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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Plight of the Amateur Astronomer

The following is a brief reply to an '*Amateur* Astronomer' who sent me an e-mail about his struggle with the concern, that - as much as he loves astronomy - he had no business pursuing it, in fear that he didn't have any formal education and, therefore, that he couldn't, possibly, make any significant contributions to the field. I only wish I could have gone on, at length...

The Moon - 2018 DaleBryTheScienceGuy

Matthew, I've been an astronomer for several decades, and I've just recently acquired a certificate in Astrobiology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

I have done research in several areas, including the former Harvard SUNSEARCH extragalactic supernova search; I have monitored sandstorms and polar cap growth/shrinkage on Mars; I am co-discoverer of a supernova in spiral galaxy M66, and - was even one of the six astronomers, worldwide, to suggest the term, the "Great Expansion", as a replacement term for the "Big Bang", to the International Astronomical Union of Great Britain when they asked for suggestions, via "Sky & Telescope" magazine (it was accepted in 1992).

I have met and spoken with the late Dr. Carl Sagan, about one of his first books, attended many astronomy workshops, with people such as the theoretical physicist, Philip Morrison of MIT, and got in a one-on-one with, the late, Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto.

I have sent my children's names to a comet, and to Mars, through the "Deep Impact" program at NASA. I have allowed the SETI Institute to use one of my computers to sift through time-series data from the Kepler Space Telescope, in its search for exoplanets, and, I have written an essay for the AAVSO of Cambridge, MA, for their webpage on exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life, under the heading, "The Stories Variables Tell"... do you actually think I could have done any of this, without some intense University, and lots of hands-on training at the various university observatories of the field? Do you think that - a mere 'amateur' - should be entitled to any of this?

You bet you are! - and I've done all that.

Moreover, other, more qualified amateurs have far surpassed anything I have done. But like you, I am an AMATEUR ASTRONOMER... and, like you - I'm lousy at math. I did all of that - and more - without any 'formal' training in astronomy, whatsoever. That certificate in Astrobiology came long after the fact.

But this isn't really about me. This is about YOU. YOU can do any of that or all of it. It will come with your desire, and passion, for amateur astronomy.

Dale Alan Bryant
Senior Contributing Science Writer

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, Dale! There are so may area of amateur astronomy that can contribute to the professional field.