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What makes a great amateur astronomer?

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#51 csrlice12

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 11:06 AM

We could have asked the World's Greatest Amateur Astronomer....but he took off into outer space a few years back....


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#52 Cotts

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 01:49 PM

Experience is not equal to greatness.  I've got 60 years n the hobby but I'm old, not great.  Knowledgeable, not great.  Skilled in certain specific parts of the hobby, not great. I have some really high end equipment but that just makes me a bit of a spendthrift, not great.

 

Perhaps the label of greatness is the province of those who bridge the amateur/professional gap.  But maybe that's fame, not greatness.  

 

What about being kind, sharing your expertise as needed and gracefully accepting the experience of others.  That's great right there…

 

Dave
 


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#53 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 02:20 PM

It's very clear exactly what great means when it comes to a person. A great amateur astronomer.. what does that mean.

 

Another way to think about it is people who've had a great effect on amateur astronomy, the teachers, the mentors, the educators.

 

I can think of several who've been important to me but I'll toss out two:

 

- David Knisely.  Early on, his work on using deep sky filters was instrumental is educating the community about their usefulness and use. David is also a very skilled observer and frequently discusses the importance of fundamentals.

 

- Rod Mollise. Rod makes sure everyone knows this is supposed to be fun and that whatever equipment you have, getting the most out of it is where it's at. 

 

There are many others, some who've posted to this thread..

 

Jon


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#54 Tony Flanders

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 05:38 AM

Another way to think about it is people who've had a great effect on amateur astronomy, the teachers, the mentors, the educators.


Yes, that's the closest category to "great amateur astronomers" that makes any sense to me. People that I think of as pillars of our community. Jon himself is one, though his venue is limited to Cloudy Nights. Which, contrary to the opinion of some CN members, is very far from the be-all and end-all of amateur astronomy.

I could list quite a number of names, but I think I will refrain from doing so, since I will then inevitably be leaving out other equally deserving people.

 

Well, maybe I will name just one. Behind the scenes -- the one that all the better-known people look to for advice and guidance -- is Brian Skiff, who possibly crosses the amateur/professional divide more than anyone else alive today.


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#55 Supernova74

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 05:43 AM

Then again for me is sharing my known knowledge with others and helping othes along there path in amateur astronomy,being patient,ask questions,having patience of a saint at times.listening to others points of view as I’ve always gone by if someone has lived a lot longer than i have

will have something interesting to say and learn from them.



#56 Nightfly

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 06:03 AM

Many amateur astronomers are drawn to the technological aspects of the hobby - telescopes, astrophotography,  mostly talking about this and that telescope or camera sensor being better, and applying that to the hobby.  To me, that's not what it's about, and the lesser amount of time we spend on those aspects the better. 

 

Great amateur astronomers?  David Levy, Edward Emerson Barnard, Robert Burnham Jr, Sue French, Leslie Pelletier,  Stephen James O'Meara, Walter Scott Houston,  Barbara Wilson, Alan Hale, and many more...

 

The term amateur and professional are not mutually exclusive. Just because you get paid, you do not have to give up the love, that is the essence of the amateur.  Many professionals started as amateurs and remain so despite the forces that professionals encounter.

 

Aspects that great amateurs share:

 

They seldom buy new telescopes opting to put that energy into their work.

 

A high value on aethetics and the qualities of beauty and the human relationship with those values.  

 

They often do their work without fanfare or need for recognition.

 

They are articulate in their work at the telescope or other chosen optic.

 

Often times we never know them or have heard of them.  They exist despite not being part of the online world.

 

Probably don't know a Panoptic from a Plossl. Equipment is secondary to the task at hand.

 

Don't ask themselves if they qualify as "great".

 

Probably were sensitized to the night sky as a child, therefore it is part of their whole being.  Look up - Noctcaelador. 

 

Probably owned a few issues of S&T or Astronomy in their lifetimes, but not necessarily subscribers.

 

If we ourselves are not great, which is the likely situation, by what criteria may we judge greatness?  I think the answer to that is, if we are at least good.  


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#57 Tony Flanders

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 02:52 PM

Many amateur astronomers are drawn to the technological aspects of the hobby - telescopes, astrophotography,  mostly talking about this and that telescope or camera sensor being better, and applying that to the hobby.  To me, that's not what it's about, and the lesser amount of time we spend on those aspects the better.


I don't agree. Being interested only in equipment certainly doesn't make you a well-rounded astronomer. But equipment is a major aspect of our hobby -- just look how different it was in 1620 versus 1600. Before standardized high-quality equipment became available in the late 1900s -- and even after -- most avid observers were obsessed with it. Galileo, Kepler, Messier, Herschel, Lord Rosse, and E.E. Barnard were all deeply concerned with cutting-edge technology and made major contributions to it.

 

My ex-colleague Dennis di Cicco, still a major force in the hobby, used to make his own cameras back in the bad old days when nothing off the shelf was adequate. And despite his expertise in optics and machining, he's quite happy to buy something off the shelf when that's the best solution to a problem.
 

They seldom buy new telescopes opting to put that energy into their work ... Probably don't know a Panoptic from a Plossl.

 
Sue French likes to joke that she married Alan French, a great telescope maker, so that she would never have to buy another telescope. Their garage is full of telescopes.
 
All the living observers you mentioned know quite well the difference between a Panoptic and a Plossl, and likely have strong opinions on the subject as well.


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#58 AhBok

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 04:24 PM

Read Starlight Nights, by Leslie Peltier. The entire book is the answer to your query.

 

Lee

And when you finish this, read “Seeing in the Dark” by Timothy Ferris!


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#59 LDW47

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 04:37 PM

I'd throw Neil English into the mix, he's a great espouser, an advocate of Achro Telscopes, their mentor, a great source .........  and an encourager of a great type of scope that was there and loved before .....  I'm just a rank amateur but thats my 2 cents



#60 Starman1

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 04:42 PM

I'd throw Neil English into the mix, he's a great espouser, an advocate of Achro Telescopes, their mentor, a great source .........  and an encourager of a great type of scope that was there and loved before .....  I'm just a rank amateur but thats my 2 cents

I'm sorry you smell bad.lol.gif

 

Rank: "having an offensively strong smell or taste: a rank cigar. offensively strong, as a smell or taste. "

Sorry, I couldn't resist.......wink.gif

 

You're well on your way to being one of the more experienced amateurs, so "rank amateur" doesn't really apply.


Edited by Starman1, 25 July 2021 - 04:44 PM.

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#61 LDW47

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 04:47 PM

I'm sorry you smell bad.lol.gif

 

Rank: "having an offensively strong smell or taste: a rank cigar. offensively strong, as a smell or taste. "

Sorry, I couldn't resist.......wink.gif

 

You're well on your way to being one of the more experienced amateurs, so "rank amateur" doesn't really apply.

I won't say your wrong about some of that but I never smoked a day in my life incl little cigars, lol



#62 Alan D. Whitman

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 05:16 PM

Behind the scenes -- the one that all the better-known people look to for advice and guidance -- is Brian Skiff, who possibly crosses the amateur/professional divide more than anyone else alive today.

Yes, Brian Skiff of Lowell Observatory is the name that immediately came to my mind for the reasons that you have given, and his knowledge base is extremely wide, and he is very generous with his time and his detailed answers.

 

Before him, E.E. Barnard and William Herschel were amateurs who became great professional astronomers because of their observing skills and their technical skills.

 

Changing focus a bit: several posters have mentioned those who can always be counted on to offer outreach to the general public at every opportunity. This is great, but while  the general public may greatly enjoy a visit to your club's observatory, their interest is normally limited. Who makes great effort to offer observing opportunities to those who are the most interested in astronomy, amateur astronomers? Australian Tony Buckley has provided observing runs with large scopes under dark skies to northern hemisphere amateurs for a quarter century so that keen amateur astronomers can see the sky's finest showpieces, most of which are in the far southern sky. Initially Tony did it all by himself, picking up northern amateurs at Sydney airport and driving them to distant dark sites where he supplied both scopes and accommodation for lengthy observing runs, all for free. (You might get him to allow you to pay for lunch and a tank of gas, if you were quick at grabbing the bill.) Eventually Tony had so many of us benighted northerners coming that he founded the OzSky Star Safari's at Coonabarabran, now run by his protege, Lachlan MacDonald, and a group of Australian amateurs who give up a week of their vacation twice a year so that we can enjoy the far southern sky.

 

OzSky Star Safari:  https://ozsky.org/index.asp

 

Tony Buckley is the most generous amateur astronomer that I have ever met.

 

Alan


Edited by Alan D. Whitman, 25 July 2021 - 05:22 PM.

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#63 godelescher

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Posted 25 July 2021 - 08:02 PM

A great amateur astronomer, while itself somewhat an oxymoron...

How is it an oxymoron?



#64 Tyson M

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 07:20 AM

How is it an oxymoron?

It goes back to the word "great".  Great people are recognized in history from people outside their fields. An amateur astronomer typically wouldn't. 

 

A profession astronomer or team of astronomers would get that acclaim for advancing humanity's quest for knowledge and discovering something new about the universe. Writing a peer reviewed paper on the matter, ect. 



#65 RalphMeisterTigerMan

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 09:04 AM

Dear HeavensAbove, I was always under the impression that it was the late Jack Horkheimer who kept saying "Keep looking up". That's why I use it, to honour his memory!

 

Clear skies and keep looking up!

RalphMeisterTigerMan




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