View Full Version : Amateur Astronomer Wannabe

2005-Mar-31, 01:22 AM
Today I retired from my organization after 31 years and, though I’ll be doing a second career for about 5 more years, my long term goal is to “really retire” to a small hilltop under dark skies and pursue amateur astronomy as a avocation. (Golf by day, astronomy by night.) My question is: Is there serious work that amateur astronomers with scopes in the range of 8 to 16 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain (or equivalent) can still do? Or, is most work left to the big scopes and the amateurs do mainly astrophotography? I’ve always had small scopes around since I was about 10 and still pull out my 8-year-old 3” reflector for some observing, though it’s difficult to see much in the St. Louis suburbs. My background is tech-heavy in computers (yes, I am a graybeard that started programming with punch cards). What type of preparation (study, etc) should I do in the coming few years? Thoughts are suggestions are much appreciated.

2005-Mar-31, 01:34 AM
It would seem to me that if you got yourself a high-quality video imager (perhaps just a small camcorder, with low-lux capabilities, hooked up to your eyepiece) you could shoot some good video of a few planets and the moon, and maybe (with filters) the sun too. Some of the local schools in the area might like to have you make presentations to them. Most schools today have VCR machines. When I was younger I used to lecture at schools about various subjects. You might help some schools organize astronomy clubs.

I’ve also heard that amateurs can help look for comets and asteroids.

2005-Mar-31, 01:40 AM
See this NASA article about finding comets:


2005-Mar-31, 01:43 AM
Here’s another one:

LINK ( g_en&ie=UTF-8)

2005-Mar-31, 02:08 AM
I just saw an add in the current Sky & Telescope (pg. 10), for a spectrometer to attach to your scope. This was surprising and may open doors for amateur work.

Now, if you could add a spectral irradiance unit to the scope, you could redetermine the color of all the observable stars in our galaxy. (ok, I admit I am a little biased this week)

The combination of the two might be great.

I also started on a key-punch (IBM 360, IIRC). The few courses were called Industrial Engr. courses. Fortran IV/Watfive, I think. I dumped Cobol and, later, jumped on dBase III+ (boy was that nice for a businessman like me. I still use it)

2005-Mar-31, 02:14 AM
Sam5: Thanks for the links. That is what I kind of had in mind. I figure I will have lots of time, but will need lots of patience.

2005-Mar-31, 02:39 AM
jaeger, this project (http://deepimpact.umd.edu/stsp/) was the first thing that came to mind after reading the OP. Granted, it's on the advanced end, but it just goes to show there are some real opportunities out there for folks who can commit the time and gear.

2005-Mar-31, 03:17 PM
Hi jaeger,

There is plenty of work available in doing asteroid photometry. Here is the best place for information.



Kaptain K
2005-Mar-31, 07:48 PM
Also note that AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) and ALPO (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers) Have plenty of projects for amateurs of all skill levels.