Astronomy clubs offer several positive benefits for the backyard (or professional) astronomer. While it is human nature to be solitary, there are a great many benefits to joining a group or club. This may not be an easy task for some folks because, in reality, we're sure many of our problems in life stem from "other people". Well, that is true sometimes, but when we take an honest look at ourselves, we should quickly realize that we're not perfect and being around others of like interest has a very positive effect on learning and experience. Another tremendous benefit is developing friendships - imagine that! Let's take a look at several benefits to joining an astronomy club.
The first is access to great observing locations. This is a direct result of the networking function of the club - the ability to scout a large area of possible observing platforms. If the membership is large enough, you can bet that there will be a surplus of great places the members go to regularly that you may not have even know existed. Maybe a member has a family member that owns a farm within an hour's drive. Not only can you find an open pasture, you might even get fresh, hot coffee or hot chocolate to boot!
The second is being around more experienced astronomers. There is little argument to the fact that when you are around others who are more experienced than you are, you're own skills will rise to the occasion. This principle is true for most human endeavors, whether raising children, playing sports, or looking for Venus. Just one note here - to get the most out of this, you must be humble and teachable. Acknowledge that you don't know everything and be willing to take criticism, no matter how it is offered. Some people are just plain cranky and even their advice can be rudely delivered, but do yourself a favor and find the diamond in that rough.
The third is having access to OPE - "Other People's Equipment". Believe it or not, the average amateur astronomer has more than one telescope. Some are die-hard fans of one brand or another. You name it, Meade, Celestron, Zhumell, Vixen, and others, they all have their loyal customer base. If you are in the market for your first (or third!) telescope, there is nothing more valuable that hands-on experience with different brands and models offered by non interested parties that will give you honest advice and recommendations.
Joining an astronomy club has a multitude of benefits for the new or experienced astronomer. My advice is to visit a few different clubs before you settle on membership in any one club. Make sure the club has like-minded members. If you are a hard-core stargazer, find one that is committed to observing together on a regular basis. Determine what is important to you and find out what benefits you may be able to bring to the club. I know you'll be the better astronomer for it.
Doug Garrett is a writer for a Celestron Telescope Review [http://www.best-telescope-reviews.com] site where you can find a review of the top selling Celestron 9.25 [http://www.best-telescope-reviews.com] telescopes, the premium Celestron NexStar [http://www.best-telescope-reviews.com] telescope series, and others. If you are looking to compare the latest offerings in telescope technology, please visit best-telescope-reviews.com right now.
Is it possible for a 6" scope to have the same focal length as a 12" scope?
I have a nexstar 6" celestron and a 12" dobsonian skywatcher and I swear they both have a focal length of 1500mm. I seems strange to me that something that I can easily carry in my hands has the same focal length as something almost as tall as I am. Any enlightenment will be appreciated.
Hi Yes, any focal length just means the distance from the objective to where the image forms (comes into focus). What will be different is the f/stop. Say f/5 vs f/10.
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