Astronomical League searches for young astronomers

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, April 26, 2013

Astronomy magazine has been able to capture the interest of young people like Grant Regens, the magazine’s 2013 Youth Essay Contest winner, but the hobby of astronomy continues to age. // courtesy Grant Regen
When I was at NEAF in New York last weekend, Astronomical League Vice President John Goss asked me about young people in amateur astronomy. He showed me a copy of the March issue of Reflector, the league’s monthly publication, with the theme of “You and Astronomy.” I hadn’t seen the issue, having been on several recent trips, but was glad to read it carefully.

For some years, astronomy enthusiasts have noticed the regular meetings and star parties they’ve attended for years have been showing pretty much the same crowd, getting a little older and a little grayer every year. What’s the deal with young people not getting into amateur astronomy in large numbers? Observing the universe, seeing and appreciating Saturn, the Moon, galaxies, stars, and nebulae, and understanding your place in the cosmos all seem pretty cool. But fewer young people are getting into this hobby than in some previous eras. Why?

John described how the March Reflector took on that question. Its special section, “Where are the young in our astronomy clubs?” by League Executive Secretary Ron Whitehead, explored the issue with a variety of guest editorials.

Courtney Flonta, president of the Back Bay Amateur Astronomers in Hampton Roads, Virginia, contributed an essay on why we must bring more young people into amateur astronomy. Joshua Babin of the Houston Astronomical Society, himself just 23, described some key reasons why astronomy interest has declined among young people. The League’s webmaster, Vern Rabin, suggested astronomy clubs must embrace technology to include young folks. Ted Forte of the Huachuca (Arizona) Astronomy Club discussed how people can grow into an astronomy interest slowly. And Craig Weatherwax of Oceanside Photo and Telescope (and a board member of the Astronomy Foundation) wrote about reversing the graying of astronomy.

It makes for an interesting and thought-provoking package. If you’re interested in the state of amateur astronomy, the trends of who is involved in it, and why it has changed, then I really think this issue is for you. I urge you to get a copy of the March Reflector. You can contact the Astronomical League at editor@astroleague.org.

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