What is Astronomy?
The word “Astronomy” comes from the Greek roots “Astr” and “Nomia,” literally meaning “Name stars.” Beyond just giving names to new discoveries in the night sky, Astronomy is the study of anything and everything outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This means not just the planets, stars, and comets, but also the chemical and physical properties that make up these things. Astronomy is a serious discipline in the academic world, as scientists try to make sense of the inner workings of the universe. But astronomy is also a hobby that many people enjoy, watching the night sky to observe the movement of objects in space.
Modern Astronomy News
Although you might think that we’ve already found every star and planet in the sky, there is still a great deal to explore. Obviously there are many large telescopes used by scientists for research, and NASA is doing a great deal to explore the outer reaches of space. But because of the vastness of space, even amateurs can learn a lot, and possibly discover new celestial objects. There are resources online, as well as academic publications, where you can learn more about what’s happening in astronomy today.
Organizations Dedicated to Astronomy
If you’re interested in getting into astronomy, there are organizations all around the world dedicated to this fascinating field of study:
There are many other state and local-level organizations dedicated to the science of astronomy, many of which operate at the amateur level, so you don’t have to be a scientist to participate. You can read here to find one nearest you.
American Astronomical Society - Established in 1899 and based out of Washington, D.C., the AAS is an association of over 7,000 professional astronomers. They hold meetings, publish journals, and work to educate the public.
Astronomical Society of the Pacific - Based out of San Francisco, the ASP has been active for more than 100 years. They publish “Mercury” magazine for their members, and connect scientists to the public to promote a better understanding of current research.
International Astronomical Union - Founded in 1919, the IAU’s mission is “ to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation.” One of the most important things they do is to connect scientists with one another in order to establish a constant and unambiguous scientific nomenclature.
International Dark-Sky Association - Since 1988, the IDA has worked to combat light pollution worldwide. They work with the public, city planners, and industry to promote smart lighting choices, and publicize the negative impacts of artificial light on wildlife, climate change, and human health. If you’re interested in advocating for the benefits of a natural view of the stars, this organization is working on your behalf.
Florida Astronomy Clubs
The State of Florida is lucky enough to have a number of groups looking to encourage learning about the universe. You can search for a local club on this list. Here are just a few of the popular groups in the state:
UF Astronomy and Astrophysics Society - Based at the University of Florida, this group does outreach in local public schools.
South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association - Located in Markham Park in Sunrise, this group is tied to the Fox Observatory, where every week, enthusiasts can take in the breathtaking views, and even bring their own telescopes.
NorthWest Florida Astronomy Association - A volunteer group that provides public observing sessions, this group has monthly meetings in Niceville. They also have a program to donate telescopes to local libraries.
Central Florida Astronomical Society - Located at the Seminole State College Planetarium, this group serves the greater Orlando area.
Northeast Florida Astronomical Society - Operating in Jacksonville and surrounding communities, NEFAS has over 100 members holds at least three observing sessions each month.
Alachua Astronomy Club
Founded in 1987, the Alachua Astronomy Club has been dedicated to encouraging the study of astronomy in the Gainesville area. They published a newsletter called “First Light” than ran until 2016, and can be found online at alachuaastronomyclub.org. They offer tips for those hoping to get into astronomy, post photos on their Facebook page, and host events. These “Star parties” are viewings where anyone can come and join in the fun of observing celestial bodies. They also host monthly events where speakers come to give insights into modern scientific advances in the field. Local citizens are encouraged to come out, learn, and socialize with others who are interested in this rewarding hobby.