insects
Mosquitos, Ticks Spiders and other insects can be a problem. Always carry Insect Repellant with you. If you are near bushes or high grass, be aware of ticks. Wear long pants and tuck the legs of your pants into your socks. Always check yourself for ticks after an outing. Should you have one of the new battery operated camping fans, even on low, they do an excellent job of keeping mosquitos off you. Mosquitos can not fly in wind. If you have ever noticed, on a breezy evening, you do not get Mosquito bites.
Beware of Wild Animals
Although, you do not have to be particularly scared of wild animals you may come into contact with on your outing, it is always wise to give them the respect and distance they deserve. Most animals fear humans and would rather avoid contact than have a confrontation. Should you come upon a wild animal it is best to just leave it alone. Do not try to approach it or feed it. Dogs, coyote, male deer and other animals can be very dangerous to humans. In the wild, there is always the chance of a sick animal that has Rabies or some other disease.
Always be Aware of Your Surroundings
Rocks, cliffs/drop-offs, low hanging branches, barb wire, and fences are things you should make yourself aware of before it gets dark. If you are way out in the wilderness always make yourself aware of how to get back, where to seek help and phone numbers to call for help. Calling 911 may not help if you have no idea where you are at. Make sure your GPS location setting is on. It can be used to locate you. Once you contact someone and they send help, stop moving and stay put until help arrives.