As at August 2017 the wait to join NAG is almost back to normal. Being that if I can't get into the upcoming Intake (every three months), it will surely be the next one.
Remember there are many other sections meetings you can attend while you wait. The ASV calendar shows about 20 meetings each month. Then there are non-section events like Star Parties, member viewing nights, LMDSS field trips, the ASV library, Loan telescopes, etc... Also visit the ASV library as they have many books that are suitable for beginners. Please make use of the many other activities of the ASV while you wait for your NAG Intake to come around.
The New Astronomers' Group was initially created as an outreach program of the ASV for new members. I have found not only new members are joining, but also retiring members with spare time and existing members deciding they want to step up to do more. NAG is the opposite of an "on-line" Astronomy course as volunteer helpers cannot compete against the resources of an education facility like a University. Instead the monthly NAG meetings are an opportunity to meet and connect with other members (much like yourself) starting out in Astronomy. Hands on & practical are keywords. Prior knowledge of Astronomy is not required. An interest to learn more is essential. Content is aimed at adults of all ages. Those under 16 years will find the Junior section of the ASV more suited to their needs. With 1000+ members and almost 20 sections, the ASV can be a daunting place to find your way. I hope the New Astronomers' Group makes those first steps a little easier.
Meetings are held at the ASV Lodge (Eastern suburbs of Melbourne) one night per month from 7:30 to 10:30 pm. Exact location and dates will be given out once your ASV membership has been confirmed. Please don't just turn up to a NAG meeting uninvited.
NAG is a 12-month course which includes a folder to hold your course notes (10-20 pages each month). This can be customised by adding your own notes, news & magazine clippings, observation notes and anything else you can think of. Your NAG folder could be bursting by the end of your 12 months. All the materials need to be purchased and prepared for the members at each quarterly Intake. We use ASV facilities and have guest speakers from the ASV itself. Hence joining NAG needs to be a little more structured compared with other sections of the ASV. All this costs money to do, so there is a $30 course fee to join, payable on your first night - the NAG Intake.
The New Astronomers' Group is an introductory course to: 1) Amateur Astronomy 2) Science of Astronomy 3) History of Astronomy.
"Where do I start with observing the night sky" is an often-asked question. The New Astronomers' Group has a Novice observing program that starts with you learning the 36 brightest stars. Soon large chunks of the night sky will begin to look familiar as you start piecing the Constellation jigsaw together. Your backyard is certainly the most convenient and recommended place to start. While dark skies are ideal they are not necessary when starting out. Find a place away from the glare of your local streetlight. You may find a few observing spots to avoid obstructions like trees and chimneys. The Novice observing programme includes monthly tips like: using a planisphere, role of a red torch, binocular basics, reading horizon charts, etc... Over the course of the year you will witness the constellations change with the seasons. When the weather permits a night sky tour is conducted at the NAG meeting from the backyard. An ASV Loan telescope is available, or we can finish early and open up the observatory to look through the 20" club scope. Some members need assistance with using their first telescope. You are welcome to bring them along for advice and/or assistance (clear night is best).
My job as Section Director is to introduce you to the major areas of Astronomy (see meeting calendar). Astronomy is not only a hobby to Amateurs like members of the ASV. It is a Science with a network of professionals, educational institutions, research facilities that include world class ground telescopes, and space based astronomy. The New Astronomers' Group notes are only an introduction to the basics and essentials of the Astronomical subject at hand. Please pursue further information through ASV Sections, the ASV Library has a range of books, magazines, DVDs and reference material to borrow (for free). You will find recommendations in NAG monthly notes.
Your job is to discover where your astronomical interests lie. By the end of your 12 months with NAG you will hopefully have connected with one (or more) sections of the ASV, met some other ASV members, started observing wonders of our night sky, made it to a field trip or ASV Star Party.
Telling you there are Dwarf, Normal, and Giant stars is like telling you there are Small, Medium, and Large fish. Truth is there is so much more diversity in our oceans, a whole ecosystem in fact waits to be explored.
Astronomy is arguably the oldest Science. Much of the Astronomy news we see/hear is published under the banner of exciting new discoveries using the latest technology. Yes, there is truth in that, but it is also true the discoveries of today are based on hundreds, even thousands of years of historical discoveries. Only by standing on the shoulders of giants who came before us can our technology see so far ahead. For this reason, some history is woven into the text of the NAG course notes to add perspective and context to what we learn. The history of Astronomy contains some of the greatest Discovery stories ever told.
Thankyou... Ken Le Marquand
Section Director, New Astronomers' Group