Milwaukee Astronomical Society

Membership FAQ

Do you have questions about becoming a member and the benefits? These are the most frequently asked questions.

What does it cost to join?

There are 3 membership categories: Individual, Family, and Youth. Their annual dues are shown below, but always check the membership page on the website just in case they have changed.

Individual - $46
Family - $52
Youth - $23

When is the observatory open?

Access to use the MAS grounds is 24/7 all year. This is often useful for those members that own their own scope and just wish to set up outside and use the electric power available. But access to any of the observatories or its equipment is limited to the availability of the keyholders.

The observatory is guaranteed to be open every Saturday year-round rain or shine unless that happens to be a major holiday. If other nights during the week are clear, it's highly likely (but not guaranteed) the observatory will be open provided there is a key holder available to open the observatory.

Keep in mind that our hobby depends on the weather and as a result sometimes notice that the observatory is open often at the very last minute.

Typically, the observatory is open starting around sunset, but the exact time will be announced via our Google Group. How late it stays open depends on seeing conditions and the keyholder's availability to stay late. In general, this is usually midnight on a good clear night. Finally, the observatory is occasionally open during the daytime to do Solar observing. The time for daytime varies and is announced via our Google Group.

Do I have to own a telescope?

You do not! We have plenty of telescopes and we generally discourage new members from buying something too soon. You can save yourself a lot of money by not buying the wrong instrument and we can help you with this. If however you do already own a telescope, you are welcome to bring and use it at the observatory. If needed, we can likely show you how to get the most out of it.

Do I have to know a lot about astronomy?

Absolutely not! The knowledge range of our members runs the entire spectrum from just recently got into astronomy to those who have been doing it their entire lives. But every member shares this one thing in common: they've all joined in the hopes that they'd learn a lot more!

After I join, then what?

Once you apply for membership and pay your annual dues, you will receive a welcome email with lots of info on how to get started. This really depends on your level of experience and what your interests are.

Often, new members are first given a tour of the facility. We introduce them to all the observatories and telescopes explaining what each one is best used for. During this tour, we try to understand your level of experience and what you are interested in and the give further recommendations on how/where to get started.

For members with zero to little experience, we usually pair them up with an experienced member who can show you how to observe the universe visually. We start with the less complex telescopes that are very easy to learn in minutes.

For members with more experience or those that have an interest in getting into more technical astronomy, we usually give a very brief overview of the equipment and then let you use it as you wish.

What else is there to do?

We have lots of other things besides observing on clear nights. Each month we have a members meeting where we have a speaker give a talk on an interesting Astronomy-related topic. This is often by a fellow MAS member or sometimes a professional Astronomer that we invite as a guest.

We also have "First Wednesday" which occurs on the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm. Here, our Observatory Director meets with members to answer any question you might have. This could be wanting to learn how to use a scope, to learning to find your way around the sky. There is no dumb question! The agenda is determined in the moment by those who show up.

If you're interested in Astrophotography, then you're in the right place. MAS has lots of very experienced astrophotographers who are willing to share/teach what they know. Astrophotography can be very simple to quite complex. We try to keep it simple and not let it get intimidating. Each month there is an advanced "PixInsight Forum" that meets to discuss and share tips and tricks for using PixInsight, the popular software used to process and create all those pretty pics you see on our website. Don't worry if you have zero experience here. No matter your level of experience, all are welcome to join as there is so much to share and learn.

We also have some more social events as well that include a Summer Picnic, Christmas Party, and a few other events throughout the year. We try to have at least one planned Campout at a nearby park. Here we bring our telescopes to much darker skies and observe all night long.

Occasionally, members will offer informal classes on a subject. Recently we've had classes on planetary imaging and hope to offer more in the future.

Lastly, we have organized star parties throughout the year. They may either be at MAS or at a park that is nearby but in much less light-polluted skies.

Do I have to reserve a telescope if I want to use it?

There is no need to reserve a telescope. While we do have well over 150 memberships, in general there are more than enough telescopes that this is never a problem. Most of the time, you can just show up and ask the keyholder to open an observatory for you. Then you are welcome to use it as you wish. But what we often find is that several members will share a scope because it's more fun enjoying and learning Astronomy together.

Is membership worth it?

In our opinion it's the best thing money can buy in Astronomy! But the answer to this question totally depends on you. We list a variety of membership benefits, but they mean nothing if they're not used. Membership is what you make it and to get the most out of your membership means coming out and using the observatory, attending the meetings/events, and learning/sharing with the other members.