A year or two ago my neighbor started running his outdoor lights on automation late into the night. Unfortunately, they happen to be in direct sight of where I normally set up my scope. The inconvenience was affecting how frequent I would setup; I needed to find an easy way to access a darker site on a regular basis. So I decided to look into our local astronomy group: the Mid Hudson Astronomical Association, or MHAA for short.
If you live around the mid-Hudson Valley and are interested in astronomy, I would highly recommend following MHAA through one of the social media/group avenues listed below. While there's no obligation to attend any of their events, having recurring events scheduled for me in advance removes just enough of the effort to make it far more likely for me to go vs when I try to plan a night for myself. Also, it gives me a more formal reason to decline other plans that might crop up as the date gets closer.
The first thing to know about MHAA is that it's open to the public; you can attend MHAA events without ever paying a penny, so don't be afraid to show up just to see if it's a good fit for you. Ultimately, we (yes, I'm a full fledged member now) would love to have you officially join and pay membership dues (a mere $25/yr; less if you're a student) to help us support the various costs associated with our events, but there's no hard selling here. So how do you find us and learn about the events we host? Follow us on social media, of course!
MHAA Social Media
- Meetup - https://www.meetup.com/mhastro/
If you're only going to follow MHAA on one social media site, right now I'd suggest Meetup since that is where all of our events are posted and RSVP's accounted for. In fact, to attend some of our events you must RSVP to the Meetup event.
- Groups.io - https://mhaa.groups.io/
We use Groups.io for intragroup chatter, club business, sharing interesting astronomy related news articles, reaching out for volunteers to represent the club at events, etc.
- Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mhastro
Facebook has some images from the group events and event information posted to it, but you'll still be need to use Meetup to RSVP.
- Yahoo Groups - https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/mhastro/info
We used Yahoo Groups until recently when they removed some of its features. We are transitioning to replace it with Groups.io and eventually I expect our Yahoo Group will be closed entirely.
- Slack - All of the above social media avenues are free to non-members and members alike, but we also have a member's-only Slack community, which is my personal favorite. On Slack we hold realtime discussions about all manner of club and astronomy topics, share photos we've taken, etc. The important topics still find their way to Groups.io, but there tends to be more activity in Slack and it is less formal/moer personal.
The main attractions with MHAA are the stargazing parties that we host at Lake Taghkanic State Park on the Friday of the weekend closest to each new moon. If the weather is bad for stargazing we try to reschedule for Saturday or Sunday. They start around sunset, so roughly between 6pm-8pm depending on the time of year, and there is no charge to enter the park for these events. But, you do have to RSVP in Meetup if you are attending because it will ask you for your car's make and license plate. This information gets registered with the state police so that we all have permission to be in the park after dark. Even if you aren't certain you can make it, RSVP "Attending" and send your info anyway; there is no penalty or cost if you say you will attend and do not!
Take careful note that I said Lake Taghkanic State Park *not* Taconic State Park. Even though the park is on the Taconic Parkway, the lake's name is spelled Taghkanic. Taconic State Park is also a real park, but it is half an hour further East on the New York/Connecticut border!
Click here to see where we setup in the park on Bing Maps.
If your GPS accepts coordinates, these will take you there:
Otherwise use your GPS to search for
Lake Taghkanic State Park, Ancram, NY
Monthly Indoor Meetings
We have monthly meetings in a lecture hall at the SUNY New Paltz Science Hall. We start out going over club business (gathering volunteers for external events, etc.) and generally follow that up with a presentation from a member or guest speaker about topics of interest. These don't require you to RSVP, but it is nice if you can to give us a feel for how many people to expect.
For those who don't mind being out a little later on a weeknight, we always stop at a local diner to grab a quick bite or drink after each indoor meeting. People stay varying lengths of time, but it's a nice chance to learn more aout our peer members and find out what everyone is up to.
SUNY New Paltz Planetarium & Observatory
Occasionally we also host events in the SUNY New Paltz planetarium and observatory. Attending these events is free, however due to limited seating you must RSVP to reserve a "ticket" to make sure we have enough seats for everyone.
Special Events & Community Outreach
For unique astronomical phenomenon, we often organize additional programs at whatever hours and in whatever locations make the most sense for viewing them. For instance, we had daytime events during the 2017 solar eclipse and the 2019 Mars transit across the Sun.
Volunteers from our club also participate in community events throughout the year in cooperation with other organizations. We've had multiple recurring events with the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. These often have a turn out of several hundred people and range from activities like setting up telescopes for viewing the transit of Mercury across the Sun to participating in full-Moon-lit after dark walks with scale models representing the distances between planets, etc.
We also handle requests from local schools to participate in judging and provide prizes for school science fair events and from local scout troops to give presentations on astronomy related topics.
Come join us!
If you're interested in astronomy and any of this sounds interesting to you, then by all means look us up through any of the social media outlets linked above. If you don't want to participate in the club business and outreach volunteering etc, that's perfectly fine as well; there is no requirement for our members to take part in those activities. So please accept this no pressure invitation to come see us at the next stargazing party!