The Professional World of Amateur Astronomy

Patricia Daukantas

The work of today’s amateur astronomers goes far beyond peering through a telescope on a lonely mountaintop. Thanks to advances in solid-state imaging, software and inexpensive optics, they are collecting professional-quality data and making their own discoveries.


figureJeff Hopkins, a retired electrical engineer, studies the brightness of variable stars from his own observatory near Phoenix, Ariz., U.S.A. He is organizing an observing campaign to study an unusual binary star over the next two years.
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Tom Kaye is building an observatory dedicated to the search for planets outside our solar system. His team has finished grinding a 1.1-m mirror blank for the observatory’s telescope and is preparing to construct the building that will house the large instrument and its electronic camera equipment.

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