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Welcome Back, Amateur Astronomers and AAS Alumni!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - 08:53

This is the final post in a three-part series about the changes to our membership classes now being implemented in response to the recommendations of the AAS Governance Task Force. The first post summarized all the updates and included details about Full and Associate membership. The second post outlined the changes to student memberships. This installment covers the new Affiliate classes for amateur astronomers and alumni.

As a scientific society, we’ve come full circle. When the AAS was founded nearly 120 years ago and astronomy as a profession was in its infancy, amateurs accounted for a significant fraction of our membership. This fall we not only welcome serious amateurs back into the fold but also look forward to reconnecting with former members who have left the astronomical sciences for careers in other fields.

Thanks to the proliferation of digital technology, today’s amateur astronomers have access to telescopes, cameras, computers, and software that would have been the envy of professionals not that long ago. Whether as backyard observers or internet-enabled citizen scientists, these enthusiasts volunteer as observers, data collectors or miners, and/or analysts for research projects large and small. They may not have professional degrees or advanced academic training in the astronomical sciences (though many do have such degrees or training in other sciences, engineering, or medicine), they significantly advance our discipline through their scientific research, often done in collaboration with professional astronomers. As long as amateurs do not depend on the field of astronomy as a primary source of income or support, they are now welcome to join the AAS as Amateur Affiliates.

Applicants are required to be a member of an affiliated organization, such as an astronomy club that belongs to the Astronomical League; the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO); the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP); the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO); the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS); the International Meteor Organization (IMO); the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA); the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA); or the Citizen Science Association, to name a few.

Dues for Amateur Affiliates will be $52 for 2019. Inaugural benefits include reduced registration fees to AAS meetings, access to the AAS family of journals, and the annual AAS Wall Calendar. Additional programs and opportunities are expected for this group once a critical mass is established for survey and feedback purposes. 

The final new group on the Society’s horizon includes Alumni Affiliates — former members who subsequently left the field but would like to retain a connection to the AAS community. To facilitate this connection, Alumni will enjoy discounted registration rates to AAS meetings and access to the AAS Membership Directory, among other benefits. Dues for Alumni are set at $103 for 2019. Prior membership at the Full, Associate, or Junior level is required.

Like all Affiliates, members of these new Affiliate classes may not vote in AAS elections or run for office but may serve on AAS committees and present papers at Society meetings (with sponsorship by a Full Member). Applications for both groups are in development and will be posted online by mid-August.

Diane K. Frendak
Director of Membership Services
American Astronomical Society (AAS)
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