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Thursday, December 21

Looking back . . .and forward

It's that time of year when we look back at the year just gone and look forward to a new year. As far as CAS is concerned I think it's been a pretty successful year, perhaps we could have been luckier with the weather at a few of our events, but hey . . . this is Cumbria! Seriously though, this has been our first full year without Stuart at the helm, and I must say a big thank you to the rest of the Committee; Robin, Caroline, Bill, Jeremy, Tony and most recently joined Wes. They have really put a lot of work into getting the society where it is now, and particularly planning where it is going to go, but more of that later. I must particularly thank Bill for his continuing support in bringing the equipment we need to run the meetings, I know work commitments prevent him getting to as many meetings as he would like but he does a sterling job for us.

In 2006 we've also had quite a few new people giving us talks for the first time, Caroline, Dennis and Jeremy all gave us some interesting talks on their own particular areas of interest. And Robin of course has been keeping us up to date with his latest projects.

We also launched the new website and CAS News blog earlier in the year and that has been successful with approaching 200 posts during the year, almost 1,000 visitors and over 20 people receiving the blog by email. A lot of work goes into maintaining that, and I think the stats show that people find it useful. As I've said many times before, I think it would be a benefit if more people add their comments to the blog, but that's up to you . . . .

Regular observing sessions have had a mixed year to be honest. Over 50% of the sessions have been clouded out and those that did go ahead have been relatively poorly attended. However those that have attended have really enjoyed them , myself included. For that reason we'll continue them next year, we are an astronomy society after all!

And so on to next year . . .

Our aim will be to provide something for all members no matter what level of experience you have. To that end we have made a few changes;

Firstly we are trying to get more expert specialist speakers to come and talk to us. If you have a quick look at our 2007 Programme you will see Robin has already arranged for two speakers to come.

We also want to put more emphasis on what members have been up to and encouraging people to give feedback on what they've been observing. Our second change is a meeting format that will look something like this;

7:30 – 8:00 Brief news updates, aiming to stimulate discussion or invite comment, rather than inform in detail.

8:00 – 8:30 The forthcoming night sky. Guidance on what to look for; where it is; what it is; how to see it. Provide star chart and observing tips handout for non-Internet members. Suggest target object(s) for imaging. View members’ images of previous months target objects(s).

8:30 – 9:10 Main Talk. Aiming ultimately to be 50% guest speaker; but may not achieve that high a proportion in 2007 due to short notice.

9:10 – 10:00 Open forum and refreshments. Chance for members to ask questions; share observing experiences or make suggestions.

Finally we want to introduce a formal membership scheme for the society. At the moment we operate a 'pay as you go' type scheme, where people just turn up and pay £1 to cover the cost of the hall etc, meaning each month we just about break even. In the future we want to expand our range of external speakers and improve our society equipment to provide real benefits to members. We can do this by raising more money from members or by applying for grants for equipment etc. To do either of those we really need a formal membership list and scheme.

From January 2007 we will introduce a formal membership scheme alongside our 'pay as you go' scheme. There will be two categories of CAS Members;

Full Members: Pay an annual membership fee of £15 per year (£10 if you sign up in January or February 2007), or £5 per year for children under 16. Full Members will be able to borrow society books and equipment. Full Members will also be eligible to vote at Annual General Meetings and hold office in the society. A formal membership list will be held and membership cards issued annually (membership will run from January to December).

Associate Members: Pay on a per meeting (pay as you go) basis to cover the cost of hall. The standard rate will be £1.50 (or 50p for Children under 16) for each meeting attended. Where we have external speakers at a meeting it may be necessary to increase the charge for that meeting to cover costs. Associate Members will not be eligible to borrow society equipment, vote at Annual General Meetings or hold office in the society.

Refreshments: The provision of refreshments at meetings seems to have been as success during the last few meetings, so we will continue to provide them. In order to cover the additional costs over and above room fees we will ask for a donation of 50p for refreshements from both categories of members.

That's quite a bit of change for us to bring in next year, but hopefully people will start to see the benefits in terms of a bigger variety of speakers and topics and more society equipment available to people. As always we welcome your comments, requests and ideas, either via a comment on this post, by email or just talk to us at the next meeting.

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