Amateur Astronomers Shouldn’t Be Passive These Days!

Not that long ago, astronomical research was done by affluent people who were amateur astronomers in their leisure time.

Many of these individuals were either independently prosperous and could readily afford to fund their passion, or these people were financed by rich patrons who were often royal families.

Come the Twentieth century…professional astronomers got a chance to study the Universe using resources that hobbyists could only dream of.

The data from space-based telescopes, large observatories and planetary probes were only examined by a select few academics.

The appearance of the world wide web has changed that ethos. Within the last decades, a tremendous quantity of data has been amassed from deep sky surveys, space probes and a variety of space-based telescopes. It would take many more decades for professional astronomers to sort through and examine all that information and that’s simply not feasible. For this reason they’re currently asking hobbyist astronomers and ordinary people – anyone with the use of a personal computer – to help them study and review all of that data.

Consequently citizen astronomy has come to the forefront once again and there’s no requirement for any official certification to be able to make contributions.

You only need access to a laptop or computer – which could be in your workplace, a local library or an internet cafe – and a connection to the internet.

To help you get going, here is a list of the Top 5 astronomy research programs on the internet:

1. Galaxy Zoo Mergers

Users research collisions between galaxies. Your task is to attempt to match one of many galaxy collision simulations to a genuine, on-screen target photo from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Astronomers want to get an idea of how real galaxies are colliding out there in the Universe.

2. SETI@Home

This project harnesses the strength of several thousand personal computers all around the world to examine the mountains of information from the Arecibo Radio Telescope. Collectively, they’re on the lookout for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.

3. Globe at Night

The Globe at Night’s website provides graphs and diagrams which allow folks to assess how bright their night skies are. If you feel like contributing, you too can make use of the diagrams to measure your own skies. The coordinators then compile the reports to generate a chart of the results.

4. Moon Zoo

Moon Zoo depends on people like you looking for and labeling craters along with other interesting objects in high resolution photographs from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

5. Global Telescope Network

Review CCD pictures taken in many different observatories from all over the world. You will need an internet-enabled personal computer in addition to specialized computer software like CCDsoft or Maxim DL, so this may only interest astrophotgraphers who in all probability already paid for such software programs.

You will find the links for these as well as other citizen astronomy initiatives for kids and adults over on the Night Sky Observer website. And there’s more information on moon phases here, if you’re interested in the Moon.

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Planetary Science

* “Planetary science” is the scientific study of planets , moons, and planetary systems and the processes that form them. It studies objects ranging in size from micrometeoroids to gas giants, aiming to determine their composition, dynamics, formation, interrelations and history. It is a strongly interdisciplinary field, originally growing from astronomy and earth science, but which now incorporates many disciplines, including planetary geology , atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology, theoretical planetary science, glaciology, and exoplanetology. Allied disciplines include space physics, when concerned with the effects of the Sun on the bodies of the Solar System, and astrobiology.

There are interrelated observational and theoretical branches of planetary science. Observational research can involve a combination of space exploration, predominantly with robotic spacecraft missions using remote sensing, and comparative, experimental work in Earth-based laboratories. The theoretical component involves considerable computer simulation and mathematical modelling.

Planetary scientists are generally located in the astronomy and physics or Earth sciences departments of universities or research centres, though there are several purely planetary science institutes worldwide. There are several major conferences each year, and a wide range of peer-reviewed journals.

The history of planetary science may be said to have begun with the Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, who is reported by Hippolytus as saying The ordered worlds are boundless and differ in size, and that in some there is neither sun nor moon, but that in others, both are greater than with us, and yet with others more in number. And that the intervals between the ordered worlds are unequal, here more and there less, and that some increase, others flourish and others decay, and here they come into being and there they are eclipsed. But that they are destroyed by colliding with one another. And that some ordered worlds are bare of animals and plants and all water.

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