Like many members of HAS, I have been interested in astronomy and science in general for most of my adult life. In 2002, I had finally gotten to that point, career well in hand and family almost grown, where I started to change my outlook on life. It was time to start thinking about a little more favorable work life balance, and to develop a hobby based on my personal interests, one that would challenge me to continue to learn and grow. I was fortunate that my neighbor at the time was then President of HAS. Because of him I joined and have been an active member ever since.
Others come to amateur astronomy via different pathways. Some get involved because a parent is an amateur astronomer who enjoys sharing their hobby. Others are parents who get involved to support a child who has a strong interest in space and astronomy and end up getting hooked themselves. Still others are those interested kids who have grown into young adults and continue to participate in an awesome hobby where they are encouraged and challenged to learn more about our universe and where we fit in it.
The point is that no matter how we become amateur astronomers, we all share a couple of things in common. We all are novices when we start out, and we are all interested in doing astronomy because it engages our minds, and captures our imaginations.
When getting started in astronomy, the challenges we face can seem a bit daunting and the learning curve can seem pretty steep. Learning how to set up and use a telescope, knowing what can be observed on any given night, and how to find it by star hopping can seem so difficult. Rest assured however that with a bit of help practice, and perseverance you can master these skills.
Just being a member of HAS however is not enough. You need to be committed and open to actively learning new things. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Most HAS members, if asked, are happy to provide advice and assistance, or point you in the direction of useful resources for learning. When you do ask for help however, please be mindful of the other members time and respectful of their equipment.
Being a part of an active astronomy club like HAS can make a world of difference in how you experience astronomy. HAS has a number of programs and organized events specifically for new astronomers, which are planned and staffed by HAS members who volunteer their time to help our less experienced members learn and become active members of our astronomy community. These include our Loaner Scope training and library of telescopes available for use by any member, our Novice programs at each monthly membership meeting, and Novice Labs conducted at our observatory site in Columbus where you will get hands on training to navigate the night sky. Seek these opportunities out and get involved in them.
There is no better way to learn than being trained to be a trainer. Once you learn a skill, volunteer to help at these events and share your newfound knowledge with others. When you pay it forward by helping others up thier own learning curve you will be exposed to new challenges and new learning opportunities yourself.
As I write this letter, our annual HAS Leadership Team planning meeting is still a week in the future. One of the main topics we will be working on at this meeting is what new novice training programs we might initiate, and how we can make all our training programs and events more easily accessible to our newest members.
Keep on the lookout, as we will communicate any changes or new programs to our members. And if you have any comments about our novice astronomer training, what you would like to see HAS do, where we have gaps, or what we could be doing better, don’t be shy. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.