Frequently Asked Questions - General

Questions:

What is SMAS?

SMAS = Southern Maryland Astronomical Society.

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What is NCEEC?

NCEEC = Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center. NCEEC is a facility of the Charles County, Maryland Public School System and is partnered with SMAS. NCEEC is where the Nanjemoy Creek Observatory is located and is also the dark sky observing site for SMAS observing sessions.

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What is NCO?

NCO = Nanjemoy Creek Observatory. NCO is a two building complex consisting of a domed observatory building housing SMAS' main telescope and a control room building that contains observing equipment, computers, and a resource library.

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How do I find SMAS/NCEEC/NCO?

Directions to SMAS/NCEEC/NCO are described here.

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What is IDA?

IDA = International Dark-Sky Association. SMAS maintains an annual club membership with IDA whose goal is "To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting." For more information, visit IDA's website at http://www.darksky.org/.

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What is SOMDAS?

SOMDAS is the members-only website currently hosted by Yahoogroups. SOMDAS functions as a SMAS e-mail list service and message archive. It also provides SMAS member access and storage of files, photographs, and other information.

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How much does it cost to join SMAS?

A membership is $25.00 per family per calendar year and it is prorated for new members that join during the year. Visit the "Join Us" section of the website for more details.

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How many members are in SMAS?

SMAS has an annual average membership of 45.

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Do I have to be a professional astronomer to join SMAS?

No, SMAS is an amateur astronomy club. While professionals are welcome, our current membership is made up of amateurs in the field of astronomy.

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How long has SMAS been in existence?

During the fall of 1994, a group of friends started gathering together in Southern Maryland to share a common interest: astronomy. On November 19th, 1994, the friends ratified a constitution under the night sky of Indian Head, Maryland, and the Southern Maryland Astronomical Society (SMAS) was born. During their first official club observing session on that cold November night, the members of the newly formed SMAS made a promise to themselves and their community. From the Preamble of the SMAS Constitution, the members would not only meet "... to secure the pleasures and benefits of an association of persons interested in amateur astronomy," they would also work in the community "... to promote the science of astronomy."

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How is SMAS funded?

SMAS is a non-profit organization whose funding comes from membership dues, donations, and fund raisers.

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Can I make a donation to SMAS?

Yes. SMAS accepts monetary donations, as well as items. Upon receipt of a donation, SMAS will provide a document on letterhead for your tax records.

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What does SMAS do with monetary donations?

Monetary donations are used to purchase new astronomy equipment for the Nanjemoy Creek Observatory (NCO). Donations also help pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the facility itself.

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What types of items can I donate?

Items have ranged from telescopes and related equipment to reference materials for the resource library.

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How do I make a donation?

You may contact the SMAS Treasurer for details.

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>Where does SMAS meet for club member observing sessions?

SMAS meets at the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center (NCEEC), near Nanjemoy, MD.

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How long has SMAS been affiliated with NCEEC?

Originally, SMAS met at various sites throughout Southern Maryland for each monthly club observing session. It quickly became obvious, however, that SMAS needed a more permanent base of operations, with good dark sky qualities, security and amenities. Serendipity stepped in when the SMAS members met a visitor at the Indian Head celebration of Astronomy Day in May 1995, who told SMAS about NCEEC. The members soon met the director of the facility. The combination of the dark, quiet skies of Nanjemoy, the safe, comfortable surroundings of NCEEC and the enthusiasm of the SMAS members was a perfect match.

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What kinds of programs does SMAS conduct?

Visit the Programs Section of this website for more information.

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What is the difference between a Star Party and an Observing Session?

For ease of scheduling, the SMAS Program Coordinator differentiates between Star Parties and Observing Sessions. In this context, a Star Party is for the general public, a school group or scout troop. An Observing Session is for SMAS members only, and their guests. Guest attendance during an Observing Session is limited.

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Why is there a difference between a Star Party and an Observing Session?

The SMAS Program Coordinator schedules Star Parties closest to the First Quarter Moon. For beginning observers, the Moon offers the biggest “wow” factor when viewed through a telescope for the first time. The First Quarter Moon is already “up” in the early evening, so young observers do not have to stay up so late. Also, the First Quarter Moon is not so bright that it washes out some of the dimmer objects in the sky. SMAS members who volunteer their equipment and time for the Star Party make their observing plans specifically for the guests. Finally, Star Parties may be held at a variety of locations.

SMAS schedules two club Observing Sessions each month, on the Saturdays closest to the Third Quarter and New Moons. Most SMAS members prefer to observe deep sky objects, which requires the darkest sky conditions possible. SMAS members make their observing plans for themselves, and may include observing, imaging, and research. Finally, Observing Sessions are held at NCEEC/NCO.

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How do I schedule a Star Party?

Visit the Programs Section of this website for more information.

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Last Updated: 3/2/16