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How to start an Astronomical Society?

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Hi Michael,

I've been a member of Shetland Astronomical Society since we started it (back in '97 possibly). I would join in the encouragement to start up an Orkney group.

Whilst I lived in Edinburgh, I was a member of the university astronomy society. We had speakers and beer nights, great fun and informative.

On arriving in Shetland I wondered if it was possible to have something similar and it was, although different. The Shetland AS has run visiting speakers, took part in the Int. Year of Astronomy (we were Neptune) and have tried to run observing nights. In the last 24 months we've attempted around a dozen observing nights. Clear the night before, clear the night after, shockingly bad weather on the night!! Ha. Seriously though, we have found 'star parties' or group observing to be extremely difficult and frustrating due to the unpredictable wind and rain etc.

The most successful things have been public displays and visiting speakers. It has been important to advertise in local press/posters so we'd allow say £150 to advertise a visiting speaker and hope to get 30-120 people. If an Orkney group is interested in speakers, perhaps we can get visitors to do a Northern Isles tour! (The exotic location of Shetland often proves to be a draw for speakers).

My main advice would be to guard against bureaucracy! We'll get 20 sometimes 30 folk at an AGM at noon, but maybe 4 or 5 to an observing night. Keep it simple at first and let it grow with members interests.

Feel free to contact me at chris *at* ascentsoftware *dot* org *dot* uk

Best wishes.


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Good luck Mike, you have got some good advice here especially from Stewart in Thurso. Speak to Gordon Mackie about starting the Caithness club.

Finding the money to pay for outside speakers to get to you will be the problem but Glasgow Uni astronomy department and the Royal Observatory Edinburgh have budgets for sending speakers across the land.

You could also have a look at the Orkney Science Festival site and contact Howie for ideas and funding tips. They had a very successful astro weekend on N. Ronaldsay last month and could link you into the festival next year, that would give you a boost.

PM me if you want more info,


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Thank you Chris and Bill!!

I'm writing a letter (advert) for the local paper calling out to any local astronomers to help start the society (potential committee members) with it being cosigned by myself and John for N-Ronaldsay.

So things are moving ahead, just need to keep my fingers crossed for a good response.

Will no doubt be contacting you all in the near future for further advice! :D

Many thanks,


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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello all!

Just a quick update to let you know how I'm getting on...

As I mentioned before I put out an Ad in the local paper asking for anyone with an interest in joining a committee to then start Orkney's first astronomical society; to which I have received about a dozen emails from budding amateurs like my self! :D

Also the local paper took a bit of an interest and asked if I would like the Ad to be put on their website!

I also have received emails from the local tourist board asking for advice on the Aurora to give out.

And lastly I even had a journalist from a local Glaswegian paper asking to do a piece on why Orkney would be a good place to visit and do astronomy. :)

So going extremely well so far. I'll be organising our first committee meeting next month to cover the basics of the society and will hopefully soon after be advertising for members! :icon_salut:

Thanks to you all so far for offering your advice and support! But be warned...I am by no means done with you yet! :) I'll most likely be getting in contact with some of you over the next few weeks on advice on what to cover in our first meeting - so please bare with me!

Thanks again,


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Your first meeting should be to agree the constitution and things like agm date, renewal date, committee positions, different levels of membership - whatever the admin needs to be. Get it done and sorted quickly!

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  • 1 month later...

Hello folks,

An update from the chairman of the Orkney Astronomical Society! :o

We are now up and running! We've got about 20 members! And had our first society meeting with a talk from astronomer Steve Owens. Which went very well and managed to get 30 people to attend.

We had a big article in the local news paper and I also did a live interview on the local radio. We've got a facebook page, bank account, venue and a website being developed. We're also going to be having monthly meetings and observing sessions. There's been some talk about scopes and books being donated to us also! :)

So going very well at the moment! I would just like to thank you all for your help and encouragement!!! ;)

And be sure to look us up if you ever decide to visit Orkney! :(

Thanks again,


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