EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE:

ASTRONOMICAL LEAGUE OBSERVATION PROGRAMS

Program Index

The Astronomical League has long been a promoter of personal observation.  This is the largest amateur astronomer's group that incorporates clubs and individual members (Members-At-Large).  The League, as it is commonly known, has programs for every level of amateur astronomer, from youth through seasoned adults. 

If you are a member of an astronomy club and your club chooses to join the Astronomical League, your club will receive various benefits, such as:  accident insurance coverage for public events, access to various tapes and slide presentations for club programs (great for the "just getting started" club that doesn't have many resources to fall back on); the advantage of being part of a regional (as well as national) organization which holds conventions and encourages amateurs to get together for information exchange; a quarterly newsletter; observation clubs for members to participate in, and more.

Every person who is a member of a club that holds membership in the Astronomical League is entitled to AL benefits, such as the chance to choose from various observation programs for participation and practical experience.  The more experience you get, and the more people you can interface with to gain tips and advice, the better your observation sessions will be.

Many of these observing programs may be adopted as a club activity, such as a Messier Marathon held at a club campout.  The object of such an event is for observers to find , observe, and log Messier objects without the aid of automated equipment or a more experienced individual.  You learn by doing it yourself.

You may wonder why these programs award certificates of completion or pins as a reward for observation.  Most amateurs are proud of the certificates that they earn, as they are representative of hours of work and accomplishment.  The pins may be worn on a hat or lapel, and likewise signify dedication and effort in the completion of a program.  Completion of these programs necessitate growth on the part of the observer...you must learn to accomplish detailed observations and log those observations.  The logs that you submit for review teach you to be methodical and accurate, and to pay attention to details.  It is a learning experience.  What you learn here will help you in other areas of your life, as well.

 

The following is a list of Astronomical Observation Programs.  Besides experience, some of these groups offer certificates of completion, enameled pins signifying membership in the ranks of those who have completed the program of study, or other acknowledgement of your work.
NOTE:  Programs are only available for League members, either through a club or as an individual Member-At-Large.

AL Observation Program List

Arp Peculiar Galaxy Club

Asteriod Observing Club Binocular Messier Club The Caldwell Club
The Deep Sky Binocular Club The Double Star Club The Earth Orbiting Satellite Club The Galaxy Groups and Clusters Club
The Herschel 400 Club The Herschel II Club The Lunar Club The Master Observer Club
The Messier Club The Meteor Club The Planetary Observer's Club The Southern Skies Binocular Club
The Sunspotter's Club The Universe Sampler Club The Urban Observing Club  

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Arp Peculiar Galaxy Club
    Designed for  CCD digital image log of qualifying Arp objects...must get 100 out of 338 objects to
    obtain the certificate. 

Asteriod Observing Club
    For those with a 'scope that is 4" or larger, there are two programs available.  The regular certificate
    program is for completion of observation of 25 asteroids, logged, as in the general astronomical log
    sheet..  The Gold program is for those who log 100 observed asteroids.  They earn a certificate and
    a pin.

Binocular Messier Club
    For completion of this program, you must observe and log at least 50 of the 110 recognized Messier
    objects using only binoculars.  This is a certificate program.

The Caldwell Club
    This program requires travel.  Patrick Caldwell-Moore designed a list of objects that were worthy of
    notice, but which were not catalogued by Messier.  There are 109 objects on the list, ranging in
    magnitude from 1 to 13, with declinations of +85 degrees to -80 degrees.  Two award categories are
    available, both with certificate and pin.  You can either log 70 of the objects, or the entire list of 109.

The Deep Sky Binocular Club
    This is another certificate/pin program that is based on the observation and logging of 60 deep sky
    objects, viewed only with binoculars. 


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The Double Star Club
    The observing list for this program covers 100 double and multiple star systems.  Both a certificate and
    a pin are awarded to those who log all 100 sets.

The Earth Orbiting Satellite Club
    If you are interested in learning about what man-made objects are orbiting Earth, this program teaches
    you how to identify and log various types of Earth satellites.  This is a certificate program.

The Galaxy Groups and Clusters Club
    Two observation categories are available to earn a certificate and pin.  You may either observe and log
    the 250 galaxies and galaxy clusters by "manual" means (you find the object and visually observe it), or
    you may use technology-aided finder programs and CCD imaging to record the objects.  An 8" 'scope
    is about the minimum size needed, and for some of the groups, you may need a 'scope 12" or larger.

The Herschel 400 Club
    A special certificate, suitable for framing, is awarded to those who observe and log all 400 of these
    selected Herschel objects.  Telescopes 6" and up are required to complete this observation program.

The Herschel II Club
    There are 400 Herschel objects in this observing program, and they are more obscure than the original
    selection, and require detailed log entries.  The goal, other than advanced observation, is to teach field
    skills and how to give technical object descriptions.  A certificate and pin are awarded for completion.
    This program is only suitable for advanced amateur astronomers.


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The Lunar Club
    This certificate/pin program demands observation and logging of 100 lunar features which have been
    broken up into three categories:  naked-eye; binocular; and telescopic.  If you have trouble seeing a
    feature with the designated category, (Example: If you can't see a  naked-eye designated feature, you
    may move up to the next observational level, which would be binoculars.) you can make compensation
    and if you have particular difficulty, there are exercises which you may use to substitute for credit.

The Master Observer Club
    This certificate/pin program is for those who have completed at least 10 of the League observing
    programs.  This is for seasoned observers with much observation and log experience.

The Messier Club
    Two certificates are available...the first (Messier Club Member) for the observation an logging of 70
    Messier objects, and the second (Honorary Member with certificate signed by the current AL
    president) when the balance of the 110 recognized M objects have been observed and logged.
    Automated equipment is not allowed...you learn to find things on your own, naturally, without the
    intrusion of technology that takes away the thought and the experience of finding the object that you plan
    to observe.

The Meteor Club
    This is a cumulative observation program for 36 hours of logged meteor activity.  The first certificate, for
    6 hours of observation is for Membership in the Meteor Club.  The second certificate, after 36 hours of
    observation, is for an Honorary Membership Certificate.  Each observing session should be one hour or
    more.

The Planetary Observer's Club
    This certificate/pin observation program incorporates 27 different projects to help you learn how to get
    the most from your observation sessions...observing well is necessary to log well.  With this program,
    you learn how to really See what you are looking at.


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The Southern Skies Binocular Club
    This is a binocular observing program featuring the skies of the Southern Hemisphere.   If you travel
    below the equator for business or pleasure, with good weather you can check off these objects to
    complete your observations of both Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  This is a certificate program.

The Sunspotter's Club
    One of the major requirements for this observing program is a good solar filter.  NEVER use a solar
    filter that screws into or is placed over or in front of an eyepiece.  The filter should ALWAYS cover the
    main objective.  For this program, you must have proper equipment.  Retinal burns are not painful at the
    time of exposure, and they are not reparable if damage does occur.  In this program, you will learn
    about solar features and processes, which gives you pretty good insight on what is going on in the rest of
    the universe.  This is a certificate program.
Note:  Relatively inexpensive Baader Solar Filter Material is available from Draco Productions.

The Universe Sampler Club
    This certificate program is designed specifically for the Beginning Astronomer.  In this program, you will
     learn how to observe and log your observations.  You will learn the names of stars and constellations,
     and much more basic astronomy that will prepare you for reaching a more advanced level of
     astronomical observation.

The Urban Observing Club
    This certificate program features 100 astronomical objects that can be viewed in light-polluted skies.  In
    fact, light pollution is one of the requirements of this program.  Any of the objects logged for this
    program may be used for any other appropriate AL certificate, although other observations for AL
    certificates that were not viewed from light-polluted areas are not acceptable for this program.


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