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Advice on starting up an Astronomy club....


alowen
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Morning, I have recently noticed that there is a huge lack of any type of Astronomical club / society in the Penzance area. So after a while of searching I have decided on possibly starting one up.

Does anyone have any advice or tips on how to go about this?

I'm aware iI need to find a meeting hall initially and then, well...what next? I have some good dark sites in the area that we could use for observing.

Any advice appreciated.

Al

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Been the founder member of a new group and then joint founder member of a second when we merged two groups together shortly after, so hope the following helps.

1) - venue - locate a reasonably priced venue that is easy to get to. Most community centres, village halls, tend to be ideal. Depending on where you are and whats available I would steer clear of cub / scout huts.

2) - Subscriptions - To cover running costs you need to charge a subscription or membership fee. This will depend on what your costs are and what you are offering people for the membership. On both occasions we charged an annual fee for membership and then a small £1.50 - £2.00 entry fee to each meeting. This way those who were based a distance away and couldn't attend each meeting were not supplementing those that did

3) - Committee - You need to form a committee. If you know of others who want to get involved this helps, else you kick things off yourself and then invite people to stand as membership increases, so that after 3 months you have a basic structure (Chair person, secretary, treasurer). Always try and keep the committee small, and odd numbers which helps when voting.

4) - meetings - you need to draw the public in so best way is to arrange a guest speaker at monthly meetings. There are lots of speakers available and we found the FAS handbook one of the best sources for this.

5) - Advertise - let your local rag know that you are forming a group (association or society) - often they will send their photographer around and you'll get a nice photo and several column inches detailing what you are trying to do and when the first meeting is and how is giving the talk...

6) - Website - Look at designing a web site and find a cheap host. Try not to use the free sites which plaster your site with advertising banners - again build this into your costings

7) - Newsletters - we found that a regular monthly newsletter with info on what you've done at past events, reviews of equipment and forthcoming events and meetings will keep membership informed, and for those who can't attend meetings regularly feel they are still getting something back for their money.

8) - Affiliation - once founded, affiliate the association / society to the FAS (Federation of Astronomical Societies) and possibly the BAA. - this often means that you members will get copies of their newsletters and in tern have an associate membership of them - again its providing a return for their membership fee

9) - Star parties - try and find a local site that you can use for private and public observing sessions - again, let the local paper and radio know when a public event is taking place

10) - Insurance - often through the BAA / FAS you can get cheap public liability insurance - this is a must have - You wouldn't want someone trying to sue you if an accident happened whilst a member, or member of the public was attending a society event. Again you build this cost into the annual membership fee.

Hope that helps

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Maybe you could start online either here or some networking site like meetup, and see how many people are interested...then when enough people are involved, you can brainstorm to decide where to take it from there. Hope this helps, and good luck. :D

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Al,

If it's any inspiration, have a look at the LDAS website Welcome to Letchworth & District Astronomical Society

Basically in 1984 I formed the Welwyn, and District Astronomical Assoc, which after about a year merged with the North Herts A.A to form the Stevenage and District A.S

We were based in Stevenage and had around 50 members at our peak. Then in early 90's whilst I had the job of starting our observatory project we struck a deal with a local corporation in Letchworth, which required us to move and re-name ourselves to the Letchworth and District A.S. I've since resigned from the committee but was granted an honorary membership for my contribution in getting the observatory built.

Since then the society under it's present committee has grown and now has over 120 members, has regular events and has just upgraded the scope in the observatory by securing a £3000 grant.

If you have any questions, please drop me a PM and I'll try to help you

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I belong to two types of society/club. One is traditional with meeting hall, lectures, monthly publication and as a charity, obliged to hold public outreach events. The other takes the form of an observers group which meets every three months in a prestigious club house (...read 'the pub':D) but who regularly meet up via email to do some observing.

My advice to you would be to decide what you want your astro club to do? If you want to 'do' astronomy be it observing or imaging, construct your group along the lines of the second model. The problem with the first is that a hall has to be paid for, which necessitates subs, bank account etc. If you are thinking about some form of public outreach, bare in mind the cost of public liability and the time preparing risk assessments etc. I think you can access cheap insurance via the BAS or similar body but that will necessitate constructing a formal society, (chairman, treasurer and secretary). You wouldn't think that 'sharing' would involve so much admin.

Any 'formal' way of running your group will ultimately require you pulling it all together and the one who maintains it which might prove to be an onerous task. I see this type of organization fading away in the future. The costs of increasing rents (more subs) the difficulty in booking the right speaker at the right time (not for free) and the power of the internet with up to date images and news, has meant that many societies are not attracting younger members to replace those that sadly pass on. You can access all the information you need at home including this great forum. I personally haven't found societies to be that friendly and have found it even harder to find anyone actually doing astronomy. They seem to be more about socialising which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it can be a frustrating place if you want someone to run through observing techniques or to tell you about measuring double stars.

I would recommend forming an observing group, keeping it very relaxed with the occasional pint, with the sole aim of creating a group that consists of friendly and enthusiastic people who get out there and DO astronomy. There are a number of observing groups on here and I believe this is the way that 'clubs' will look in the future. The only 'admin' that might be worth considering is creating a web page to tell everyone that you exist and how to get in contact. You might want to think about where you observe, negotiating with a farmer about access to a piece of land etc so that you have your own place to go which would be great.

Clear skies and hope you get it off the ground!

James

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The Pirate FM website has a 'What's on' page that let's you add events to.

Atlantic FM tends to be quite kind to local groups and clubs in helping to spread the word. Compared to the rest of it's content they could be persuaded to make a small feature out if it instead - they were quite keen to announce the partial eclipse in January so maybe there's a closet star gazer at Atlantic towers...

I second Malc-c's suggestion of a website - even if it's a standard WordPress hosted website (Free) one. It'll provide an excellent source to keep any and all info on the club.

Give us a shout when you've got some more info - I live in West Cornwall and have been looking out for a local club or society to join for a couple of months now :D

Cheers

Richard

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Plenty to ponder on here, folks! Perhaps an informal observer group might be the better way to start, then if there is a sufficient number interested in forming a society malc-c's information will be invaluable. :-)

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Good Luck Al

I hope you go for it and make it a success.

When I ventured back into astronomy (for a second time) I knew I would need to try and find a club or forum or both.

Found the forum :D

Then went looking for a club.

An SGL forum member "Blackheart" started asking about ideas for his club and I quickly noticed that he ws just up the road (20 mile) from me.

So now I pop along once a month to his meetings.

He held an open evening where he invited people to bring whatever scope they had.

We set up and he went round explaining each one to the public that were there ( I think around 30 people turned up !)

Then as it was a clear night the scopes went outside.

So it can be done and the interest can be generated.

I can't imagine any objections to a "heads up" on here for your first meeting ?

Again, Good Luck and hope it goes well

Regards

Neil

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  • 2 months later...

I live in Pendeen West Cornwall, and have the same thoughts.. there seems to be some interest in this area. I have recently tried to get a response to starting a club/society, but had no contact yet?

I'm sending a PM to all in west cornwall and hopefully we may sow the seeds for something new!

Syzygy.

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I'd be inclined to start a social group here for keen observers in your area. Organise them all to explore the area at the weekend to look for a cheap dark site (maybe a farmers field, cricket pitch, car park, or a model flying club) with a pub not too far away.

You can all meet at the pub to start with to judge numbers and inspect the site after a few beers - then if you're all agreed its a good site, start negotiations. Try and get a deal that divides into a cheap annual subscription between the number you feel are keen.

Then keep your eye on the weather forecast and off you go - simples :D

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Thanks for the advice Brantuk. Pub nearby sounds good... there a plenty of areas around the Penwith area for observing... some with no light pollution at all.

I think there are many keen astronomers in this area.... but most probably like to view from the comforts of their own gardens? But I feel that being part of a group with one interest in mind is a good thing... would love to organise group BBQ's, suppers, etc and meet in what can only be described as an amazing part of the country!

Syzygy.

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At least if you all get caught out by the weather during observing you can head to the pub for a natter. Meeting in an obs group is fabulous. I've learned a heck of a lot with EMS - really nice bunch of folks and it's mushroomed into socials at summer and xmas, venue for talks and demos, and organising block bookings for star parties and astro events.

We allways get an average of around ten at an obs session - even the ones with observatories come with a grab and go setup. Loads of fun - best thing you'll ever do astro wise :D

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Have you thought about the Cornwall AS - depends on where you live but does not seem too far from Penzance (though i'm not good at the geography of Cornwall).

Traditional societies and observing groups both have their merits. I don't think the traditional societies will disappear anytime soon - as far as I can tell, they are all growing at the moment... Not all members of societies are active observers - but they like the lectures and the talks, and the occassional chance to look through a scope. SO if you widen your audience, you will get a better turn-out.

Callum

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As the club is to be centered around the Penzance area I would say that regular monthly meeting is one thing, but a guest speaker is another.

Penzance is a long way off the beaten track.

The example of LDAS is fine, but Cambridge Institute of Astronomy is 23 miles North East away and Hatfield University is about the same straight down the A1. So 2 universities offering astronomy at degree and PhD level within 40 minutes, door to door, Penzance is a bit different.

To get public first there has to be suficent public to get. Truro is the next major place and that is 30 miles. Cambourne and Redruth are a bit closer but smaller.

If you can then I would suggest a club on the East side of Penzance, little easier for potential people from St Ives, Cambourne, Redruth.

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I started Bedford AS back in 1987. I made contact with the founder members through a poster in the local library and putting a small ad in the SPA and BAA publications. Once contact was made, we started out as a few like-minded people who met once a month for observing. This escalated into great friendships and we decided to meet once a month in a pub for discussing what the "Society" should do (e.g. organise public observing sessions to attract more members) as well as the observing nights, hence a Committee was formed. Since then it's gone from strength to strength.

Good luck with your venture.

It can be hard work, but the benefits of having a local group of enthusiasts and making great friendships and sociable observing just cannot be beaten.

Dave

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