It is with some surprise that I find myself in year three of my two year term as President of the ASE!
At the last AGM, in the absence of any volunteers to take over the position, I was co-opted to be President for another year. Whilst I am happy to oblige, this necessity for co-option is hardly an indication of an entirely healthy state of affairs. We have a large membership made up of people of diverse professions and skills of which the ASE could benefit, but it is difficult to persuade members to come forward with help in the running of the Society. The result is that it is always left to the same handful of people to do all the work. Most of the members of the Council have full time jobs and generously give much of their (limited) free time to deal with Society business covering both our interest of astronomy and the more tiresome administration matters relating to the Calton Hill Observatory.
The ASE is an active and interesting society and it would be nice to think that all of our time could be devoted to enjoying this interest. Alas for the council, time has also to be given to arising difficulties, usually relating to the management and maintenance of the observatory site. It is never easy to deal with the City Council, our landlords, largely because the wheels of local government administration turn frustratingly slowly, but if this is a drawback, we must balance against this, the privilege of enjoying this historic site. I think its worth all the effort.
We are lucky in the society to have so many benefits. As well as this unrestricted use of the City Observatory for our meetings and hosting events, we have for practical observing, the dark site at Earlyburn where we also have access to some very nice equipment. In this area of practical observing, the observing and imaging groups have restarted having had a break over the summer months, but since resuming, the dismal weather has given no opportunities for observing. Nevertheless, the time has been well spent overcoming equipment problems and discussing projects for the coming session. One plan discussed was for the groups to make more use of the Earlyburn site, where, given unclouded skies, the remoteness from city lights gives better conditions for observing and imaging. There, members can use our 12" Lewis reflecting telescope, which under the darker skies should give amazing views of celestial objects. Any member is welcome to join either group. No equipment or prior knowledge is necessary: just dress up warmly, come along and enjoy.
I hope this illustrates our aim that whether members interests lie in the practical and observing side of astronomy or whether the preference is to be a fireside astronomer, there is something in the society for everyone. Occasionally there can be hitches when our best laid plans go awry or when our own work and personal commitments prevent the completion of council tasks on time. This is when we start to hear complaints. Of course we need to be told when we are not getting things right, but rather than criticising, why not instead ask yourself what you can do to help and whether you have skills that you may have to offer. Remember, the ASE is our collective responsibility for the benefit of all the members sharing in our mutual interest of astronomy.
In the meantime, please do give some thought to joining the council. We need new people with fresh ideas to ensure the continued success of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.
Now who is going to volunteer to be president?