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My astro society membership...are my day's numbered?

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I would prefers to have a small group of blokes meeting whenever there is clear weather with telescopes doing observing or imaging with bier or coke in the hand.

That me barred from your little club den :)

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All the elitists need to remember that they were a newbie once ! Anyway, I think that I've joined the best astro club there is. It's located right here ! From the comfort of of my settee I can ask any

After years of whitnessing a large number of people leave my local astro society (all for near enough the same reasons), i was finally prompted to post the following rant on it's messaging board. In t

I doubt that "your days are numbered". Though some other members might reasonably question why you'd still wish to attend. But I'm sure they'd all be happy to accept your subscriptions . The other que

interesting thread indeed. i have been activley useing telescopes for about 14 months,and ideally should be attending one of the two local astro clubs ,to get a better understanding of equipment first hand . maybe sit in on some talks to try and understand some other areas of this vast subject. but this is just the very reason i cant do it. i just get by learning off books, and internet, with this forum being number one for reference .

in all honesty i dont think an official astro club would be my bag.

which is a shame. not that im slating my local clubs,ive not been ,so i cant judge.

You have a better way with words than me, hence my Heads up post regarding flea-bay lol.

But joking aside, by the sounds of some clubs and people regarding this hobby, i have to admit i have been to more friendly motorcycle rallies. No fags-have mine mate, nowhere to sleep-get in here mate, no money-its ok we will sort ya, bike broke-well fix it. And that costs nothing ;)

Maybe this astro thing comes in 2 parts Professional and hobbiest, and the professionals cant be bothered. Maybe im wrong, but i cant be far off :)

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I cannot speak for other societies but at Wiltshire AS we do welcome Newbies and help them out with any problems on viewing evenings. The last viewing session I attended at Lacock (back in late March), I did not use my telescope much during the evening as I was helping out a couple who where having trouble setting up their Meade ETX, it took over an hour to finally get the telescope working correctly. On other nights our Chairman (Andy Burns) does not even get his telescope gear out of the car, he is too busy sorting out problems with telescopes that some people have. Maybe Bob you would like to come across to Wiltshire AS one evening as Bristol is not too far from us? Most viewing sessions I get asked for help or can you show me a particular object in the sky? I am happy to pass on any experience I have gained over the course of my astronomy life. We have a viewing session planned for the 25th of may at Lacock with a reserve date for Saturday if the skies are cloudy, more details can be found at www.wasnet.co.uk.

I can remember I was once a Newbie and other people helped me out with my problems and I still have problems today (mainly from the wife!) and get help where needed, main thing I have found you must ask the question to start with and go from there. If I ever want a quiet viewing session, I can go out by myself or with a couple of people only.

Whatever you do Bob, I do not think you should give up astronomy.

Happy viewing:)


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Quite a nice group, locally. Monthly meetings require a good memory for faces... and names though (oops)! But it can take a long time to get to know people well at that rate? Also, reliant on lifts, to a remote location, means I am hardly a reliable regular. :)

Bit sad really... A lot of members seem rarely to do any observing anymore. Bad weather, security lights, busy jobs / lifestyles... All seem to have taken their toll.

Edited by Macavity
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That's so sad.

I've thoroughly enjoyed membership of my local astro society - they've been friendly, helpful, welcoming towards visitors. I've learnt masses from the more experienced members.

I hope that you can find a group that works for you, perhaps time to see if there's enough people wanting the same as you and willing to form a new one?

Best of luck,


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I have to say Peter. (S.A.M) without it sounding like I am in search of discounted membership, :) that Wiltshire astronomical society is a very good example of what a club can achieve and credit where credit is due, it is down to the hard work that Andy, yourself and others put in. The society outreach work be it in schools or in the public domain is excellent and if anyone wants to know how to run a 'proper' astro club then give these guys a call.

Having said that, I truly believe that some clubs have fallen victim to complacency, some might even say smugness in their ability to create a club within a club so to speak. I used to find the majority of lectures to be a tad boring, especially in the way they were presented given that we now exist in a multimedia world. Having said that, I distinctly remember the coffee fund being a consistent beneficiary of that wearisome exercise, evidenced by the numbers of cups of tea and coffee that were sold to members in their desperate bid to stay awake throughout. The power and relevance today of the internet cannot be understated here in its influence to both inform and inspire people's interest in the cosmos. Stargazing Live amongst many other programmes has helped create a renewed interest in getting people to start looking upwards only to be met by many clubs looking backwards, where servicing the interests of existing members seems more important than those of potential new members. I have lost count of those fresh new expectant faces that entered the doors of the club, only to be remembered by the back of their heads when they left, never to return again.

Its my view that the way forward for many will be in the form of local observing groups, encouraging people to get off their backsides, to get out there and to DO astronomy. The internet can provide for each and everyones astronomical interest, at the level and at a time that is convenient to them including other resources such as this forum. I think back to the pioneering work of John Dobson and the power of sidewalk astronomy in getting astronomy out and on to people's doorsteps. Making astronomy accessible to everyone is, and should always be, the most important priority of any club or group and can only be done successfully, when people's needs and expectations are taken into account and implemented upon. There are many good clubs out there but sadly not enough and that is a shame really given the work that its original members must have put in at the beginning.


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yes james...u know i agree with u....we've been over it time and time again. what i noticed at our club was that a tiny number of pivotal members went out of their way to make me feel unwelcome. on one occassion it was just outright rudeness, but on another, it was particularly vicious.

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I was once a member of my local archery club and like comments above, i think it was setup by a group of elitests for themselves. New members were left out of the "group chats". It really was not a good experience.

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That's interesting Bob. When I restarted this hobby/interest January 2011 I did initial research and then thought perhaps an Astro club. I decided against this very quickly for two prime reasons.

1) I no longer have the wherewithal to enjoy and learn from an outside practical session in the dead of winter.

2) Exactly those reasons you outlined.

I soon found it was unnecessary as I discovered SGL. I am indebted from many within this site who steered me onto the right track and have patiently answered my problems within often as not minutes.

So, no AS for me.

Edited by obscura
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Have to say that, from a newbie perspective, my local astro soc. have been very welcoming. Committee members are happy to chat and there are regular beginner's talks as well as the more in depth subjects.

Have definitely noticed the 'clique effect' with other hobby-related groups in the past, it seems very dependant on the personalities involved.

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Collections of people are doomed to failure based on our innate ability to annoy and antagonise others.

Whether we like it or not, people are territorial and this applies to collectives too.

I've been a member of a horrendous amount of clubs/societies/groups and it will be rosy until a few weeks pass. People will become critical, bitchy, slanderous, jealous and generally display qualities that make people not want to be around them.

What you tend to find, ironic and sad in equal measure, is that the good folk tend to keep themselves to themselves throughout life, as Jean-Paul Satre put it beautifully (slightly misquoted) "Other people are Hell".

Apologies for the huge injection of negativity, but this applies to *almost* all groups of people. There will be exceptions out there.

Edited by veesix
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It's to every amateur astronomers advantage to increase the number of people interested in this hobby. We would enjoy greater success in reducing light pollution and would benefit from lower equipment costs if our numbers were significantly larger. An amateur astronomer who discourages others has done a disservice to us all.


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Well put Geoff.

I was reading through all the replies on this thread and I was thinking to myself "yes... yes... yes, been there, worn the T-shirt , and Oh My Goodness yes, that too".

Through my club experiences I've met some very intelligent, witty, fun, interesting people. However the leadership, direction and strategy of some clubs are very, let's say "20th Century".

It's interesting to note the rise in popularity of informal observing groups, using the internet and smartphones for coordination. Definitely found myself a home at SGL ; so welcoming, and so refreshingly devoid of the "follow the leader" mentality that is enforced in some clubs I've been to.

I think the "health & safety" thing is something that many of us might underestimate when imaging setting up a society. Once after pressuring a club to do more for informal observing sessions and more reaching out to the public, and fighting against a snooty chairman who would talk down his nose about his million $$$ imaging setup, I got frustrated about the lack of action and support for the newcomers and the rest of the community, and one of my friends started doing rather well at starting up some informal observing sessions, gaining popularity very quickly. The local club chairman told us not to mention the name of the local astro society. Interpret that as , 'if you guys have an accident in one of your silly amateur conquest thingeys, make sure nobody sues the local astronomical society.' Sad times indeed.

Edited by PortableAstronomer
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sorry to keep this thread going guys and gals, but i think there has been a developement by the chairman/commitee.....what do you make of this. i have left out certain bits for obvious reasons:

Some weeks ago I undertook to institute a separate Yahoo Group for those members who wish to have official notices about club activities but do not wish in addition to receive the unofficial postings, comments, discussion, and rejoinders from other members.

If this is your preference, then you may send an email from your normal email address to:

No content is required except to include your full name somewhere in the Subject panel, for example: "Geoffrey Mills subscribing". The text panel may be left blank. Applications (if from current members only) will then be approved by the group Moderator.

You should also leave the main Group by sending a blank email to:

This must be from the email address at which you currently receive group emails. You will then cease to receive mail from the Group.

Only committee members will be authorised to post notices to the clubnotices Group.

NB: there is no point in joining club notices unless you are leaving the main Group. There will be no information on clubnotices that is not available in the main Group.

Before taking the actions above, you may like to explore the other options in the main Group, by going to the site (via the link which is shown at the foot of all emails) and editing your membership preferences (e.g. to receive no email, or receive via a daily digest).

what do u make of that...or am i just being paranoid? please let me know your thoughts.



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We had exactly the same experience at my local wargames club. The result was we split and set up our own group, funnily enough made up of quite a few members from the old. We tour the country every year putting on a convention game that's pleasing to the eye and easy to learn and targets the younger player.

The new club motto is "Recruit or die".

As chairman I take new gamers around the room and introduce, prompt discussions with the old guard that have similar interests and then present them a game we all participate in. Result, so far no one has left and we need a bigger hall.

No matter what the hobby it’s a human thing to live in our comfort zones and I see this daily. If your local astronomy club can’t deal with your statement then you’re a victim of the comfort zone virus.

Welcome to humanity.

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I don't read it as they're trying to force you out, more so that they're creating a more serious sub-group for those that don't want to be bothered by all the other tid bits. It does come across quite divisive and dare I say it...pretentious, I hardly doubt they're running ESA telescopes and the likes!!

I'd call them out on it during the next 'Society' meeting, ask them what the aim of it is as you want to be sure if you need to sign up or not. I can't believe people get spammed with that much unwanted mail in your Society that it warrants a separate group.

My first visit to my local group was a disaster, it was very awkward and I felt very annoyed how ignorant some of them were. More newcomers come up throughout the evening, and it says something that I was the one meeting and greeting them on my first night. The final straw came when one of the 'senior' members told me for telescope group they hardly do any observing as they don't want to.

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From the 'running the club' side of things:

I was on the verge of leaving Rugby & District AS this Feb when the renewals were due, then I was asked to be the secretary. With a new Chair as well we have started doing more of the practical side of things. We are running the Astro GCSE [full] from which we recruited seven new members of the dozen-ish we have attracted since February.

On club nights we do have a speaker for nine months of the year. Subjects have gone from the zero-point energy of a vacuum [i followed the first 15 minutes, then every other word and finally one word in ten] to sundials via the historical figures in astronomy and 'member's evenings' where we all do a bit.

Club nights are usually busy for the committee. We have a lot to sort out and although we try to meet and greet people we are expecting it is difficult to be able to do so. Once someone has left their details I will email them within a couple of days with a 'welcome pack' and add them to the mailing list and there is usually a weekly email to keep everyone in touch.

Over the last couple of years we have had a lot of imaging presentations, this year we have had two and next probably none as we have saturated ourselves [behave]. Because of feedback we are running a 'pre meeting meeting' for an hour before the meeting in the pub over the road for a more social side and to help out newcomers. We have taken mobile numbers of the members for a text based alert system for observing [either short notice or cancelling a planned one because of weather] and started up a quarterly newsletter,which I post on here a month after it is sent out to the members.

You cannot please all of the people all of the time. We have a member who produces images of near Hubble quality from his garden and who goes to the 'states for imaging holidays. Our chair has a PhD and is a consultant for the BBC. We have other talented people as well. This may be intimidating to the newcomer so we have observing challenges that go from the naked eye to CCD/SLR via binoculars, scopes and webcams.

I am always looking to make new members welcome and stop them from leaving, by force or kidnapping if neccessary. I have asked 'what would you want from an astro soc?' on here and used the answers to help guide the club, along with suggestions from members. I will also nick ideas from this thread as well.

There is a place for web-based 'clubs', but I am still struggling with Deep Sky Stacker, I have tried all the tricks mentioned on here and it is probably one, simple thing that can be resolved in ten seconds by someone saying 'not like that you idiot, like this' and away I go. We've had a club member repair mounts in a couple of minutes [four at the last count since January] that would have meant trogging to a shop and a wait to get your mount back while a worm drive was nipped up or a loose drive pinion was refitted.

Finally, if you are in a club and you are thinking of leaving tell the organisers what you are not happy with-and better still offer to help out. I would rather have someone bend my ear for half an hour than walk and say nothing.

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All the elitists need to remember that they were a newbie once !

Anyway, I think that I've joined the best astro club there is. It's located right here !

From the comfort of of my settee I can ask any question, no matter how trivial, and I can ask it without feeling that I may be looked down on or thick or anything like that.

Thats why I wont be joining any astroclubs !

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I also go to BAS and in fact I am doing a practical talk on my time refurbishing a little scope this Friday...

I have always found them welcoming to me :laugh: ..even though I am an amateur visual observer....and consider that perhaps I do not have much to offer. :embarassed: ????..I do struggle to get in to Bristol as I am a long way out and have family commitments etc..

As part of my talk I will try to inspire any visitors or new to the hobby people in the audience!


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Let me guess? It was full of old men that smell of wee?

Depending on where you live you might be better off with one of the newer style organisations that meet regularly under dark skies to share experiences, telescopes, knowledge and friendship.

I don't think there are any near you in Bristol though... maybe start one or someone else might know of an observation group near the M5 somewhere?

Good luck!


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I think, speaking from my experience, that the key to an outgoing and friendly club is to find a room to meet in that has a bar :D

We meet every week even though there aren't always talks on. We just have a pint and a chat or, if it's clear, get the club's scopes out. Newcomers often bring their scope along for setting up advice and I've never seen anyone not being given plenty of assistance.

Subs are just £1 a week and that goes towards speakers, equipment for the club and outreach work at schools. The room comes free apart from a £5 annual fees per person to be a member (it's a football club) and the cost of the drinks.

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Last night's meeting of R&DAS:

1830-1930, pre meeting meeting in the pub over the road for a general chat.

1930-2030. Neil Parker on the ING telescopes, nothing overly technical but an insight into the efforts involved in building a blooming big scope in a place where there aren't any roads.

2030-2100. Tea up

2100-2130. Society news, things to observe for the next month and member's images.

30-ish in attendance, pretty much every member we have-and we are expanding.

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