A few members of the Chicago Astronomical Society grew tired of driving to the meetings at the Adler Planetarium each month and decided to form an astronomy club closer to their homes. The organizer of this group was Jerry Schultz. He gathered eight people together on January 23, 1976, for what was to become the first meeting of the Northwest Suburban Astronomers. Dues where paid for the meeting in the amount of $1.00, $0.50 for students. Jerry Schultz became the first President of the club and continued in that position through 1979.
Meetings were held through 1976 with none over the summer. Three more members joined that year, and many visitors are noted in the records. By October of 1976, the club agreed to a merger of the Northwest Amateur Astronomers (NAA) and the Northwest Suburban Astronomers (NSA). A driving force in the merger is that the NAA had use of the 14 inch Celestron telescope at the Eisenhower School observatory, while the NSA had the members that the NAA lacked. At a 1981 meeting, a member gave a club history, noting that the club is 10 years old, which apparently refers to beginnings of the NAA, rather than the NSA.
Collecting dues for each meeting was abandoned in favor of a yearly dues payment by the beginning of 1977, and the dues were set at $6.00 a year for regular members and $3.00 for student members. By the end of 1977, the club had 15 members. Meetings were announced in the local newspaper and by the park district. By 1980, the membership stood at 41, and dues were raised to $7.00.
Special mention goes out to Dan Joyce who was working at the Adler Planetarium Optical Shop at the time and joined the club during that first NSA meeting in January 1976. Dan is the only founder who is also still a member of the club. One year later, in 1977, Bob Karas joined the club and was already making slide presentations. Tom and Edith Auchter joined the club in January 1979, jointly serving as club secretary that year, Greg Buchberger joined in February 1979, while later that year in September Bill Spizzirri joined. Tom Auchter was elected as the club’s president at the January 1980 meeting. Other long time members include: Charlie Klingel who joined in 1980, Len Kazmer, 1981, Gordon Garcia, 1981, Detlef Schmidt, 1982, and Clark Harbourt, 1983.
When the two clubs merged, the NSA inherited the old treasury funds of the NAA, and with the grand amount of $88.95 in the treasury set about purchasing parts for making a telescope. Early club records show a trade for a six inch tube, purchase of two Erfle eyepieces and purchase of telescope parts from Kenneth Novak & Co. As the project continued, the club acquired such things as a 16 inch x 1 inch steel rod, a declination control and a micro-guide, a counter-weight, and a casting for the telescope mirror. In early 1977, the optics of the scope were completed and the scope was insured for a value of $700. By July 1978 the club was taking in rental fees for its completed 6 inch, f/5 telescope.
It wasn’t long before members began discussing reconfiguring the club’s scope from a Newtonian to a Cassegrain system. Instead, construction of a 4½ inch richfield telescope was begun with the purchase of the optics and tube kit from Coulter Optical in March of 1979.
For those who remember the late seventies, bumper stickers were all the rage and the NSA was not to be left out. The club purchased bumper stickers from the Orange County Astronomers and resold them to the Chicago Astronomical Society and to non-members for $0.50 each and to members for $0.35.
The Northwest Suburban Astronomers joined the Astronomical League in May of 1977. Dues for League membership were $0.75 per member. Astronomical League stickers were sold to the club members. The club first filed papers of incorporation with the State of Illinois in September 1979, and received certificate no. 19019.
Something about astronomy meetings must make one hungry, because the club history reflects its passion for food. The NSA frequented the Poppin Fresh pie house, now Baker’s Square, after meetings during its early days. Later, the group met at Potestas, then Aurilios (which changed to Carlos), the group moved to Barnabys, and then to finally to Rosattis. Food was not the only reason the club members met after the meetings, however. In February 1977, the group traveled to Eisenhower School to observe work on the 14 inch Celestron at the school’s observatory. Later meetings discussed use of the Eisenhower observatory, the club’s efforts in making improvements to the observatory, and noted an annual attendance at the observatory of 3,800 people.
Observing sessions were held after the meetings, often at the Eisenhower observatory. Of note is that the November 1977 observing session included not only the club’s 6 inch telescope and two members’ scopes, but also a working demonstration of a light saber. A 1979 meeting included pictures taken by Eisenhower students of a UFO flying over the school, while another 1979 meeting included a private showing of moon rocks, which was noted in Sky and Telescope magazine. 1979 also saw the first efforts of club members to have parking lot lights turned off to save energy.
The club’s history reflects a strong interest in bringing astronomy to the public. Public star parties were held, often in conjunction with local park districts. The club also cooperated with other area astronomy clubs such as the Chicago Astronomical Association, the Fox Valley Astronomy Club, and the Naperville Astronomy Club. We also put on Astronomy Day star parties, brought astronomy to Woodfield Mall, and set up scopes at a retirement home.
President — Mel Robinson
Schedules and presides over monthly officers meeting; assisting other club officers in setting club goals and establishing club policy and direction.
VP Programs — Bob Pease
Actively seeks out and schedules speakers/demonstrators/programs for the program portion of the monthly meetings. Initiates and schedules special programs (other than observing sessions) such as visits to astronomical sites of interest. Compiles and maintains a list of programs and other presentation materials (i.e. slides, videotapes) available to club members.
VP Observing — Jim Parris
Organizes and schedules the observing and activities calendar for the year as soon as possible at the beginning of the year. This includes: observing dates and sites, special events, Public Observing Sessions, Spouses and Space, Wildcat Mountain, Solar Observing Sessions, etc.
VP Social Activities, Publicity, and Membership — Mark Behrendt
Organizes social activities and field trips for club members and their spouses, children or significant others in order for them to become better acquainted with each other and (or) with club activities. Is responsible for club publicity and is the first point of contact for new club members.
Treasurer — Bob Price
Collect club dues at meetings for new or renewal memberships and issue receipt for said dues. Issues club membership cards and maintains the club membership records. Handles all club finances and gives a general report of club finances.
Secretary — Jim Ammeson
Takes minutes at the monthly NSA meetings and keeps a record of those minutes on file in a historical archive. Is responsible for all club correspondence and filing of club incorporation papers.
Astronomy Day — Charlie Klingel
Establishes a committee of members, at least four or five months before Astronomy Day, to assist with the coordination and completion of the tasks needed to prepare for Astronomy Day. Solicits volunteers from the membership to perform the tasks needed to prepare for Astronomy Day.
Newsletter Editor — Edith Auchter
Volunteer that handles designing, collecting, arranging, and publishing the club newsletter entitled the “The Celestial Log”.
Astronomical League Correspondent (ALCOR) — Jay Skuban
Volunteer who represents NSA when corresponding with the Astronomical League.
Raffle Person — Dave Langer
Handles coordinating our raffle at each club meeting.