Getting More Involved
Astronomy has always been a science at the forefront of new technology, especially with regards to computational requirements, optical advances and light sensors. Amateur astronomers continue to make use of the latest advances in personal computers, telescope design and astrophotography. As well as using off-the-shelf commercial equipment, many amateurs design their own optics, write their own software and experiment with new film types. Amateur astronomical societies and magazines provide a forum where amateur astronomers can share equipment, results and ideas.
Photography of the night sky (astrophotography) is popular with amateur astronomers. Amateurs use simple camera equipment and time exposures to capture the beauty and colour of a variety of astronomical objects. Many process their own black and white or colour film and are willing to show others how to do this. Needless to say, slide shows are a popular feature of many astronomy club meetings!
Astronomy is real science. Although few amateurs eventually become professional astronomers, many use their skill, patience, creativity and time to forward the science of astronomy. Well known Australian amateurs such as Bill Bradfield (South Australian discoverer of 18 comets) and Bob Evans (NSW discoverer of supernovae) are examples of amateurs who have used simple equipment to pursue long term, low cost observing projects. Such observations complement those of professional astronomers. Scientific observations by amateurs are co-ordinated worldwide by international amateur bodies.
The past decade has seen amateurs making use of CCD (Charge Coupled Device) technology for astronomical imaging. CCDs involve light sensitive electronics which can convert light into a digital signal. The data can then be stored and processed using a computer to measure brightness, position and colour measurements of astronomical objects.
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