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About the MAS

The Memphis Astronomical Society is a non-profit, public service organization promoting interest and education in astronomy and related sciences. Founded in 1953

The Memphis Astronomical Society logo represents the diversity of our interest. The study of astronomy spans the science of physics from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from subatomic particles to the farthest celestial objects. Astronomy also embraces the fields of chemistry, exogeology, and mathematics.

The Memphis Astronomical Society, or MAS, is a public service organization which promotes understanding of the science of astronomy through free public lectures and demonstrations. Members are seldom professional astronomers. We work in many different occupations, some in the sciences, but most in other fields. We are amateurs in the basic sense of the word: we study astronomy because we love it. We seek to learn more about it through reading, conversation with other astronomers, professional as well as amateur, and especially through direct observation of celestial objects.

How does one start learning about astronomy? It is not necessary to buy a telescope or binoculars; in fact, it is best not to do so until you have learned what the night sky looks like and where some of the most interesting (and easy-to-find) objects are. A good way to do this is to attend a few MAS meetings and observing sessions.

Another way to start learning about astronomy is to buy a good basic guidebook, such as A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, by Jay Pasachoff. This excellent book contains a wealth of information about our universe as well as star charts and tables of positions which make finding objects in the night sky relatively easy. Another early purchase might be a planisphere, a disk made of plastic or cardboard, printed with stars and constellations, and with a scale of months and hours which can be set to show the sky at any given time. To use it you set it for the current time of night and compare what it shows to what you see above you. If you find, after reading and attending meetings and observing sessions, that you would like to have your own telescope, you need not spend a great deal of money for one, although that is certainly possible. Many amateur astronomers make their own telescopes and will be glad to help you make one too. It is really not hard to do, and it can be very rewarding to see the objects you have read about through a telescope made with your own hands.

What, you might ask, is there to do after you have seen the famous and not-so-famous objects? Amateur astronomers never tire of seeing magnificent objects like the Orion Nebula, where stars are now being formed in a great cloud of gas and dust, or the planet Saturn, with its system of rings, but they often wish to contribute to the science from which they draw so much pleasure. Astronomy is the last science to which many non-professional scientists can make real and valuable contributions. These can be as simple as counts of meteors on a summer night or so complex that coordinated efforts across a continent are necessary. Many amateurs do precise timings of the moon's occultation of stars in its eastward journey. These timings can add valuable information about the moon's shape and its orbit. Amateurs also observe the changing brightness of variable stars and make this information available to professionals, who use it to help in their study of these (mostly) very old stars nearing the end of their lives, some of which flare up from time to time in titanic explosions. Amateurs study the planets and other solar system objects, including the sun, which is the nearest star to Earth. These bright objects can be studied well even from light-polluted skies, making them ideal for city-dwellers interested in astronomy. Some amateurs use equipment which was not available even to professionals a few years ago.

Astrophotography is another area of interest for many amateurs. With today's cameras and techniques it is possible for amateurs to make spectacular photographs of celestial objects. Many such photos are published in the indispensable monthly magazine Sky & Telescope, which may be bought at newsstands. A subscription to Sky & Telescope is also a benefit of membership in the MAS. Discounted subscriptions to Astronomy magazine are also available, and each year members may order discounted copies of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Observer's Handbook.

To recgnize accomplishments in observing, the MAS has an awards program. The awards, handsome certificates suitable for framing, are available to anyone submitting proof that the criteria have been met. Membership in the MAS is not necessary.

Every few years the MAS conducts its Short Course in Astronomy, a series of lectures in which basic concepts in astronomy are taught over several months at the regular meetings. The course, for which there is no charge, does not require a background in mathematics or physics, and is readily understandable to the educated layman. The MAS also maintains a library from which members may check out books and journals such as back issues of Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines. We welcome inquiries and will be happy to help anyone with an interest in the sky.

Contact us:

Phone Numbers and email
Richard Moore, President (901) 737-3278
Bill Wilson (901) 755-6499  
Bill Busler (901) 382-2246  
Freddy Diaz, VP Observing (901) 679-9399

Ric Honey, Web Servant

(901) 828-3112

or write to us at:

Memphis Astronomical Society

P.O. Box 11301

Memphis, TN 38111

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