Society for Popular Astronomy

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

I’m just a beginner and don’t know much about astronomy but I want to learn more. Will I be out of my depth?

The SPA is aimed specifically at beginners, although many more advanced amateur astronomers also enjoy what we do, so they remain members. We were all beginners once, so we make sure that everything we do is understandable to anyone with a basic interest in the subject. You don’t need to have a degree or be good at maths! Stargazing is for everyone!

Do you hold meetings outside London?

Yes. In addition to the quarterly London meetings, we aim to hold one meeting a year in a different location, plus our bi-annual Convention in Cambridge and meeting at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire. But don’t forget that our meetings are videoed, so you can catch up with what went on at your leisure online.

What does the SPA offer that I can’t get from the monthly magazines or the Internet?

We are a society, not just a magazine or an anonymous blogger. You can ask questions, see what other members are observing, and turn to known experts for advice. At our meetings, you can meet up with other people like you.

What’s in Popular Astronomy magazine?

There’s a wide range of articles, from the latest research in professional astronomy to amateur observing. Regular features include articles on Citizen Science, news from local societies, and a section aimed at our Young Stargazers. Uniquely, each issue carries observing reports from other members – people like you. Maybe a future issue could contain your own observations!

Does the SPA run courses in astronomy?

Participants observe the Sun safely at the SPA’s weekend course in 2017.

Each year we hold a weekend course on practical astronomy near Shrewsbury where we go into detail about a range of observational topics. They are aimed at beginners and there’s a chance to observe as well, weather permitting of course!

I see you have observing sections. Do I need to be an observer or have a telescope to join the SPA?

Not at all. Although the majority of our members like to observe from time to time, they do so when it suits them and not as part of a set programme. However, if you do want to get more involved in practical work the observing sections are there to give you guidance if you need it, and in some cases members make observations which are useful to science.

How much does it cost to join the SPA?
Check out the current list of rates here. Note that you can save £2 a year by paying your subscription by Direct Debit!

What membership choices do you offer?
The basic membership is a year’s adult subscription, but you can subscribe for two years at a time. There are also reduced rates for those under 18, who can become either Young Stargazers (under 15s) or Junior Members (15-17). You can give gift subscriptions as well. There are rates in each category for those living abroad.

How can I pay for membership?
The best way is to apply online and pay by credit or debit card. We use PayPal for these payments, but you don’t need to join PayPal to do so. This gives you immediate membership of the society. Alternatively, you can send a cheque in the post by printing out an application form and sending it to us, or you can start a Direct Debit, again by printing out a form and sending it to us. We send that off to your bank, who then make your payments for you automatically each year. Members who pay by Direct Debit enjoy all the benefits of the society at a reduced rate.

What will you do with my personal information?
All personal information supplied to the SPA is collected solely for the purposes of running the society or for gathering scientific data (through our observing sections) and no information is sent to a third party without your specific prior permission. We don’t sell our mailing list to anyone.

When will my membership pack arrive?
Please allow 28 days for this to arrive. The SPA is run by voluntary staff, so your request may coincide with holidays, though we usually send them out within a couple of weeks.

Still have questions?
If your question is not answered here, please e-mail membership@popastro.com