The South Plains Astronomy Club is a small group of active astronomers who enjoy observing under the beautifully dark West Texas skies while being serenaded by coyotes and night birds. We’re a friendly bunch who enjoy showing newcomers the night skies and discussing the latest in telescopes, astro-imaging, astronomical discoveries and space exploration.
CHAIR, JUNIOR ACTIVITIES
The South Plains Astronomy Club was founded in November, 1959. Several people who were keenly interested in astronomy met at one of their homes, here in Lubbock, in order to establish a local amateur astronomy society or club. The first official meeting occurred on Friday, 6 November 1959. At that first meeting, there was an election of the first president, vice-president, and secretary for the fledgling club. The secretary agreed to contact some well-established clubs to obtain copies of their constitutions, and other information that could be used to form a club. There was a discussion concerning the aims, purposes, and objectives which the club should have. The club began to grow from there.
A faded article (reproduced below) from the 3 January 1960 edition of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal heralded the formation of the Club. As the article reveals, SPAC was founded by a group of very serious amateur astronomers with a very lofty vision for the organization.
In December 1959, the club met at The West Texas Museum Planetarium, which was located behind the Museum. This later became Holden Hall, on the then Texas Tech “College” campus. There was star gazing in the parking lot following the meeting. During those early years, there was far less light pollution in the city of Lubbock than there is now. Loop 289 and the South Plains Mall had not been constructed, the population was far less, and the sky was much darker, making amateur astronomy easier. The Milky Way was visible on any cloudless, moonless night from almost anywhere in the city of Lubbock.
For many years, the club met at the Planetarium, or in the homes of members. The Planetarium at that time had a simple concrete floor, and metal folding chairs. After the “new” Museum and Planetarium was opened in its current location on Fourth Street in 1970, the club members were invited to the opening ceremonies, at which Governor Preston Smith spoke. During the ensuing years, the club met there quite a few times. Many pleasant meetings were also held in someone’s home, often with light refreshments accompanying. The meeting format followed Robert’s Rules of Order: the meeting was called to order, visitors were introduced, the minutes to the previous meeting were read and approved, then old and new business were covered, a program was presented, etc.
Over the years, the club has met in a variety of places, including The Precinct One Clubhouse (no longer in existence), the Mahon Library, various public schools, classrooms at Texas Tech, and The Garden and Arts Center, to name a few. Often, public “star parties” would be held— especially at The Garden and Arts Center, where club members would assist members of the public with viewing celestial beauties with their telescopes. This included observing planets, nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, and more.
During the 1970s, SPAC published its own monthly newsletter, the South Plains Observer, which contained not only summaries of Club business but also observing reports, descriptions of celestial events, and summaries of Club research activities (much of this is now accomplished by this website). It hosted regional conventions of the Astronomical League in 1964 and 1975.
Throughout its history, the club has always welcomed visitors of any level of interest— from people who just had some interest in astronomy, to beginners in astronomy as a hobby, to amateurs, to people who had more serious interests, and even professional astronomers. The membership of the Club has waxed and waned. Still, its purpose has remained unchanged over the decades— to “foster interest and activities in all phases of astronomy for its members and the public.”