Some people might think the idea, of organizing a group of people to get together for the solitary activity of looking through a telescope, to be a bit of a contradiction. But when you’re involved in a hobby, with a technical aspect and a learning curve, it’s never a bad idea to put yourself in the company of people with experiences in what you’re interested in.
There are a lot of reasons for amateur astronomers to join an astronomy club of like-minded individuals. For a lot of people, it’s getting some advice and ideas to help them through their new hobby’s learning curve. It answers that question some people have after getting a telescope: now what? It’s also a chance to help promote science in your community, by volunteering at events organized by your astronomy club. Then there’s the social aspect; the opportunity to mix with a variety of people who share an interest in astronomy. For most amateur astronomers it’s a mixture of all three.
For me, joining an astronomy club was a mixture of all three reasons. I started out as a solo amateur astronomer, but that changed, after attending a weekend star party put on by the local astronomy club. I joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Victoria Centre) and by doing so got a lot more out of being an amateur astronomer. RASC has 29 centres across Canada and there are numerous other astronomy clubs (like the Cowichan Starfinders on Vancouver Island). Each of these local groups provides members with the chance to learn more about their hobby, social events, and volunteering opportunities to give back to the community. If you live in an area, where urban light pollution is a problem, these are also the people who can give you advice about the best places to go for stargazing.
As a member of the RASC Victoria Centre, I’m looking forward to doing some observing this weekend, with other observers, to take advantage of the clear skies. On Saturday, I’ll be joining a lot of other volunteers to do astronomy public outreach for a Beaver Scout event. We just wrapped up our last Astronomy Cafe for the season, with the Monday social gatherings returning again in September. Friday after this (June 6th), weather permitting, we’ll be out with our telescopes at Cattle Point, one of only two urban star parks in Canada. Our monthly club meeting will be happening in a couple of weeks, with a guest speaker to educate and inform on the subject of astronomy. On the July 25-27 weekend we’ll be hosting the annual RASCals Star Party in Metchosin, for people who want to drop by or camp for the weekend under the stars. On the August 22-24th weekend, the Cowichan Starfinders astronomy club will be putting on a star party of their own, near Duncan.
It’s the 100th Anniversary of RASC Victoria Centre and to honour the occasion Victoria is hosting the 2014 RASC General Assembly. This is a conference for astronomers from across Canada, taking place at the University of Victoria, from June 26-30th. There will be lots to do, food, and numerous speakers, including the host of Quirks and Quarks: Bob McDonald. For members of RASC and people thinking about joining RASC, there’s still time to register for the General Assembly.
Photograph of the heart of the Orion Nebula, taken with Canon T3i, using a Hydrogen-Alpha Filter, through a 127mm apochromatic refractor.