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How to start an Astronomical Society?


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Hi,

I'm wondering what would be required to start an Astronomical Society?

I live in the Orkney Islands, and to my knowledge there are only two of us who have Astronomy as their hobby.

It may be a futile attempt to start one on my Island, however I would like to give it a go; to try and encourage more people into the hobby.

Has anyone any experience with starting one?

What do I need to do?

Are there any restrictions etc?

I have tried the Google machine but came up empty on the subject.

Any help much appreciated.

Thanks,

Michael

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Hi Michael,

I started Bedford AS in 1987, so have some experience of this.

You've got a great start there already as there are two of you.

That's how we started. I advertised in the local library, the BAA and SPA magazines with my contact details. We quickly organised a public evening and interested people soon appeared and joined in too. We then had "Committee" meetings in the local pub which were very good sociable events. A one page typed newsletter quickly followed and the whole society has developed extraordinarily since.

Get yourself a Society name and advertise as widely as possible, local radio, press etc. and tell everyone what you have organised and if they are that interested, they will get involved too.

It becomes as bureaucratic as you make it.

Try the FAS Federation of Astronomical Societies - Home as they are the umbrella Society of local clubs and should have more details and lots of advice on starting and running a society.

Have fun.

Dave

Edited by Dave
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Hi

Is it worth liaising with an existing club that has different but complimentary interests such as nature (birdwatching, natural history or similar)? You could arrange to share club space and observing sites on different nights / weekends to prevent conflicts and there will probably be interest from the other club's members as certain hobbies and interests are linked.

Good luck with your plans.

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Hi Michael,

the venue is key to this, good advice already given above. Its coming up to the next meeting for the one I started only this March and its gone very well with new members coming along from one meet to the next, the interest is certainly there. I am sure you will have some too.

There must be some people up there asking themselves...what is that really bright star I can see at the moment? If they had a look through a telescope at it and realized it was of course Jupiter it may encourage a few to come along to any regular meetings you have set up.

I found some people were unsure as to weather they could come along as they had no equipment, of course that does not matter as long as someone does have some kit to show what's available to observe/image.

On a positive note, I am sure that another Stargazing Live will be going ahead on the Beeb, that may get some interest for you, it did for me!

Good Luck with it! :p

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Thanks Alan, I do have a venue in mind - a small Kirk that's readily used for similar clubs/meetings and I believe it's very cheap too.

I do have hope that people will have an interest to attend, as there really is very little to do in Orkney; little is provided to the community in terms of entertainment. Most people I think make there own entertainment by means of hobbies - fishing etc. or just sitting in by the TV!

Also we do have plenty of near by places for dark sites, even in the main town!

I already own a projector/laptops/telescopes/cameras/books and the like...But my biggest concern is if I am qualified for the job?

I'm sure I could put together talks on the basics of this and that but I still feel I'm very much a newb..it's such a vast subject, I don't believe I'll ever know little about a lot or vice versa in astronomy. I can point out maybe 10-15 constellations in the Northern sky, name half a dozen stars, find a dozen or so DSO's and of course name that bright "star" in the sky at the moment ;)

I've got the basics of DSLR AP but not even looked at CCD's yet.

I know very lilttle about good and bad EP's. Still haven't collminated a telescope although that should be soon as a 16" Lightbridge is on the cads. :p

But the list of things I've never done or haven't the foggiest about goes on.

Could I still manage?

Thanks,

Michael

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Since I built the basic website for us I have found myself giving a few talks on it and other matters...not my thing normally :eek:

Stellarium, as you know, is great for showing people what is out there. Many members are very interested in such things as equipment etc... just as well we have internet access and a projector.

That big dob is going to blow their socks off! ;)

with such a large aperture instrument allied to some dark skies , would drop in myself :eek:

I had tried this before around 2/3 years ago from the same location but illness, work and my lack of knowledge and enthusiasm due to being so unwell all put pay to it then but prompted by by last years Stargazing Live I decided to give it another bash, with the help of staff from Far Ings Nature Reserve it all fell into place.

You should at least have a go at it mate.

Another factor on all of this is...SGL its also responsible for it being a success so you've asked the right place for feedback. :p

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...But my biggest concern is if I am qualified for the job?

But the list of things I've never done or haven't the foggiest about goes on.

Could I still manage?

Thanks,

Michael

1. Your enthusiasm qualifies you for the job.

2. As a pioneer you are by definition setting off into unknown territory. Confidence in your abilities will increase as you gain experience and knowledge by doing it. That's why humans will travel to the stars instead of just looking up at them from our caves.

3. You will manage through help from other society members and the support from everyone on SGL!

:p

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...But my biggest concern is if I am qualified for the job?

With enthusiasm like you're showing it seems to me that you are well qualified to do the "job". :p

Stargazing Live is going to be on again in January, so get yourself an event or two organised around that time and advertise them on the Stargazing Live Web site as well as locally.

What better platform could you have to draw in the crowds and set a new astro soc. rolling on it's merry way?

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Michael,

There was a similar thread a few months back which covered most of the questions you have raised. I've tried to locate it but can't find it as yet.

I founded the Welwyn and District A.S. back in 1984. It lasted around three months before we joined forces with what was then The North Herts A.A. and formed the Stevenage & District A.S. This proved to be a popular society and we came second in the Astronomy Now quiz in the late 80's. In a bid to get an observatory project off the ground the society moved to Letchworth and re-named itself the Letchworth and District A.S. as part of the terms and conditions of getting it built at Standalone Farm.

If you have any specific questions drop me a PM. I've long since relinquished my committee position, but still on the books as a member, but hopefully can give you some pointers

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Hi Michael , You could approach John Vetterlein ( fellow Orcadian ) for a future talk. Have a look at his website here Vetterlein | Home . Have a look at how the Shetland AS gets on too ............................Shetland Astronomical Society.......................... . Hope this is of some help.

Edited by LeoLion
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Thanks Malcolm, I will have a hunt for it and may well ask you a few questions in the near future! :)

LeoLion - Thanks for that, I have already had a quick word with John, but not about this, he would be a valuable asset as he's well versed in most things astronomical.

I did have a look at the Shetland AS also, they look like they're quite successful, wouldn't hurt I guess to drop them a line also.

Cheers guys,

Michael

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Hi,

I'm wondering what would be required to start an Astronomical Society?

I live in the Orkney Islands, and to my knowledge there are only two of us who have Astronomy as their hobby.

It may be a futile attempt to start one on my Island, however I would like to give it a go; to try and encourage more people into the hobby.

Has anyone any experience with starting one?

What do I need to do?

Are there any restrictions etc?

I have tried the Google machine but came up empty on the subject.

Any help much appreciated.

Thanks,

Michael

You should have a word with Gordon Mackie of the Caithness Astronomy Group.He's the driving force behind it and its not a large group,in fact i think they were over in Kirkwall recently to do with the year of science or something along those lines.

You might only know of 2 people who have astronomy as their hobby but i bet you there are quite a few who have telescopes,they dont know you,you dont know them.

I can pm you Gordons email addy if you're interested.

Cheers

Stewart.

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Hi Stewart,

Thanks for that, yes I would be interesting in his contact details please..as much help as possible is never a bad thing.

So far I have infact managed to get in contact with John Vetterlein who is going to be giving me a ring this coming week for a chat about things.

Actually including Mark (specman on SGL) that's actualy three of us! :)

And as you say there very well maybe many more who I'm not aware of.

I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into this and seeing if it takes off, would be great to have a thriving astro community on the island. Perhaps when you're in Orkney (if all goes well) you could give a talk? :(

Sam - Thanks, we really do have some excellent skies when off course the weather permits! Will definitely keep you posted.

Wish me luck!

Thanks,

Michael

Edited by msinclairinork
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Michael,

I run the website for the Stornoway Astronomical Society and we're just coming up on our first "official" anniversary. Although it has been running for a few years with like-minded people getting together once a month for talks and viewing sessions. :(

We're lucky that we have access to the conference room at the Coastguard station, which is free, so have look around and maybe speak to the council to see if you could start with a classroom at one of the schools when they have night classes on.

We have a couple of teachers that do some of our talks and a couple of others who are more into the science side of astronomy, which makes for a good cross section of subjects.

We have about 20 full members and we also get people coming along to the monthly talks (including visitors to the island :) ), the most we've had is about 35 at one meeting!

Not everyone has equipment and we've been lucky to have had scopes & books donated to us that members can have on loan.

Get the word out and I think you'll be surprised at the response. :)

Martin.

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Hi Martin,

Wow that's a fantastic website! Loads on there, and cool little apps such as the sky chart etc. I'll have to look into setting one up shortly I think.

I appreciate the advice also - I will have a good look around for venues and speak to as many as I can.

Thanks again,

Michael

Edited by msinclairinork
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