Registering for an astronomy club should not intimidate you. Here you will know what to expect if you join an astronomy club.
Why join an astronomy club?
If you’re a beginner in astronomy, one of the first tips you should be given is surely to join a astronomy club. This will allow you to mix with people who share your passion and learn new things.
You will also have the chance to use top equipment. In short, joining an astronomy club is likely to give a new dimension to your hobby and you shouldn’t regret it. In an astronomy club, you will most likely meet members experienced in the field of amateur astronomy.
It is a boon to be able to ask them for advice and it will probably save you a lot of time and money when the time comes to choose your equipment.
Astronomy clubs are very strongly focused on mutual help, especially with new members, whether to advise them in the choice of their equipment or to find their way in the night sky and locate objects such as star clusters and planets. You too can share your experience and help others learn and enjoy their hobby.
Astronomy clubs can also be used to try before you buy because members bring their equipment, such as telescopes. In an astronomy club, there is a chance that a member has a telescope or eyepiece that you hesitate to purchase.
If your astronomy club allows it, you may be able to borrow instruments before finding one that is right for you. As shops specializing in astronomy are quite rare in most cities, you may have to buy your equipment online. If you are not sure if you want to buy such an expensive equipment without having already tried it, you may be able to use it first in an astronomy club.
How to join an astronomy club?
The first step is to find a club near your location. If you don’t know where it is, call the nearest observatory or planetarium, science center or contact the physics and astronomy department of the local university or high school. They should be able to tell you if there is an astronomy club and how to contact it, but also if it is good or not and what you can expect.
If you are a regular reader of astronomy magazines, you will surely find a page dedicated to astronomy clubs, what they do and their upcoming events. Then, of course, you can look on the Internet and go through forums for advice.
The second point to consider is cost. Some clubs ask registration fees to pay before becoming a member and generally offer a newsletter with upcoming events and meetings. Prices vary, some require a monthly or annual subscription, others depending on events.
The cost is generally reasonable and will differ for adults, groups and people under 16. Most, if not all, have a website with all the details to register. The simplest way is to download the registration form for a particular astronomy club, fill it out and return it, indicating your means of payment. If the astronomy club in your area does not have a registration form, do not panic, there is usually an email address or a phone number.
Astronomy club meetings
Attending an astronomy club meeting can be one of the best experiences when embarking on amateur astronomy. Not only will you have the opportunity to interact with other members, but you will also be able to take part in a large number of activities.
Whichever astronomy club you decide to join, there is often a structure where members meet on certain days of the week or fortnight. These evenings are generally observation sessions or presentations.
As you may have discovered, stargazing at home is a very solitary activity. Most astronomy clubs regularly schedule observation sessions where you can use club equipment or bring your own (at least on New Moon weekends, when the Moon is not visible, making observation easier, or at other times of the month).
A large number of astronomy clubs often organize trips to very dark observation spots. They then find agreements for inexpensive dinners and accommodation if necessary.
You can also attend regular presentations, ranging from videos related to astronomy in planetariums to readings by famous people in the world of astronomy. They are often university professors, who work in observatories or museums, and even members of your club.
Many also organize workshops that will give you advice on building your own observatory or telescope or on astrophotography. If your astronomy club has a library, you can also use their guides, borrow issues of astronomy magazines and so on.
During the warmer months, your astronomy club may also offer trips to space centers, observatories and museums, weekends and science festivals. Some astronomy clubs also organize a summer meal and another at Christmas.
The most important thing to remember is not to worry. There is a good chance that you will receive a very warm and friendly welcome, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or fully expert in astronomy. Astronomy clubs are organized in such a way that everyone is welcomed, regardless of your age or your wishes.
Perhaps you think you are so inexperienced that you will be of no use to other members when it is your turn to share advice. But it’s not true, because there will always be someone less experienced than you to help. The best teachers are people who continue to learn and who can sympathize with a beginner, so don’t hesitate to help out whenever you can.
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