21Jan2017

Why Join Astronomy Clubs?

 

Most people believe that it costs a great deal of money to get involved with astronomy. That is true to some extent, but not all.Certainly, you can spend a great deal if you want to get all the toys, but it is not necessary to break the bank to get a lot of enjoyment from this hobby.

You can start off with nothing more than those old trusty binoculars you last took to the track, or still carry around in the car. They’re relatively inexpensive and in fact, since most people probably have a pair of binoculars sitting around collecting dust in a closet someplace the cost should be nothing.

Binoculars will get you familiar with the night sky but it won‘t take long before you’re wanting to see more. Don’t rush out and buy a telescope yet, not for a few weeks OK. Now the bug has bitten it’s a good idea to start attending an astronomy club and you’ve probably got a good one right near where you live. See my listing of all Aussie clubs here.

With regular meetings and viewing sessions most astronomy group’s main goals are to share the wonders of the night sky and the universe to everyone in the region.

These amateur astronomers are more than willing to help anyone new to the hobby. Even if you only want a few pointers, or advice on what to buy, they’ll help you.     They’ll not only recommend some good scopes but they also know the best places to buy.

To see what astronomical telescopes are capable of go along to one of the club’s public viewing nights. Everyone’s invited, take the family, and you’ll be surprised at how eager club members are to let you look through their scopes. All they want to see is the twinkle in your eye when they show you Saturn for the first time!

You may need a flashlight to make sure you don’t trip over things but put a red filter over the end OK, maybe some red cellophane. Red light lets you see around you while protecting everyone’s ‘night vision.’

You’ll have opportunities to look through the other guys’ scopes while learning the advantages and disadvantages of each design. Doing this will save you time and money and increase your enjoyment of the hobby immensely. It’s a great way to try out different scopes and learn new and different things from the people in the club.

All  astronomy groups are looking for members and anyone is invited to be involved. You don’t have to have any experience or any equipment, just a sense of wonder and intrigue at the night sky and universe around us.

Clubs/associations hold monthly general meetings to share, discuss and learn as well as organize events like regular viewing sessions. I’ve been involved with many on several occasions and can personally recommend their knowledge and experience and enthusiasm of the groups.

A lot of astronomy groups do public day and night viewing sessions, school and educational nights as well as excursions to observatories and other sites of interest, bringing in guest speakers for lectures etc. Go see the website for more here.

If you’ve got a ‘closet telescope’ locked away, or one you don’t know how to use, why not haul it along one night?  You’ll be amazed at what a small amount of instruction can do. Maybe you just want to bring the family along for a few curious peeks – that’s OK. Contact the clubs to arrange your family night out.

A word of caution if you are looking at joining astronomy forums to gain some added information or just seeking assistance on a question. Tread carefully, especially in Australia. All of the smaller and lesser known ones are fine, friendly people with one common aim and that is to share information.

BUT one in Australia I have come across, unfortunately making the claim its the largest, has a chequered history and dissension is rife. Its a ‘cliquey’ setup with overtones of bullying and intimidation. Steer clear of this type of autocratic group structure.

 

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