My First Year With NOVAC

I joined NOVAC almost a year ago now. As the first anniversary of my membership comes up, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what I’ve done in this first year. If you’re thinking of joining NOVAC, I hope this will give you a glimpse into just some of the things you can do with the club.

When I first joined NOVAC in 2021, I was like many new members. I had spent some time looking at the night sky and even used an app on my phone to figure out the names of some of the stars, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was interested and wanted to learn more, so I decided to join NOVAC.

Shortly after I joined, NOVAC put on a course called “Introduction to Observational Astronomy for Amateurs.” The online course met once a week and was exactly what I needed to turn my interest into a passion. The instructors explained everything from how the stars move across the sky to the different types of telescopes. One takeaway I got from the course was that you didn’t need a fancy telescope to enjoy the sky – so I decided to buy my first pair of binoculars.

Binoculars are a great entry into amateur astronomy. They are affordable, easy to use, and make the night sky come to life. Even from my light-polluted backyard, I was able to see the blue nebulosity of the Pleiades through my binoculars. The moon turned from just a disk in the sky into something filled with craters and dark lowlands. Once I saw the sky through binoculars, I wanted more.

My NOVAC loaner scope pointed at Orion

One of the benefits of being a NOVAC member is access to loaner telescopes. Through this program, you can borrow (for free!) all sorts of telescopes and mounts. I was able to get a Celestron Edge 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a NextStar mount through the program. The scope is great for beginners as it’s easy to set up and use. My first target was the Orion Nebula (M42). After aligning the telescope using the automated system, I put M42 into the hand controller and it slewed right to my target. After some fine-tuning and focusing, I could make out the Orion Nebula. Seeing your first nebula is an amazing sight – I could have stared at it all night.

Next, I turned my loaner telescope to the moon (using the included moon filter). The nearly full moon filled the eyepiece with such amazing detail. I could make out not only craters like Tycho and Copernicus but also one of the most famous places on the moon – the Sea of Tranquility. Seeing with my own eyes where man first landed on the moon was awe-inspiring.

I knew I wanted to share this with everyone. Each and every person should have the ability to see the amazing things I was seeing. So, I signed up for a NOVAC volunteer opportunity. I packed up my loaner telescope and brought it to the event where I shared the night sky with the public. I spoke with many people, some of whom knew nothing but were so eager to learn. Everyone was excited to see views of the Pleiades, Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and Beehive cluster.

Sharing the sky with others was on par with seeing it myself. You get to see the joy in people’s smiles as they make out details unavailable to the naked eye. Everyone from small children to older adults enjoyed the evening, and I left feeling like I had made a difference in people’s lives. There is nothing quite like it.

Joining NOVAC was one of the best things I did. If you’re on the fence, I say jump in with both feet. There’s so much to the club I haven’t even mentioned, like the monthly meetings with top-notch speakers, the digital library, and the amazing people who want to share the night sky with the world. I couldn’t have asked for more in my first year, and I look forward to what the next year has in store!

What’s your NOVAC story? Share it below in the comments!

Interested in joining NOVAC? Learn more about the club and how to sign up here.

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  1. James Schaeffer March 24, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Welcome Matthew!!

  2. Paul jacobs March 24, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Matt, Well said. It’s always uplifting to do one of those public events. Enjoyed getting to meet you.

  3. Tom Reinert March 29, 2022 at 8:37 pm

    “Binoculars are a great entry into amateur astronomy.” My standard advice to newbies and your experience beautifully illustrates why that is true. Welcome.

  4. Richard Palmer April 2, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    I joined last year as well and my experience has also been top notch! I’m so glad I found this club and can take advantage of the resources and have opportunities to share the night sky!

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