The Forsyth Astronomical Society is hosting two public star gazing events on July 25.
Formed in 1937, the club provides an opportunity for amateur astronomers to learn more about their hobby. As a non-profit, the group offers free educational programs for the public and private groups such as schools.
According to club president David Morgan, the diverse group of 65 members includes astrophotographers, ham radio enthusiasts and optics specialists of all levels. “Some members just like coming to hear the lectures, while others really get hands-on, building their own telescopes,” Morgan said.
Several members have gotten involved in astrophotography, posting their work at: www.astrobin.com/users/Fas37. The site has a plate solving feature that matches photos with known astral bodies to map where the photo was taken in relation to the rest of the sky.
Workshops and guest speakers are a part of the local programming for the group. Glass grinding was one workshop that taught members the basics of making optic lenses for telescopes. This month’s guest is coming from PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) to share research being conducted in the field.
The society also holds regular field trips for evening observations. “Light pollution requires us to get away from the city for good observations,” Morgan explained.
An agreement with one landowner provides monthly site visits in Surry County. “Some of the more active members go more frequently,” said Morgan.
In addition, the club holds public viewings at Pilot Mountain State Park, Stone Mountain State Park, and SciWorks. During these special events, the club and its members set up a variety of telescopes for public use.
“Club members are happy to share what they know,” said Morgan, explaining that public events provide an opportunity to try different telescopes before purchasing one. The club owns many telescopes, and club members also bring their own.
Telescopes can range from a small three-inch aperture to an eight-foot tall, 20-inch aperture. “The larger aperture allows for viewing dimmer objects, but also gathers more light creating a reduction in contrast,” said Morgan, explaining how detrimental city lights are when observing stars.
“I have seen two distinct trends,” said Morgan of amateur astronomers.
The first trend he described as technology dependant, in which some newer models of telescopes contain computerized programs, allowing the viewers to find objects more quickly and follow objects over time.
The second trend involves Dobsonian telescopes which are popular in the amateur telescope making community. “There is a long tradition of self-built telescopes with homemade components,” said Morgan.
The events on July 25 will be held at Stone Mountain State Park and SciWorks parking lot beginning around 6:30 p.m. “The public events begin before sunset, so we can see solar prominences,” Morgan explained. Solar viewing requires special equipment with a solar prominence filter.
Weather plays a pivotal role in observations, so the public is encouraged to check the website for last minute cancellations. Morgan noted that the gates to Stone Mountain will be locked at 10 p.m., so those wishing to stay later should make arrangements to camp.
“There is a lot of intellectual stimulation here, if you want it,” Morgan said of the Forsyth Astronomical Society.
Meetings are held at SciWorks on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The $25 membership is not required to visit a club meeting. For more information, visit fas37.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.