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What is an Astronomer?

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#1 piccolo3200

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:09 AM

I have seen a couple of threads on here discussing the idea of what makes a person an astronomer - whether amateur or professional. There was discussion of whether armchair astronomy makes a person an astronomer and what the minimum observation time is to be considered an astronomer. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but since I saw no one who shared my opinion on the subject and since the old topics were archived, I thought I would open this post.

I disagree with the notion of observing being any kind of requirement to be an astronomer. Astronomy is a science, and an astronomer is a type of scientist. Although observing and studying are useful tools in astronomy, I don't think they make a person an astronomer. In my opinion a person could study astronomy all day and go out and look at the stars in a telescope all night and still only be an observer, not an astronomer.

So if observing or learning about astronomy doesn't make a person an astronomer then what does? Again, an astronomer is a scientist - so they need to produce some results. It could be making a new discovery or publishing a paper, but it doesn't have to be that advanced. I think simply keeping an observing log or making sketches of what you see is sufficient to be called an astronomer. Certainly astrophotography would be sufficient. Even posting on this forum could be sufficient.

I think the key to being an astronomer is contributing to the body of knowledge of astronomy. No amount of studying or observing will make an astronomer but producing some results, regardless of how minor, will. I could be entirely wrong, but I thought Id share my opinion since I didn't see it in the prior discussions.

Edited by piccolo3200, 10 April 2020 - 08:12 AM.


#2 Shorty Barlow

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:19 AM

I just like to look at stuff.


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#3 eyeoftexas

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:26 AM

I agree with your summary, as it summarizes basically the definition of all scientists.  I am in fact a scientist, but not an astronomer.  Like Shorty Barlow, I just like to view what exists in the universe, and learn about what I view.  I do not expect to make any contributions to the science, and would thus never call myself an astronomer.  Unfortunately, I cannot think of a good term to call myself at public star parties; star ogler doesn't sound quite right.wink.gif


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#4 piccolo3200

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:30 AM

I am definitely not saying that there is anything wrong with just observing. I am still relatively new so I am really just studying and observing at this point. I want to start keeping an observation log but after a couple false starts I am still not sure how I am going to start one that I will be happy with. I am by no means putting down observing - I love going out and observing the beautiful objects in the night sky. I was looking at the moon and Jupiter against the blue sky in the early morning daylight this morning. Observing is great, but I don't think any amount of observing in itself is sufficient to be called an astronomer.

So what to call an observer - the term observer is apt I think. At this point I consider myself a stargazer and an astronomy enthusiast.:)

Edited by piccolo3200, 10 April 2020 - 08:32 AM.


#5 Barlowbill

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:33 AM

A while back (don't remember when) there was a long post on the subject.  As I remember, most folks don't consider "astronomer" the proper title for "backyard astronomers".



#6 piccolo3200

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:41 AM

I started this thread in response to the following thread because the topic seemed to focus on observing as being a requirement for an astronomer...

https://www.cloudyni...eur-astronomer/

#7 sg6

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:42 AM

Having been involved at a university with post graduate people it is an almost impossible answer.

How about is a 10K park jogger an athlete ?

 

Some years back a swimming coach caused ripples here, they basically said unless you can make the final they would not include you in the squad.

 

A good point as unless you could be pretty sure of making the final then no way would you have a chance of a medal. You were just making up the numbers for the entertainment stages.

 

So define "astronomer" ?

If someone who looks at the sky and and has some knowledge of the various objects then yes.

Someone researching the fluid dynamics of red dwarfs then no.

 

It can however be even some research astronomers have a narrow appreciation of their overall subject. They can be way too focussed on just their narrow portion.

 

I play it safe. I deny knowledge of anything and everything. Then I will explain it to whoever has asked hopefully such that they understand. But I am very good at denying all knowledge of everything. Very good. Almost as good as one or two professors I have met, they are at times still better.

 

Most research astronomers are good C programmers, and know how to interrogate data. What a terriable life they must have.lol.giflol.giflol.giflol.gif


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#8 RalphMeisterTigerMan

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:43 AM

Astro - Star.

Nomer - Naming (namer).

 

Astronomer - Namer of Stars. Well, not too many of us get to name stars anymore, and do not get me started on the charletans that sell Stars so you can name it what-ever-you want.

 

We, Amateur Astronomers, because we do it for fun and for the most part do not get paid for it, do it cause we look up at the Night Sky and we dare to wonder. We are curious, so we take it a step further and use optical instruments to get a better look. Some of us make use of even more sophisticated instruments that allow us to see what these things in the sky are made of. And yet many more of us use recording instruments to make interesting renditions and keep-sakes so that we can share our views with others and relive the moment anytime we want.

 

But I think we all have one thing in common. We wonder. We ask questions. We would like to know. And in the end, the Cosmos calls to us and we have to go out and look!

 

Clear and beautiful skies!

RalphMeisterTigerMan


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#9 RyanSem

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:43 AM

I like the way you look at it. I call myself an astronomy enthusiast, not an astronomer.
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#10 piccolo3200

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:56 AM

So define "astronomer" ?
If someone who looks at the sky and and has some knowledge of the various objects then yes.
Someone researching the fluid dynamics of red dwarfs then no.


Actually in my opinion I would say the person with some knowledge of the night sky objects was not an astronomer but the one researching fluid dynamics of red dwarfs would be!

Edited by piccolo3200, 10 April 2020 - 08:57 AM.


#11 airbleeder

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 08:58 AM

   You will offend a lot of folks if you refer to them as anything other than an astronomer or amateur astronomer. Not me because I consider myself as a stargazer. I just enjoy the view and the quiet relaxation it brings. There is nothing serious about my approach to the hobby of amateur astronomy.

   I consider many here on CN as astronomers, whether they might or not. They are much more involved than I. I respect and admire them for their approach and the knowledge they share with us. 

    Observing in itself doesn't make one an astronomer but it surely doesn't make you not one either.



#12 piccolo3200

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:09 AM

No need for anyone to take offense - I said earlier that merely posting on Cloudy Nights could be sufficient to be an astronomer. :)

#13 Gipht

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:17 AM

Can't astronomy also be a hobby?  


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#14 csa/montana

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:24 AM

Can't astronomy also be a hobby?  

It certainly is for me.  When it would become more than a hobby, requiring more work; then it ceases to be enjoyment, therefore no longer a hobby.  I've never called myself an astronomer; rather that I just enjoy the night sky wonders.


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#15 Astrola72

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:25 AM

We're all astronomers. Some of us are professional, most are amateur.


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#16 zakry3323

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:42 AM

I like to call myself an Astro-Ambassador. I have nothing to contribute to the science of Astronomy, but I do have something to contribute to furthering the appreciation of the science of Astronomy by providing outreach opportunities and furthering the cause of the International Dark Sky Association. 

I dunno, call me whatever you like, as long as it's not late for dinner :)


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#17 eyeoftexas

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:42 AM

Can't astronomy also be a hobby?  

 

Absolutely is for me.  But, the question is, are we (most of us) astronomers because we partake in this hobby?  Similar to the question, if someone likes to pick up rocks while on a hike in woods, are they geologists?


Edited by eyeoftexas, 10 April 2020 - 09:43 AM.


#18 InkDark

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 09:46 AM

 

 

So define "astronomer" ?

 

 

...and define what is observing.

 

We are all people who have an interest in Nature. Some have more background and tools than others...and time to study. 

 

Amateurs today probably have a better general knowledge than some "professional" a couple of century ago. OTOH, they found out about nature on their own...which bring contribution into play. So, thank you Mr. Hubble...I know that they are not just spiral nebulas. 



#19 csrlice12

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 10:05 AM

Schhhhhh.....they may start jailing us again....or throwing us off the edge of the Earth.


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#20 Jond105

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 11:40 AM

I’m just a guy who at night wants to be outside looking at things most can’t see in our Bortles 9 sky. Amateur astronomer, definitely not. I don’t calculate my double star observing. Still have no idea about arc secs. But I know how to find things through star hopping. So that’s something I guess. I know Plato on the moon. I knows the craters are amazing, but don’t know the names of almost anything with that. I’m just a guy with some gear I guess. 


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#21 Classic8

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 12:00 PM

I would say an astronomer is someone who is developing theories or collecting data which is published and used by others to further knowledge of astronomy. In most cases, that would be actual scientists. But then you have people doing variable star measurements which can further the science of astronomy. And what about someone classifying galaxies on their computer for a crowd-sourcing project? So I guess the term is, well, nebulous.



#22 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 12:53 PM

So if observing or learning about astronomy doesn't make a person an astronomer then what does? Again, an astronomer is a scientist - so they need to produce some results. It could be making a new discovery or publishing a paper, but it doesn't have to be that advanced. I think simply keeping an observing log or making sketches of what you see is sufficient to be called an astronomer. Certainly astrophotography would be sufficient. Even posting on this forum could be sufficient.

 

This is worth reading:

 

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Astronomer

 

"Astronomers usually fall under either of two main types: observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers make direct observations of celestial objects and analyze the data."

 

For most of my adult life I have been involved with what I call "Big Science."  That means well funded research groups with a specific research goal, turning out papers as a way to justify their existence. I am a coauthor on more papers than I can count including one that was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society where Newton published.  

 

For me, Astronomy is "little science." Something I do for my own edification, for my own enjoyment.

 

In my mind, an astronomer is someone who studies the celestial sphere and tries to gain an understanding on some level.  It is not necessary to publish or share that understanding, it need not be original or new.  As amateurs, there is no requirement to publish.

 

Science is driven by curiosity, the need to know.  If curiosity is one of the driving forces in what someone is doing, and it is my experience all good scientists are intensely curious, then the net result will be a greater understanding.  I will also say that in my experience, part of that curiosity is the awareness of universe.  One cannot look at a distant galaxy or even a photo of a distant galaxy and not be in awe that it exists.  

 

But who is an astronomer and who isn't, it's just semantics, a matter of definitions and in the big picture meaningless.  

 

We are who we are, we do what we do regardless of what we are called. 

 

A story:

 

In 1938 near the end of the depression my father was a commercial fisherman, fishing for Albacore off the coast of Oregon and Washington.  One day, as he was unloading his catch, someone watching made a snide remark about the "dumb fisherman."  My father took the man aside, dissected an Albacore, pointing out the organs and their purpose and also noting in passing that when first caught, their body temperature was above the water temperature.  This was not in the literature.  

 

At the time, my dad was a "commercial fisherman."

 

40 years later, he was a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and had published published papers in Nature, Science, Scientific American (back when these were respected journals) as well as many other journals.  He had been elected to the National Academy of Engineering as well as the National Academy of Sciences among others.  He worked in a variety of fields of oceanography and was a highly respected "scientist."

 

But he was no different in his approach to the world when he was a "commercial fisherman" than when he was a "scientist."  He was always doing science. 

 

http://www.nasonline...isaacs-john.pdf

 

jon


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#23 desertlens

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 01:22 PM

I think of myself as an "aesthetic astronomer". I collect "experiences" rather than data.


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#24 Classic8

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 01:27 PM

This is worth reading:

 

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Astronomer

 

"Astronomers usually fall under either of two main types: observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers make direct observations of celestial objects and analyze the data."

 

For most of my adult life I have been involved with what I call "Big Science."  That means well funded research groups with a specific research goal, turning out papers as a way to justify their existence. I am a coauthor on more papers than I can count including one that was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society where Newton published.  

 

For me, Astronomy is "little science." Something I do for my own edification, for my own enjoyment.

 

In my mind, an astronomer is someone who studies the celestial sphere and tries to gain an understanding on some level.  It is not necessary to publish or share that understanding, it need not be original or new.  As amateurs, there is no requirement to publish.

 

Science is driven by curiosity, the need to know.  If curiosity is one of the driving forces in what someone is doing, and it is my experience all good scientists are intensely curious, then the net result will be a greater understanding.  I will also say that in my experience, part of that curiosity is the awareness of universe.  One cannot look at a distant galaxy or even a photo of a distant galaxy and not be in awe that it exists.  

 

But who is an astronomer and who isn't, it's just semantics, a matter of definitions and in the big picture meaningless.  

 

We are who we are, we do what we do regardless of what we are called. 

 

A story:

 

In 1938 near the end of the depression my father was a commercial fisherman, fishing for Albacore off the coast of Oregon and Washington.  One day, as he was unloading his catch, someone watching made a snide remark about the "dumb fisherman."  My father took the man aside, dissected an Albacore, pointing out the organs and their purpose and also noting in passing that when first caught, their body temperature was above the water temperature.  This was not in the literature.  

 

At the time, my dad was a "commercial fisherman."

 

40 years later, he was a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and had published published papers in Nature, Science, Scientific American (back when these were respected journals) as well as many other journals.  He had been elected to the National Academy of Engineering as well as the National Academy of Sciences among others.  He worked in a variety of fields of oceanography and was a highly respected "scientist."

 

But he was no different in his approach to the world when he was a "commercial fisherman" than when he was a "scientist."  He was always doing science. 

 

http://www.nasonline...isaacs-john.pdf

 

jon

When did Science and Nature stop being respected journals?


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#25 rockethead26

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 01:27 PM

There are "star gazers" and there are "astronomers".




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