The Society for Popular Astronomy is a national astronomical society based in the United Kingdom for beginners to amateur astronomy.
It was founded in 1953 as the Junior Astronomical Society by experienced amateur astronomers including Patrick Moore, Ernest Noon and Eric Turner to encourage beginners to the science and to promote astronomy among the general public.
The term "Junior" was used to denote its role compared to the long-established society the British Astronomical Association. The name was changed in 1994 to make clear that the society was for beginners of all ages, and for those who wanted a less technical approach. In 2007 a new Young Stargazer category of membership was introduced to cater specifically for members aged under 16.
The society's first patron was Dr J G Porter whose BBC radio broadcasts about astronomy preceded television's long-running series The Sky At Night. Since his death, the role has been held by certain Astronomers Royal. The society's president, who serves a two-year term, is usually a senior professional astronomer.
The SPA aims to show that astronomy can be fun and to promote an interest in observing the sky among its members. The SPA has a number of observing sections whose work members can participate in. These cover observations of aurorae, comets, deep sky, the Moon, meteors, occultations, the planets, the Sun and variable stars.
The society publishes a magazine, Popular Astronomy, which from 2011 is being published every two months. Previously it was a quarterly publication, but it now includes material that was carried in now-defunct separate regular printed News Circulars. There is also an email news service to which anyone can subscribe, the Electronic News Bulletins.
Meetings are held quarterly in London and there is an annual weekend course in Shropshire. Occasional meetings are held elsewhere including at planetariums.
The SPA offers advisory services on choosing a telescope, computing, electronic imaging, photography and the GCSE astronomy examination.
Read more about Society For Popular Astronomy: Observing Sections
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