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Star power

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAD MILLER
Shown is an astro image taken by BMAA member Brad Miller of the Aurora Borealis as seen from Newtown, Pa.

By Megan Badger

Wire Managing Editor

Since he was a young child, George Reagan has been fascinated with the sky.

And he’s not alone.

The Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association is a group of people with a common interest: exploring the unknown. The club is composed of approximately 40 amateur astronomers hailing from Bucks and Montgomery counties, as well as New Jersey.

According to the group’s website, members vary in age, profession and ability. Some are engineers and scientists, while others are artists and college students. BMAA welcomes anyone interested in the mysteries of the sky, from novices to experts.

The club meets monthly to hear lectures on astronomical topics and to observe the night sky. The nonprofit organization also works to educate the public about astronomy through star watches and community outreach programs.

“I was interested in astronomy from when I was a child, when I was about 8 years old, and when we first landed on the moon,” Reagan explained during a phone interview with the Midweek Wire. “The space program in 1960s was quite exciting, as I recall, as a child.”

The club was created around 1984, Reagan said, about the same time Halley’s Comet was taking the astronomy world by storm.

Reagan, a Bensalem resident, joined the group in the 1990s after attending his first star watch. Today, he organizes the star watch programs for the BMAA.

“Our goal is to promote the science of astronomy in the public,” Reagan explained. “We hold star watches at more than a dozen different locations in Bucks and Montgomery counties.”

The BMAA holds regular star watches for its members and the public throughout the year, where attendees can stargaze and use telescopes to observe the sky. In March, the club will hold star watches at Lower Nike Park in Warrington, Peace Valley Nature Center in Doylestown and Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust in Huntingdon Valley.

The group also holds special star watch programs for area schools, scout troops and churches, Reagan said.

“We would cater a program to certain specifications if they had them, or we would come up with a program. For example, the upcoming comet (Ison) is something we could explore,” Reagan said. “The programs take place indoors for an hour or so, with some hands-on experiments in some cases, then we would go outside for a star watch.”

The BMAA also participates in Astronomy Day, a day created by its umbrella organization, The Astronomical League, to educate the public about astronomy. Astronomy Day will take place nationally on April 20, and Reagan said the group is hoping to put together a local event for the public.

The next BMAA meeting will take place on Feb. 6 and feature a viewing of the film The City Dark, followed by a discussion. Meetings take place monthly and are open to the public.

“If you have any curiosity about what’s in the night sky, come out,” Reagan said. “As long as you have interest in it, it doesn’t matter what knowledge you have, you can always learn.”

The BMAA meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, at 411 Susquhanna Rd. in Ambler. For more information about meetings, star watches or becoming a member, visit www.bma2.org or email starwatch@bma2.org.

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