Jump to content


Photo

my negative experience in an Astronomy club

  • Please log in to reply
82 replies to this topic

#1 Philler

Philler

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 533
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Kansas, USA

Posted 15 September 2013 - 02:01 AM

First off, I am sure that most astronomy clubs are good, they create interest in the universe, help people pursue their interest in the hobby, learn the sky, create awareness of LP, educate the public..and so on.
Second, I have not been a member of a club in over ten years, (I was in this club from about 1988 to 1998) and I quit it because I became very turned off to some things in this club (I will not mention the club's name)
I do encourage you to at least look into one.
But here is the down side I experienced. This large club was very cliqueish. Some of the members treated me like, what was I doing here? As time went along you soon realized that you were either in one of two catagories: you were either IN the in crowd of their clique, or you were OUT. And no matter how much you volunteered your time with public star parties and such, wasn't going to change this. Of course they were glad for you to pay you membership fee each year, I think it was 30 dollars or so then, I sure it's at least 50 or 60 now. But was it worth it?
They didn't really have their own dark sky site. They did have an observatory, but it was part of a public park where nighttime softball games and soccer games were played fairly regularly. And as time went on, expanding suburbs caused more and more LP there.
When I asked other members about other dark sky places they could only recommend places on public property.
There was this other area about 40 miles east of there that the club held public star parties occasionally at that seemed better than the one where their observatory was located. And I had even brought my scope and helped at a public star party there once. I wasn't sure that I could just go there on my own with my scope and set up and do my own observing without permission. So I decided to call the club president. And get this: He flew into a rage and told me in so many words that it was not the purpose of the club for us to just pursue our own observing hobby, but that the club's purpose with to educate and enlighten the public. I hung up on him and was ready to never be a part of this club again. But I was planning on going to the Texas Star Party and it was easier to just keep my Astronomical League membership. I did go to the TSP and I got a chance to meet other people from other clubs. I told them some of the things about this "club" I was in and they were in SHOCK. They said, "you mean this club doesn't even have it's own dark sky site JUST for members and guests, why do you stay in it?" I don't remember telling them about my experience with this president of this so called club. Shortly after the TSP I did not renew
my membership and stayed away from it since. I looked at their web site a few months ago and they now do have a dark sky site on private property.
Again, I am not writing this to scare anyone away from joining an astronomy club. I am saying I wouldn't just go to a couple of meetings and join one because you may think that 's the thing to do. I would really check them out, keep going to meetings, star parties, and get to know the members and leadership and decide if it's really for you. And most of all, find out what they are all about. By that I mean find out what the club's purpose or mission statement is. If a big part of it is helping and enhancing the pursuit of your astronomy hobby, then that's great. But if the club's purpose is public education, enlightenment, awareness and your personal "scoping" enjoyment is secondary to this then this should send up a big red flag unless this is your big goal in your amateur astronomy hobby. There is nothing etched in stone--no cardinal rule that says you have to be in a club to enjoy this wonderful hobby. I am sure there are amateur astronomers who have either never been in a club, no desire to be in one, used to be in one, or like me, got really turned off and quit a club.

#2 edwincjones

edwincjones

    Close Enough

  • *****
  • Posts: 8699
  • Joined: 10 Apr 2004

Posted 15 September 2013 - 05:32 AM

as you said in the beginning
"most astronony clubs are good"
but some are not,
some just do no click with all
I hope that you have tried others

edj



#3 Philler

Philler

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 533
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Kansas, USA

Posted 15 September 2013 - 10:13 AM

Unfortunately there is only one club in my area, the one I left. The other one is too far away to be a part of with meetings, get togethers and such.

#4 Brett Carlson

Brett Carlson

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 276
  • Joined: 12 Dec 2011
  • Loc: Rochester, NY

Posted 15 September 2013 - 05:01 PM

I guess I'm lucky....my experiencewithrour local club is the exact opposite. Even though I was a bit shy at first...all the members in my group took me in and have all been extremely nice and helpful. We have a great semi dark sky site and phenomenal site managers that keep things running smooth.

I'm thinking that your experiences are not the norm in this hobby. I've never been around a better group ever.
  • darg likes this

#5 star drop

star drop

    contra contrail

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 72964
  • Joined: 02 Feb 2008
  • Loc: Snow Plop, WNY

Posted 16 September 2013 - 09:22 AM

I belonged to a club for two years and left because of pretty much the same thing. The controlling boards priorities were and still are:
1) Christmas Party
2) Board member star parties in the city with adult beverages.
3) Public events with board members conspicuously absent.
4) Fend for yourself.

#6 Zamboni

Zamboni

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 901
  • Joined: 03 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Colorado Springs

Posted 16 September 2013 - 10:23 AM

I've left more than one club for similar reasons, and largely eschewed astronomy clubs for this very reason until I got into my current club, which is by far the most welcoming and well-rounded club I've ever been involved in.

Unfortunately, this cliqueish attitude is prevalent in SO MANY clubs I've encountered over the years that I'm not at all surprised that the hobby is in decline. I wish leaders in these clubs would wake up and realize the attitudes are actually discouraging people from getting involved in the hobby. They whinge about the hobby declining and "graying" but fail to realize that this insular attitude is doing more damage than the smartphones and video games and social networking and hippity hop music that they choose to blame.

As for video games being responsible for a decline in interest, you wouldn't believe how many parents I've talked to at outreach events who's kids got interested in space science by playing Kerbal Space Program. It's amazing.

Anyhoo, deviated from the topic a bit, but this is a subject that has been eating at me for some time.

#7 Joe F Gafford

Joe F Gafford

    Vanguard

  • -----
  • Posts: 2088
  • Joined: 15 Dec 2006
  • Loc: Denver, Colorado, US

Posted 16 September 2013 - 11:33 AM

I am a board member for the past 20 years at a large club. I seen the changes of leadership in that time. It took me two years to get elected to the board. There was a clique back then, but mild compared to what was said here. Over the years when there was fresh blood running for board, more and more of the older board withdrew their nominations to give a better chance for the new members to run.

We have a DSS which is up for renewal of lease in a few years. We have some members who join just for for the DSS, and others for public outreach. I am doing both. I am lucky here. This club wasn't this way in the 50's and 60's, it was very exclusive. Back then, you would have to attend the general meetings twice monthly and then be sponsored for membership by a senior member. In the 1950's and early 60's, you would also have to take a test! This was normal for any kind of club back then.

Joe

#8 Steven Aggas

Steven Aggas

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 836
  • Joined: 15 Apr 2008
  • Loc: Arizona

Posted 16 September 2013 - 02:36 PM

Philler, I'd suggest starting a small group of your own. Not via Craigslist, but rather put your scope on the front sidewalk. You will find the people who walk up and have an interest like you. The conversations will start up, centered on astronomy....

Best,
Steven

#9 kfiscus

kfiscus

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2297
  • Joined: 09 Jul 2012
  • Loc: Albert Lea, MN, USA

Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:29 PM

I would question the assertion that our hobby is in decline.

#10 Zamboni

Zamboni

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 901
  • Joined: 03 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Colorado Springs

Posted 16 September 2013 - 07:09 PM

The demographics in the hobby are skewing older and older every year. Membership decreases every year for astronomy clubs all around the country. Fewer and fewer high schools and colleges have astronomy clubs due to lack of interest. Attendance at national star parties is decreasing each year. If that isn't a decline, I don't know what is.

The Astronomical League magazine devoted two issues to the subject this year, and they're a quarterly!

#11 Stacy

Stacy

    Star Partyer

  • *****
  • Posts: 5037
  • Joined: 15 Sep 2002
  • Loc: Seattle, WA

Posted 16 September 2013 - 07:33 PM

As the black of night fades to shades of grey, there is less brilliance in the impossibly distant stars to capture the imagination and interest of a youth obsessed with tiny, brilliant screens that are never further than arms reach. :ubetcha:

Stacy

#12 Zamboni

Zamboni

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 901
  • Joined: 03 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Colorado Springs

Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:43 PM

I think that argument is problematic too. There have always been new forms of technology and media, and new media and technology have ALWAYS been blamed on declining interest in various hobbies, in spite of the fact that they can be used VERY effectively to get people interested in Astronomy and Space Science. That's IF and ONLY IF the people responsible for getting a new generation interested CHOOSES to use the new technology and media effectively. The problem is nobody is doing it, and the attitude of most amateur astronomers is so fundamentally hostile towards new forms of technology and media that they willfully overlook or straight-up bash them instead of using them effectively.

In the late seventies as the space program was winding down after the moon race, there was a decline in fresh interest in the hobby. I've seen articles from that time blaming television as a distraction, but then COSMOS and Star Trek: TNG came along and got a whole new generation interested in space (myself included). Clearly it was the way television was being used, rather than television itself, that was at the heart of the issue. Like I said before, I've even seen video games like Kerbal Space Program being effectively used to generate interest in space science, as well as smartphone apps, so to blame technology and media as a whole is just plain silly. I've seen arguments on these very forums blaming pop music and iPods on declining interest. That's like blaming Irving Berlin and the phonograph; pure unadulterated lunacy.

This cognitive dissonance runs really deep. A good example of this negativity towards media being used effectively is the obscene amount of hostility I've seen directed at the new COSMOS series on these forums. It's unbelievably sad because everybody is so concerned about how it's going to mess with their nostalgia trip about the original that they're failing to see how important it is. Here's some hard truths: Scientific literacy in the US is at an all-time low. If you were to just rebroadcast the original, NOBODY would watch it except people who have already seen it. It NEEDS updating if you're going to expose a new generation to it. Second, everybody is complaining about the network airing it and asking why it can't be shown on PBS. Well, if you put a modern COSMOS on PBS, the only people who would watch it would be people who would be interested in watching the original ANYWAY. If you want it exposed to as wide an audience as possible, you have to stay away from public television. Sad, yes, but true. It's foolish to argue otherwise. Third, and this is a big one: If successful, the new COSMOS could reinvigorate interest in Astronomy like nothing else in the last three decades. Amateur astronomers love to complain about how the hobby is declining, but the moment somebody says "let's do something about it on national TV" they reject it out of hand and revert to an insular, nostalgia-fest pity party.

I love amateur astronomy more than anything, but the hobby and the community need to evolve or die. The insular clique mentality of FAR TOO MANY astronomy clubs, combined with an outright hostility towards new media that could be used to promote the hobby is turning potentially interested people away. I've seen it myself time and time again when talking to people at outreach events. When I was doing outreach in the Phoenix area, I talked to a lot of people who had telescopes (good ones, not Christmas trash) at home and never learned how to properly use them. I would recommend that they join an astronomy club, and they would proceed to tell me that they had tried and that the members had looked down on them for reasons as silly as starting out with a go-to telescope. They felt unwelcome, and were quickly turned off from the hobby permanently.

THIS NEEDS TO STOP. The interest in astronomy is THERE. The tools to keep people interested ARE RIGHT THERE. Unfortunately, it's the culture of the amateur astronomy community itself that's turning interested people away.

I didn't really want to go off on a rant, but this is something that has been making me increasingly angry for years. Blaming every little advance in technology for a loss of interest is like somebody in the early sixties blaming an increase in crime rates on the way Elvis shook his hips. At best it reeks of moral panic, and It's shifting the blame to a potentially valuable tool that astronomers are CHOOSING NOT TO USE to generate interest.

Stepping off my soapbox now.

#13 Stacy

Stacy

    Star Partyer

  • *****
  • Posts: 5037
  • Joined: 15 Sep 2002
  • Loc: Seattle, WA

Posted 16 September 2013 - 09:37 PM

I grew up in the 60's and stumbled through the 70's. I excelled at science but was never exposed to astronomy as a study or a hobby or anything else. I had an interest in the unknown of space, but that did not equate in a desire to observe the night sky. I looked at the moon one night when there were men on it. I had no thought to try to actually see them. :lol:.

My interest in astronomy started in my 40's when my wife bought me an 8" Orion Dob for my birthday.

After I got my telescope I went to a Seattle Astronomical Society meeting. Pretty much felt invisible. Never went back.

I don't think a lot has changed in the last 50 years as far as cultivating new astronomers.

JMHO.

Stacy

#14 Zamboni

Zamboni

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 901
  • Joined: 03 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Colorado Springs

Posted 16 September 2013 - 10:09 PM

Some clubs go out of their way to make new members feel welcome and involved. My current club is that way. Unfortunately, it's prety much the only club I've tried that has been that way (out of five).

This really needs to change quickly. The "get off my lawn" mentality is going to kill the hobby.

#15 Joe F Gafford

Joe F Gafford

    Vanguard

  • -----
  • Posts: 2088
  • Joined: 15 Dec 2006
  • Loc: Denver, Colorado, US

Posted 16 September 2013 - 10:13 PM

My club has started to advertise on social media with good results. Try getting space in the local paper anymore. If our Chamberlin Observatory events gets in the paper, it is on the south side edition of the paper and not on the several other sections of the metro area.
Our club has about 400 members and growing. Some people join only for a year, but we get the few that latches on and stay. One of these came in because he saw Cosmos. Larry was a teacher and he quickly moved up and became club president in two stretches over ten years. A young lady showed up at our monthly Open House and asked simple questions at first and she got into it very quickly. Me, Larry and some others helped this young lady along because she really soaking these things up. She was elected to the board, then vice president, then president when Larry got ill. She was elected president on the following term. She left afterwards to SoCal to marry her boyfriend and she got on at Griffith as volunteer operator on the 12" Zeiss right after the big renovation. Then she got on at Mt. Wilson as part time maintenence on the bubbly Hooker 100" and then at JPL as a tour guide. My sister and I had her last year while we toured JPL. My sister asked her on how she got into astronomy and she turned in my direction and did a double point at me and said "He and some others at the DAS got me insterested". I melted at that. What comes around....
She is still working at these 3 places.

Joe

#16 Zamboni

Zamboni

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 901
  • Joined: 03 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Colorado Springs

Posted 16 September 2013 - 10:29 PM

That's a darn good example of what needs to happen. We're lucky here in the springs in that our club has a good relationship with the local media and helps publicize a lot of our events. We're trying to increase our social media presence a bit, and I think there's room for improvement in that arena. We're also setting up Google+ hangouts to do video broadcast of our meetings so things like our lectures and seminars can be viewed by people all over the country. I think that will be a really big boon in the future.

We're trying to organize a series of outreach events based around the Cosmos broadcasts starting in February. We're going to have viewing parties at a local microbrewery followed by observing sessions in the parking lot. I think it's important to have some outreach that isn't exclusively kid and family oriented so we can re-hook adults who might have had an interest as kids and gotten pulled away from it for one reason or another.

I'm a tobacco company astronomer. Do everything I can to get as many people hopelessly addicted as possible by whatever means necessary. I'm a diabolical pusher.

#17 kfiscus

kfiscus

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2297
  • Joined: 09 Jul 2012
  • Loc: Albert Lea, MN, USA

Posted 16 September 2013 - 10:54 PM

If I'm hearing y'all correctly, 'as astronomy clubs go- so goes amateur astronomy'. I respectfully disagree. If every astronomy club, good and bad, vanished, I think amateur astronomy would continue with barely a pause. We have the web now...(And I'm practically a Luddite!)

#18 Philler

Philler

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 533
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Kansas, USA

Posted 17 September 2013 - 02:32 AM

Thanks for your replies.
As I said, I won't tell the name of my former club, but instead I will tell you that it's in the Kansas City area where I live. From that you could easily find out on the web the name of it along with other info on their site. At the time I was still a member, from about 1988 to 1998, it had I think about 250 to 300 members. I think now it has over 350. I don't think I ever saw even half of this 250 to 300. I think they liked to hand out memberships to celebrities. They would get like a local TV weather forecaster to speak at a monthly meeting and give him a free membership. All past club presidents were lifetime members for free. I heard they even wheeled poor old Clyde Tombaugh into a meeting shortly before he passed away and gave him a membership. I don't imagine he was too impressed with them. Maybe that club president I mentioned should have scolded him about spending too much time looking for Pluto. And explained that the purpose of this club was to make sure all the Boy Scouts get to look through his scope and see the Coat Hanger, the flag on the Moon, and the Double Cluster, and not spend his time searching for another planet X. They even got David Levy to come so they could show off their club observatory and probably gave him a free membership too. They practically kissed the ground he walked on! Needless to say, I don't think Levy was impressed with their observatory or them. I'm sure they didn't dare tell him his real duty was helping at public star parties and not chasing down comets. My theory is that most of these paper members on their rolls just paid their dues or got it for free, but never got involved. But it's good advertising for the club to say, "we've got 300 plus members."
I was doing variable star observing at one time mostly cataclismics, but I lost interest. And I was not the only renegade in this club. We had one supernova hunter. We also had a very dedicated occultation and star graze guy who would try to organized and recruit for these trips to observe these grazes.

Anyway, I think I might google up this club's site and if it looks like they have changed and are putting the amateur astronomy hobbiest and his endevours and passion FIRST and FOREMOST--just as this forum here does--then I may go to one of their monthly meetings, check them out, and MAYBE see about giving them a second chance.

#19 core

core

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1506
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2008
  • Loc: Mostly in Norman, OK

Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:10 AM

My sympathies, but you're talking about events 15 years ago, with no updates in the intervening years? In the absence of information or contact, it can sometimes be all too easy for us to think out other people's actions. With any human interaction, there'll always be clubs (and shops, etc) that just we just find ourselves not fitting in, being uncomfortable, or agreeable with our own outlook - the universe is a big place and it's out there - move on and enjoy it!

#20 Philler

Philler

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 533
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Kansas, USA

Posted 17 September 2013 - 03:39 AM

Philler, I'd suggest starting a small group of your own. Not via Craigslist, but rather put your scope on the front sidewalk. You will find the people who walk up and have an interest like you. The conversations will start up, centered on astronomy....

Best,
Steven


Thanks Steven, but I can enjoy this hobby just as much with or without a club. As far as a club--I can take it or leave it. I wouldn't need to be in a fishing club to enjoy fishing. As far as out on my driveway or sidewalk--poor place. Besides the John Dobson approach is just not in my personality.

#21 Stacy

Stacy

    Star Partyer

  • *****
  • Posts: 5037
  • Joined: 15 Sep 2002
  • Loc: Seattle, WA

Posted 17 September 2013 - 10:16 PM

As the black of night fades to shades of grey, there is less brilliance in the impossibly distant stars to capture the imagination and interest of a youth obsessed with tiny, brilliant screens that are never further than arms reach. :ubetcha:

Stacy


Some of you are so wrapped up in your own philosophy you missed my point entirely.

How can you be interested in astronomy if you have never seen stars? At my star party on Table Mountain this year we were visited by about 30 students from Tokyo. Many who had never seen stars. One by one I showed them Saturn and then M13. Their coments revealed, although incomprehensible to me through language were unmistakeably "turned on". Gasps and excited verbages revealed awakened minds. What about the millions of other young, brilliant minds in Tokyo who were not on Table Mountain that night? Who will awaken them in their light polluted environment.

The technology spin concerns a new phenomenon called the "Downward Child Syndrome" where in many countries like South Korea children are so addicted to their smart phones and texting and so-forth, they never look up. Add in the LP and it just compounds the problem. How could any of these people obtain an interest in stargazing? They don't even notice them.

#22 bluedandelion

bluedandelion

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1922
  • Joined: 17 Aug 2007
  • Loc: Hazy Hollow, Western WA

Posted 17 September 2013 - 10:58 PM

Stacy,

I remember the kids at Table Mountain.

I teach Astronomy 101 to the the phone obsessed generation. Last year I set up a scope on top of one of our college buildings in a red zone for LP. With about 25 or so students all we had time to look at was Saturn, Jupiter and a few of the brightest stars. One student said, "I'll never forget this." Another said the stars reminded him of diamonds. This leads me to believe that the younger generation has not been exposed to the night sky and that's why they are not interested.

I long for a power outage on a clear summer night so that more eyes will be opened to the wonders of the night sky.

Ajay

#23 Stacy

Stacy

    Star Partyer

  • *****
  • Posts: 5037
  • Joined: 15 Sep 2002
  • Loc: Seattle, WA

Posted 18 September 2013 - 11:50 AM

I long for a power outage on a clear summer night so that more eyes will be opened to the wonders of the night sky.

Ajay


:waytogo:

That would be awesome Ajay!

#24 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Vanguard

  • -----
  • Posts: 2484
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 18 September 2013 - 12:15 PM

During the Northridge earthquake,Los Angeles emergency services were getting phone calls from concerned citizens about the lights in the sky....Turns out it was the Milky Way.

Alex

#25 bluedandelion

bluedandelion

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1922
  • Joined: 17 Aug 2007
  • Loc: Hazy Hollow, Western WA

Posted 18 September 2013 - 07:34 PM

To the OP and to get back on topic:

I think you may have found your club, i.e., CN. I've met many CN'ers at spontaneously arranged star parties who don't belong to any other clubs. If you want a recommendation for a traditional one, why not post a request here? I am sure you'll get a lot responses. If you are in the Seattle/Puget Sound area, send me a PM and I'll send you some recommendations.

Ajay






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics