Group Spotlight: SaddleBrooke SkyGazers

At SaddleBrooke, the planned community for active, older adults located north of Tucson, Arizona, the light pollution is low, and the astronomy club is aglow. The two are absolutely related.

“We have no street lights, so when people move here, they all at once discover they can see stars,” says Richard Spitzer. “We have a lot of people who take up looking at the night sky for the first time.”

Spitzer is a retired high-school science teacher, and a longtime resident of SaddleBrooke, where he’s one of the leaders of GroupWorks’ own SaddleBrooke Skygazers Astronomy Club.

On a national level, astronomy is a popular club activity. The Night Sky Network, a coalition of amateur astronomy groups sponsored, in part, by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, boasts member clubs that dot the U.S. map.

The SaddleBrooke Skygazers Astronomy Club group boasts more than 130 dues-paying members from Saddlebrooke. The clubgoers gather regularly for field trips to observatories, and astronomy programs featuring talks by professors and even the occasional retired astronaut.

Weather permitting, star parties, where telescopes are set up and trained to objects of interest in the night sky (think: Mars, Saturn and the Andromeda Galaxy), are held monthly. Among the members, there are those who bring the telescopes, and those who just bring their enthusiasm. Spitzer is one who brings both.

“I’m somebody who grew up during the space race [of the 1950s and 1960s], and I just thought it was so neat that we were going to the moon,” Spitzer says, wryly adding, “My big disappointment in life is that I can’t get on a ship and go to Mars.”

Spitzer has made the most of his time here on Earth. When he began teaching astronomy to public-school children, he was determined to not do as some of his college professors had — which is to say, teach astronomy in lecture halls only. Spitzer required his pupils to go outside, and study the night sky.

When Spitzer moved to SaddleBrooke in the mid-2000s, he wasted no time in joining the SkyGazers. While astronomy is an avocation that can be done solo, for Spitzer, it’s a passion that’s enhanced when shared with others — and their equipment.

“I joined the club to look through some other people’s telescopes,” Spitzer says  “I also enjoy the programs that [the club] puts on. I get to hear from astronomers who are currently working in the field.”

As Spitzer assumed a leadership role in the SaddleBrooke SkyGazers, he’s came to appreciate GroupWorks’ club-management platform. “We always had a hard time sending emails to members because we ran into spam-screening programs,” he says. “The major thing I like about GroupWorks is that it’s really valuable to send out an email, and not have it go to people’s spam.”

Spitzer also likes the GroupWorks feature that allows him to post stories, pictures and videos of interest to his club’s group page. “And it’s really valuable for the calendars that’ll send out reminders for our meetings and star parties,” Spitzer says.

If you ever happen to catch Spitzer at a star party, either at SaddleBrooke or a local community event that the SkyGazers club has been invited to present at, don’t hesitate to ask a question.

Says Spitzer: “I’m a retired teacher, so it gives me a teaching fix.”