There’s an old adage that “A joy that’s shared is a joy doubled.” Stargazers love to share the heavens with others—especially newcomers to the hobby. To experience this for yourself, why not plan to attend an astronomy club meeting near you? And this month is a perfect time since nearly all of these groups are celebrating the biannual Astronomy Day with events like those described below.
Astronomy Day began in 1973 nationally but has since been celebrated internationally as well. It’s offered twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall. The first this year will occur on Saturday, May 11th. Thousands attend these events all across the country. Activities typically include daytime solar observing using telescopes equipped with special safe filters, and nighttime stargazing with a wide variety of sizes, types, and brands of telescopes. (If you are thinking of buying a telescope, this gives you an ideal opportunity to try out various scopes for yourself.)
You may also see demonstrations of telescope-making involving the grinding, polishing, and testing of mirrors. Many clubs offer telescope-making classes as part of membership. For example, one of the oldest and most active of these is the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, which meets monthly at Harvard Observatory but has its own clubhouse, optical shop, and observatories. While telescopes today are much more
affordable (see the scientificonline.com site) than back in the heyday of telescope-
making, many still find it very satisfying to view the heavens with an instrument they have actually made themselves with their own hands. I can personally attest to this, having built my entirely homemade 6-inch reflector at my astronomy club’s shop at Pittsburgh’s Buhl Planetarium some 60 years ago as a teenager! Many such planetariums offer special sky shows as part of the celebration, and some observatories have open house nights for public viewing then as well.
You could call your local planetarium to check their schedule of events if you have one and to see if an astronomy club meets there. Others advertise their meetings and activities in the local papers. But the best way is to go to this comprehensive web site offered by Sky & Telescope magazine:
There’s also the 2019 listing of astronomy clubs at Go Astronomy at:
Many have made lasting friendships at these events—and more than a few couples have attributed their marriages to having met their future spouse “under the stars.”
— James Mullaney
Former assistant editor at Sky & Telescope magazine and author of 10 books on
stargazing. His latest, Celebrating the Universe!, is available from HayHouse.com.