FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013 AT 1:03PM

Dr Ed Wiley - iTelescope Science Advisor

Amateur Astronomical Research

From time to time I like to mention some of the books I have found valuable in my own research. But first, I should apologize for the term “Amateur Astronomical Research.” Fact is, if you are contributing valuable data and perhaps even publishing a paper (even one with bunches of authors), you are no longer an “amateur” in the usual sense: you are a “self-funded astronomical researcher.” You might not have a degree in astronomy, but just remember, Darwin had a degree in theology, not biology,  Newton had a Masters and the Ph.D. as we know it today in the sciences is a German 19th Century invention. Being a scientist is not about degrees, it is about gathering data and either analyzing those data and seeing it through to publication, announcing discoveries and having them verified, or making those data available to other scientists.

OK, you want to do some science, so where to start?

Probably the very best place start is Robert Buchheim’s book, The Sky is Your Laboratory.  In 293 pages, Buchheim covers just about every field of astronomical research that is within the reach of the self-funded astronomer. Of particular interest to GRAS observers in the data gathering and analysis area (Chapters 4 and 5) are Project H, CCD photometry of variable stars, Project I, determining asteroid light curves, Project J, extra-solar planet transit, Project L, asteroid astrometry (comets too!). Naturally, my favorite is Project M, measuring visual double stars.

Many of our iTelescope.Net observers are more interested in discovery. This is covered in Chapter 6 where Project O covers asteroid discovery, Project P treats comet discovery and Q and R cover nova and super nova searches.

Along the way Buchheim discusses the basics of photometry (some of the best explanations I have read), measurement error (fundamentally important, measures without error are as useful as those with errors), how to interact with agencies such as the Minor Planet Center, time, catalogs, data mining, literature and a host of other important topics.

Not directly useful to iTelescope.Net observers are the discussions of equipment. Why? Because iTelescope already provides us with just about all the high quality equipment one could ask for.

Dr Ed Wiley