Archive for the ‘amateur astronomy’ tag

The Sky is Falling! Or is It?

By August 29th, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Comment

By Dolores Hill and Carl Hergenrother, Target Asteroids! Co-Leads Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Today’s amateur astronomers carry on long held traditions in citizen science by making valuable contributions in data collection and monitoring celestial objects of all kinds. They supplement work done by professional astronomers and fill gaps in our knowledge. Imagine being a modern-day Tycho Brahe who, in the late-1500s, measured positions of stars that were so accurate and reliable that Johannes Kepler used them to determine that the planets revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits! Imagine contributing to an asteroid data repository and assisting future space travelers; both robotic and human. Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of thinking scientifically

By April 1st, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Comments (2)

Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel, discovered the strange green "voorwerp" (Dutch for "object") in 2007. (Photo: NASA)

Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel, discovered the strange green "voorwerp" (Dutch for "object") in 2007. (Photo: NASA)

What does it mean to think scientifically?

If you asked me this question when I first moved back to New York three years ago, I’m quite positive I would have said something like, “What do I know? I’m not a scientist,” and pointed the questioner in the direction of the nearest pocket-protecting nerd in the vicinity.

Science was never one of my best subjects (I can still remember my high school physics teacher, Dr. Moroni, speeding out of the parking lot in his Pontiac Aztek to avoid telling me that I had failed the final exam). In fact, it was the very last thing I thought I would get involved in upon settling into my artsy Brooklyn neighborhood in 2008 to write my first novel. However, since my discovery of citizen science through the Earthwatch Institute and WildMetro, I now consider myself an unofficial member of the super hip NYC science community, whose events on such sexy topics as the dark matter and neuroscience are more likely to be full of trendy 30-somethings sipping beer out of plastic cups than pale, lab coat wearing individuals with microscope indentations around their eyes.

To begin a journey into the realm of the scientific mind, let’s go back in time about 177 years ago, when the word “scientist” first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary. Before this transitional moment in human history, people we would now think of as scientists were called “natural philosophers” – those who studied the workings of nature. Some of these philosophers, such as Anton van Leeuwenhoek and Michael Faraday, had little formal training in their chosen subjects, but came to learn about science through a personal desire to come up with answers to their individual questions about the universe. Science was less a profession or an academic field as it was a way of thinking about the world and understanding its mysteries through direct observation.

In some ways, the study of science was more accessible two hundred years ago than it is in today’s science classrooms, where students are typically tested on their ability to remember the answers to hundreds of questions that have already been answered, rather than being encouraged to look up at the sky or at a blade of grass and come up with questions of their own.

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Be a star: join the international star-hunt!

By February 21st, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Comments (3)

Globe at Night: February 21 - March 6, 2011

Globe at Night: Feb 21 - March 6, 2011

Have you ever seen the Milky Way from where you live? Most of us have not, and it’s largely due to increased light pollution from outdoor lighting. Light pollution not only wastes billions of dollars a year in energy and money but it causes human sleep disorders and disrupts habits critical to ecology.

Globe at Night is an international star-hunting campaign that needs volunteers to record their observations of particular constellations in order to measure light pollution. This year’s campaign runs from February 21 through March 6, 2011.

Last year, citizen scientists contributed 17,800 observations and raised awareness about the issue all over the world. The project takes just a few minutes of your time to measure sky brightness and contribute those observations online. Those of you that are tech-savvy can contribute in real-time via the Globe at Night web app. Out of this world!

Contributing to Globe at Night is as easy as pie:

1. Find your latitude and longitude.
2. Find Orion by going outside an hour after sunset (about 7-10pm local time).
3. Match your nighttime sky to one of the project’s magnitude charts.
4. Report your observation.
5. Compare your observation to thousands around the world.

Be a star! Join Globe at night!

Read the rest of this entry »

Rad Astronomy: Interview with Global Telescope Network Director Kevin McLin

By September 9th, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Comment 1

Dr. Kevin McLin is the Director of the Global Telescope Network at Sonoma State University. (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Kevin McLin is the Director of the Global Telescope Network. (Courtesy Photo)

Whether tackling the mysteries of the universe or studying birds in the backyard, citizen science projects rely on collaboration between scientists, volunteers, teachers, students, and many other dedicated participants.

One great example from our Project Finder is the Global Telescope Network, an informal association of amateur astronomers who partner with scientists to conduct cutting-edge astronomy research. Using small telescopes around the world, Global Telescope Network members observe and analyze astronomical objects related to several NASA missions. Members participate in a variety of activities, including gamma-ray burst photometry analysis, surveillance data analysis, and galaxy monitoring, and by donating telescope time.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Kevin McLin, director of the Global Telescope Network at Sonoma State University, a few questions about the network, its members’ contributions, and what excites him about the field of astronomy.

Dr. McLin, who makes up the Global Telescope Network?

It’s a fairly far-ranging and diverse group of people. We have some university observatories that are members, and we have amateur astronomers who have their own backyard observatories. In addition, we have high school observatories. It’s a mix of professional, amateurs, and educators.

Can you describe how a member of the Global Telescope Network accesses, controls, and gets images from the robotic GORT telescope?

We share time over the Skynet system headed by Dan Reichart at University of North Carolina. We use the Skynet interface to give access to our student members who do not have their own observatories. These are both high school and undergraduates, typically. The Skynet system allows the students to submit jobs to a queue, and then to retrieve their images when the jobs are complete. They don’t have to stay up all night with the telescope this way either, which can be an important part of a project for a high school student.

Read the rest of this entry »

Amateur Astronomers Discover Massive Fireball on Jupiter

By June 4th, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Comment

Amateur Astronomers Sport Giant Fireball on Jupiter

Photo: Anthony Wesley, Broken Hill, Australia

Not that we’re competing, but stargazers Anthony Wesley and Christopher Go have now spotted one more giant fireball on Jupiter than me, according to several news reports.

Wesley apparently caught the impact event on camera from Australia, and Go simultaneously captured video of the resulting blast of light from the Philipines. Pretty amazing stuff.

If you’re an amateur astronomer, we’d love to see some your favorite images. Check out our Member Blog section and share your work with the rest of our citizen science community.

You can also search through our Project Finder to find potential astronomy projects that may need your help. If you know of a neat project that isn’t in the database, add it!