Astronomy clubs eye night skies and an uncertain future

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By , Washington Post Local

Image: Washington Post Local

Who knows what might be out there? The darkening sky above Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington was star-speckled and seemingly endless. On this October night, it held the potential of seeing a flurry of shooting stars stream across its canvas.

Who knew who might come out here? Joe Morris, president of the National Capital Astronomers, came prepared for anyone. He had pieced together a squat, black reflector telescope with an 11-inch lens. Other members of the amateur astronomy club put together two more telescopes on the ground, eager for anyone to stop by for a glance.

They hoped the look might be the hook. Like many astronomy groups across the country, this club has seen its membership remain steady — but only steady. Amateur astronomy thrived in the Space Race era, but some worry that interest in the hobby is fading as its biggest enthusiasts begin to gray.

“I’d love to say we are growing in numbers, but we aren’t,’’ Morris said of his 130-person club. “There’s an urgent need in this country to improve the attractiveness of this profession.”

Club members head to Rock Creek Park once a month to gaze at stars — and hunt for stargazers. It has less to do about the preservation of the group and more to do with the preservation of one of science’s most important hobbies.

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2 Responses to Astronomy clubs eye night skies and an uncertain future

  1. Jim Hannon says:

    Hmmm a reflector telescope with an 11″ lens?

    • Anna Sudaric Hillier says:

      Fascinating. Also, Let’s do more for the year of astronomy 2009. Adopt a friend and feed them Naked Eye information. Tell them when something good is happening in the sky. Best

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