I found quoted text below in an email that was in my inbox this morning. It came from a nearby Astronomy Club and they meet every month in a xxxx(hall). I have anonymized the quoted text below for obvious reasons.
"Star Gazers...we need to take a serious assessment of our organization and the very low prospects of improving our current status.
1) our membership is down and is growing older...we just have not attracted any young people in years
2) our meeting attendance is down and decreases every month
3) our meeting place, the xxxxxx, has increased the cost of our per meeting use of the xxxxx(hall)
4) our sky observing has diminished drastically in recent years
So...maybe it is time to face what appears to be inevitable...closing the doors on xxxxxx Star Gazers...
Please respond with suggestions...for or against...we need to have a viable path to growth or make the difficult decision...thanks for you attention to this very important matter."
I am a member of a couple of astronomy clubs and each is facing the same exact problem described in this email above. So I am sure that we, the general amateur astronomy community has been facing this problem.
I, on my part, have been holding outreach events at my granddaughter's elementary school. My intention has been to attract young kids to get interested in astronomy. Attendance has been good at times but not always. The best was Great American Solar Eclipse when it was a community picnic like and we had between 500 to 800 with a fabulously festive atmosphere. The reasons for poor attendance during regular stargazing events could be as follows:
- light pollution is causing impossible to see any stars in the sky and people come expecting to see much more but get disappointed
- easy access to Internet is making kids be more interested in other activities made available on the Internet (I am guessing because when I was a kid there was no Internet and not much on the TV either. That left me looking up at the sky on most nights and hooked me on to astronomy)
- science and astronomy is not considered glamorous by today's young generation
- Internet and media in general has too many colorful photos taken by Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories or organizations which look very impressive while the view through an amateur astronomer's telescope is obviously boring, colorless and dim. Kids are unimpressed, I assume.
- There could be many more reasons (please feel free to add)
In case of both my clubs, most members I meet are not youngsters. Most are in my age group. Years ago, I got into ATM activity but today ATM is not popular among members of my local club. Who wants to push glass for months when it is possible to buy a cheap/affordable telescope that is made in China. The clubs are also facing the light pollution problems. The skies around me are Bortle class 8 or worse. I do see planets and the moon at night but not many stars in the sky. Nearest dark sky spot is Cherry Springs State Park, about 6 hours by road trip for me. I do it sometimes, may be just once in a year, but barely. Both my clubs hold regular outreach events but that has not created any growth. People do attend but they simply go home after that.
Is this the future of amateur astronomy?