American Astronomical Society Reaches Out to Amateurs

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    Michael E. Marotta

    A new initiative to include amateurs in the professional organization is being launched at the 237th Meeting, 10-13 January 2021. In 2016, Amateur status was added to the membership categories. Now, the AAS is extending its initiatives for inclusion by actively seeking engagement at the conferences. Ahead of that, an ad hoc committee of correspondence was launched by several AAS members. We held our first meeting online on 16 December.

    Speaking to the group, AAS publicist Rick Fienberg underscored the fact that when the AAS was founded in 1899 a significant fraction were amateurs. However, the birth of astro-physics with spectroscopy meant that by the early 20th century the communities already were diverging. Amateurs fell away. Then, by the 1990s, amateurs were equipped with CCD cameras, spectrographs, and now are doing good science in collaboration with professionals. It made sense for the AAS to open its arms to the amateurs in 2016. Now we have 300 Amateur Affiliates. Also, the AAS recently purchased Sky & Telescope magazine. That being as it may the AAS opened the membership to amateurs ahead of a defined rationale. So, in the summer of 2019, the Board of Directors created a task force to develop a coherent set of programs and benefits.

    An 8 August 2018 press release said:  As long as amateurs do not depend on the field of astronomy as a primary source of income or support, they are now welcome to join the AAS as Amateur Affiliates.

    Applicants are required to be a member of an affiliated organization, such as an astronomy club that belongs to the Astronomical League; the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO); the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP); the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO); the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS); the International Meteor Organization (IMO); the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA); the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA); or the Citizen Science Association, to name a few. 

    Dues for Amateur Affiliates will be $52 for 2019. Inaugural benefits include reduced registration fees to AAS meetings, access to the AAS family of journals, and the annual AAS Wall Calendar. Additional programs and opportunities are expected for this group once a critical mass is established for survey and feedback purposes.

    The Session Notes from the Convention Schedule –  Jan 14 2021 6:50PM –  Amateur Astronomers Meet & Greet

    “Recognizing the increasingly important role of backyard stargazers in astronomical research, science advocacy, and public outreach, the AAS recently created a new membership class: Amateur Affiliate. Subsequently the Society became the owner/publisher of Sky & Telescope after the magazine’s former owner went out of business. As 2021 begins, the AAS has about 300 Amateur Affiliate members. Many of them, as well as many S&T readers and other amateur astronomers who haven’t yet joined the Society, have registered to attend AAS 237. If you’re among them, please join us for this virtual get-together. (Others interested in meeting an engaged group of astronomy enthusiasts are welcome too!) In addition to getting to know each other, we’ll hear from Rick Fienberg, AAS Press Officer and former S&T Editor in Chief, about how the AAS plans to bring professional and amateur astronomers closer together for our mutual benefit. You’ll also have an opportunity to offer your own ideas about how the AAS can be more supportive and encouraging to amateur astronomers.”

    Callum Potter

    You should find that the BAA is an affiliate organisation, so any BAA member would be able to join the AAS as an amateur member.


    Michael E. Marotta

    We had our first interaction tonight via Zoom. It was an informal introduction hosted by the AAS publicist, Rick Fienberg. About 25 people attended throughout the 90-minute session. 

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