Return to the Cloudy Nights Telescope Reviews home pageAstronomics discounts for Cloudy Nights members
· Get a Cloudy Nights T-Shirt · Submit a Review / Article

Click here if you are having trouble logging into the forums

Privacy Policy | Please read our Terms of Service | Signup and Troubleshooting FAQ | Problems? PM a Red or a Green Gu… uh, User

General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

Pages: 1
Madratter
Postmaster


Reged: 01/14/13

Doing Science new
      #5760874 - 03/27/13 05:24 PM

I have been thinking about the state of amateur astronomy. Back in the day, amateurs were an important part of the astronomy community. Planets, variable stars, discovering comets, etc. all were almost a necessary thing. The pros just did not have the instruments or the time to track it all themselves.

This largely seems to have changed. Some of the planets are under continuous surveillance by space probe. It is getting to the point where pros can monitor literally thousands of stars for extremely tiny variations in magnitude. Finding comets has again been taken over largely by spacecraft.

What does that leave us? I use to be a member of AAVSO, but I really question the value of doing the observations anymore from a science point of view.

I know we can still find supernova in Galaxies, although that takes either enormous discipline or luck. We can conceivably detect Near Earth Asteroids.

I'm just curious what is out there to be done that actually will make a difference and where you have a reasonable chance of success.

And what kind of equipment do you need? For example, I can easily image stars as faint as 18+ with my STF-8300 mono on my Celestron 8" with reasonable exposure times. And I know I can measure the magnitude of those stars using software. But is there any value to it, especially if you don't use UBV filters? And will there be any value in 2 years since the pros are rapidly gaining capability in these areas.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
GlennLeDrew
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 06/18/08

Loc: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5760910 - 03/27/13 05:44 PM

There are many poorly studied open clusters. Amateurs can construct color-magnitude diagrams from B and V band photometry, which can reasonably well determine interstellar reddening along the line of sight, a half decent distance estimate and constraints on age.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
StarmanDan
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 08/27/07

Loc: Deep in the heart of Texas
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5760958 - 03/27/13 06:08 PM

While amateur discoveries are declining due to the increasing number of automated sky surveys, amateurs can still contribute useful science. One of the nice things about these surveys is they generate a huge amount of data and discoveries are being made nearly every day. As a result of the overwhelming success of these surveys, the pros often don't have time to follow up on these discoveries. Much of the data is available to the public and many folks mine that data in an effort to make their own discoveries. I regularly check the IAU circulars for new discoveries that need follow up observations. Be it comets, asteroids, or novae.

One of the more challenging ventures I'm involved in is asteroid occultations. This is probably one of the last fields where amateurs have a huge advantage over the pros as these observations usually require travel and the more observers the better. The advantage here is you don't need a fancy scope or equipment to make valuable observations, just be in the right place at the right time, even a negative observation is just as valuable as it means that the predictions were wrong and more follow up observations are required.

You may also want to see if your astronomy club is involved in any pro-am collaborations. My club is intimately involved with the University of Texas and McDonald Observatory. We are lucky to have a research grade observatory and scope that is used by students doing graduate thesis work (we currently have two students using the scope) and McDonald will often use our scope to test out new equipment or software before installing it on one of the scopes on the mountain. We also have the same camera and computer that is used on the 82" on loan for our own research and to use as a backup in case anything happens to the equipment on the 82". We also participate in the Whole Earth Telescope project organized by the University of Delaware's Astrophysics Department each year and involves dozens of observatories around the world.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
buddyjesus
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 07/07/10

Loc: Davison, Michigan
Re: Doing Science new [Re: StarmanDan]
      #5761074 - 03/27/13 07:11 PM

I enjoy looking for exoplanet transits in front of stars using Kepler data on a site called http://www.zooniverse.org

found about 36 canidates so far. they also have an interesting solar weather program and lunar topography ap if you prefer lunar.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
uniondrone
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 12/05/09

Loc: Streetlight Archipelago
Re: Doing Science new [Re: buddyjesus]
      #5761093 - 03/27/13 07:22 PM

I would look into the AAVSO. One of the members of my club has logged tens of thousands of observations with them and routinely gives presentations on how amateurs do a lot of the real work when it comes to variable star observing.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Cotts
Just Wondering
*****

Reged: 10/10/05

Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5761256 - 03/27/13 08:37 PM

Double Star Measuring. See this scientific journal where most of the articles are by amateurs. (I am working towards contributing myself).

Also the there is a huge list of "Neglected" double stars and multiple systems in the Washington Double Star Catalogue. See here.
Professional astronomers simply haven't the time or grant money to re-find these systems and measure them so that the WDS is more accurate and comprehensive.

You could probably do valid work with a 6-inch scope and certainly with an 8-inch or larger...

As I said, this is a goal of mine. Fellow CN'er Ed Wiley is already up and running! Real science and the opportunity to publish.

Dave


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
tecmageModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 01/13/10

Loc: Glenview, IL
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Cotts]
      #5761423 - 03/27/13 10:07 PM

I think space is big enough for scientists AND amateurs to make discoveries.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
buddyjesus
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 07/07/10

Loc: Davison, Michigan
Re: Doing Science new [Re: tecmage]
      #5761518 - 03/27/13 11:15 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanny%27s_Voorwerp

discovered by an amateur helping pros on the zoo site.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
gravitino
sage
*****

Reged: 04/28/09

Loc: Evanston, IL
Re: Doing Science [Re: Madratter]
      #5761524 - 03/27/13 11:19 PM

I think it is not, as you note, "like it used to be." But that doesn't mean there are not scientific opportunities for our community. As technology changes, what we can do also changes.

There is a difference between "discovery" and "doing science." Technology has improved for everyone --- amateurs and pros alike. While "discovery" can be dominated by automated surveys, it is still a big sky and the coverage by surveys is not nearly complete yet.

Furthermore, as was previously mentioned, there is little followup that is done. Supernovae are followed in the month or two after outburst, but very seldom at long times after that (how many times have you seen a SN or nova data point 6, 8, 10 months after the event? those long time tails are potentially very interesting). Similarly with exoplanet transits --- the pros are all after Earth sized worlds. Long term monitoring of the Jovian sized worlds, particularly hot Jupiters, is potentially very important for refining orbits and understanding the evolution of these systems.

As for continuously contributing observations, as many have noted there is an opportunity to do science on the data. With the improvement in technology for everyone, what amateurs can "do as science" should also change. As was noted there are large citizen science programs (like Zooniverse), but for programs like those the AAVSO runs there are lots of stars (and star types) that simply need more data at higher cadence, AND need to have that data analyzed! The beauty of the modern era is that not only is your telescope and camera improved, but so are the software tools that are available for analyzing data. No longer do you have to write your own Fourier analysis codes (though you can); there are many commercial and open source software packages that can do this kind of analysis.

I'm both a pro and an amateur; there are many instances where we use results from the amateurs in our professional research. For instance, my colleagues and I think a lot about the ultra-compact binary population of the galaxy (WD+WD systems). One of the most important for us, AM CVn, has a period that was measured by amateurs (organized by Joe Patterson and the Center for Backyard Astrophysics -- http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1998ApJ...493L.105H ). :-)

Clear skies,
-- Shane


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Madratter
Postmaster


Reged: 01/14/13

Re: Doing Science new [Re: gravitino]
      #5763043 - 03/28/13 07:35 PM

While I do understand the value of things like the galaxy zoo, they are far less appealing to me than observations I can do with my own equipment.

As I mentioned in the first post, I did the AAVSO thing for a while and I enjoyed doing it. But I do get the feeling that for regular stars, it just isn't as valuable as it once was.

I did enjoying imaging SN 2013am last night. Whether those observations have any scientific value is probably debatable. I did e-mail David Bishop at Rochester with what I had.

Double stars do sound like a possibility.

I guess what I am looking for is something that I can do casually, doesn't cost a lot of money, and yet still has value. The last thing I want to do is create another job for myself.

If imaging Supernova actually has value, I could see myself doing that.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
hbanich
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 06/17/05

Loc: Portland, Oregon
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5763126 - 03/28/13 08:30 PM

How about looking for exo-planets? I know a fellow who has successfully measured the transits of several exo-planets with his 12 inch reflector from his suburban backyard. I think there's a yahoo group that could help direct your efforts if it sounds interesting.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Elric82
super member


Reged: 09/25/11

Loc: Richmond, Kentucky
Re: Doing Science new [Re: hbanich]
      #5763366 - 03/28/13 11:00 PM

I certainly would like to here more about this

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
azure1961p
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/17/09

Loc: USA
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Elric82]
      #5763401 - 03/28/13 11:24 PM

I recall Dennis Dicicco DISCOVERING asteroids with his C11 in his backyard.

The automated surveys are a little daunting to outstep but as mentioned here already avenues exist. What makes things quite interesting is that now more than ever the amateur has imaging technology that exceeds the efforts of the greatest observatories back in the day. Today's amateur is a potent force. They see deeper visually with the huge dob revolution, image into another realm entirely and record details in the solar system no once could have ever dreamed possible short of a satellite pass.

These are exciting times to be an amateur astronomer. The landscapes changing but the tools are empowering. Good luck.

Pete

Edited by azure1961p (03/28/13 11:25 PM)


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
buddyjesus
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 07/07/10

Loc: Davison, Michigan
Re: Doing Science new [Re: azure1961p]
      #5763516 - 03/29/13 01:25 AM

very true pete. the amateur imaging equipment outdoes what the big guys were doing just a couple decades ago. I concur that these are exciting times.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Bill Weir
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 06/01/04

Loc: Metchosin (Victoria), Canada
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Cotts]
      #5763550 - 03/29/13 02:16 AM

Quote:

Double Star Measuring. See this scientific journal where most of the articles are by amateurs. (I am working towards contributing myself).

Also the there is a huge list of "Neglected" double stars and multiple systems in the Washington Double Star Catalogue. See here.
Professional astronomers simply haven't the time or grant money to re-find these systems and measure them so that the WDS is more accurate and comprehensive.

You could probably do valid work with a 6-inch scope and certainly with an 8-inch or larger...

As I said, this is a goal of mine. Fellow CN'er Ed Wiley is already up and running! Real science and the opportunity to publish.

Dave




Yup, a friend from our RASC Centre has had one and one to be published. http://www.jdso.org/volume8/number4/Michaud_v8_p249.pdf

For a few years he kept talking about his imaging doubles in the Pleiades project when I final asked him recently what he actually was doing with them. He said he was each year taking measurements looking for true doubles. I said, you should write some articles on that. He smiled back and said he had and that one had already been published and another was soon to be. Recently it was confirmed/announced (and if I have this correct) he has discovered two new true doubles and has several other good candidates. Many of his measurements were with an 8" newtonian and the rest with the Centre's 14" SCT. The camera is a DSLR.

Bill


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
tedbnh
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 11/14/07

Loc: New Hampshire
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5764628 - 03/29/13 01:02 PM

Consider joining the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) and make a real scientific contribution measuring accurate size and shape of asteroids by timing their occultations of stars. We provide predictions for these events for your area as well as predictions for grazing occultations of stars by the Moon's north and south polar regions as well as total occultations by the Moon. You bring your scope, a low-light camera and a video recorder to a site and record the occultation of the star. Your results are combined with other observers to outline the shape of the asteroid, or the profile of the mountains at the lunar limb. It is very exciting to see the shape of an asteroid emerge from multiple sets of observer data! My first positive observation turned out to help identify a previously unknown double star, a result published in the Journal of Occultation Astronomy.

Visit www.occultations.org for links to many sites and a flyer "Why Occultations?". I am happy to respond to PM's too if you have any questions.

Oh yes, please visit the IOTA booth at NEAF in April to find out more. We will also be offering a class, "Introduction to Occultation Timing and Recording" at NEAF.


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
gravitino
sage
*****

Reged: 04/28/09

Loc: Evanston, IL
Re: Doing Science new [Re: Madratter]
      #5764700 - 03/29/13 01:30 PM

Quote:

I guess what I am looking for is something that I can do casually, doesn't cost a lot of money, and yet still has value. The last thing I want to do is create another job for myself.





Right, when things get too burdensome they aren't enjoyable any more, so you won't have incentive to do them.

But science, like observing, is an artform and takes practice. Picking a particular something (like SN imaging) and doing it A LOT means you'll become better at that. Your data will improve, and with improvment becomes quite valuable. The next stage will be getting the data into the right hands/right archive to be useful, but many of the organizations mentioned are set up to interface with amateurs for exactly this purpose.

Long duration imaging of SN, in the "fading tail" era, after most of us have quit looking, is potentially very interesting as very little data exists on the long term light curves of most SN.

Clear skies,
-- Shane


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
buddyjesus
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 07/07/10

Loc: Davison, Michigan
Re: Doing Science new [Re: gravitino]
      #5771622 - 04/01/13 08:11 PM

you might want to check out the planet hunters segment on this nova episode. It showed an amateur that was looking for transits with his own scope. pretty cool

http://video.pbs.org/video/1456686369


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
gravitino
sage
*****

Reged: 04/28/09

Loc: Evanston, IL
Re: Doing Science new [Re: buddyjesus]
      #5774577 - 04/03/13 01:04 AM

Here is a recent article from the AAVSO --- "Eclipsing Binaries in the 21st Century: Opportunities for Amateur Astronomers"

http://www.aavso.org/ejaavso401467

Clear skies,
-- Shane


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Madratter
Postmaster


Reged: 01/14/13

Re: Doing Science new [Re: gravitino]
      #5776015 - 04/03/13 05:21 PM

Thanks Shane!

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
Pages: 1


Extra information
4 registered and 15 anonymous users are browsing this forum.

Moderator:  cildarith, panhard, tecmage 

Print Thread

Forum Permissions
      You cannot start new topics
      You cannot reply to topics
      HTML is disabled
      UBBCode is enabled


Thread views: 833

Jump to

CN Forums Home


Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics