“To cultivate, foster and promote interest and participation in astronomy.”
We are a not-for-profit corporation chartered by the State of Illinois
The beginning of our club dates to 1968 when Jack Kramer was riding his bicycle through his neighborhood in Wheeling. As he passed a house, he saw a telescope in an open garage. Having a strong interest in astronomy, he could not pass up the chance to talk to Jerry Schultz, a member of the Chicago Astronomical Society (C.A.S.). During their discussion, Schultz told Kramer there were two other neighbors who owned telescopes. The four neighbors began meeting informally as a "street club," observing from each other's back yards. During this early period, the eight original members occasionally met at Wheeling High School. The official start of the club is given in an early newsletter as June 5, 1971. The first newsletter was published in October, 1971. By January, 1972, there were thirteen members.
In October, 1976, it was agreed that a merger of the Northwest Amateur Astronomy Club (N.A.A.) and the Northwest Suburban Astronomers (N.S.A.) would be advantageous to both groups. The N.S.A. had members with experience which the N.A.A. lacked. The N.A.A., sponsored by the Hoffman Estates Park District, met at Eisenhower High School in Hoffman Estates and their facilities included a fourteen inch Celestron and observatory.
Today, the Northwest Suburban Astronomers is a group of about 150 individuals and families from all walks of life and all age groups who share an interest in amateur astronomy. We meet the Friday closest to full Moon each month with a brief business meeting and an interesting program by members or guest speakers. Recent programs have included presentations on deep-sky observing and imaging, NASA missions, and theoretical astronomy. Our meetings are well-publicized, free, and open to the public. Something about astronomy meetings must make one hungry, because the club history reflects its passion for food. Animated discussions continue after meetings at area restaurants.
In addition to the monthly meetings, the club schedules "star parties" at locations in nearby counties each clear weekend. Parties are very informal and afford members an opportunity to share views through various equipment. On several weekends during the year, astronomy campouts are held in more remote locations to take advantage of the darker skies. During the summer, the club sponsors a week-long astronomy camp-out which offers an opportunity to learn or sharpen skills.
Public outreach has always been a focus of our club. Early star parties and events were held at libraries, schools, parks, and, even Woodfield Mall. Annually, our club has provided programs and numerous opportunities for public observing sessions though our relationships with conservation districts, forest preserve districts, park districts, nature centers, libraries, schools, and scout groups.
Our club began its annual celebration of Astronomy Day in 1980. Guest speakers and members give talks on various aspects of astronomy, present displays of astronomical subjects, highlight the importance and benefits of preserving the night sky, and, weather permitting, have telescopes set up outdoors for public viewing. There is also a craft room where children may participate in hands-on activities. Up to one thousand visitors attend our annual Astronomy Day festivities.
Northwest Suburban Astronomers was selected as winner of the 1989 Sky & Telescope Astronomy Day award. Sponsored by the Astronomical League and Sky Publishing, the first annual award was given to NSA as the group or organization "who best exemplifies the concept of Astronomy Day by hosting special events." The award was presented at the Astronomical League's annual Convention, July 19-22, 1989, in Spokane, Washington.
Into the Outdoors, a seven-time Emmy Award Winning outdoors television series for Wisconsin youth, featured our club for a segment on Constellations and Stargazing in 2004. Northwest Suburban Astronomers also participates in The Night Sky Network, a nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy clubs bringing the science, technology, and inspiration of NASA's missions to the general public. Our club also partners with The Space Place to help spread the excitement of space and Earth science, as well as the technology that advances the science.
Membership privileges include receipt of our monthly newsletter, the quarterly newsletter of the Astronomical League, rental of club equipment, access to club observing sites, trips and tours of observatories and astronomical institutions, voting at club meetings, running for club office (after one year of membership), and discounts on astronomy magazines. Numerous club members have earned observing awards through the Astronomical League observing programs.
The Northwest Suburban Astronomers has continued the strong tradition embodied in our motto “to cultivate, foster and promote interest and participation in astronomy” for 41 years. Its strengths are in its members, and somehow involves eating pizza.