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jsandse

Is the sky at night out of touch with modern amateur astronomy?

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Hi all,

I don't know if any of you watched the sky at night at the beginning of the month. But they were trying to emphasise the importance of the amateur astronomer to help the "professionals". They mentioned:

- birds (anthony wesleys) planetary astronomy

- amateurs participation in the galactic zoo and the zooniverse

- identifying comets from soho data

But they didn't mention ANYTHING about the amateurs participation in pro-am collaborations involving spectroscopy.

I sent an email to Patrick Moore via his website stating that I was dismayed that us amateurs who do spectroscopy have never had a mention on the program - in particular I emphasised that the lack of media attention means that the UK is falling miles behind the rest of Europe in terms of the numbers of amateur astronomers doing spectroscopy.

I have also asked the Jodcast if they would do an article about us.

I would welcome opinions out there in what people think about this - do you agree with me or not that amateur spectroscopy is not given the media attention it deserves?

cheers

John

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It might be due to spectroscopy being a fairly specialised area of astronomy, and without wishing to minimise the importance of the role it has in astronomy, it does seem to take a back seat compared to the other disciplines. XRay, Radio, Visual, and Imaging for examples. I realise it must be frustrating for those who do pursue spectroscopy, that more attention isn't focused on it by programmes such as the Sky at Night. I really hope that your enquiry via Email can set the ball rolling, and a positive response is forthcoming.

You do have a genuine grievance, and I don't think Sir Patrick himself would deny that.

Good Luck in your efforts Jsandse :(.

Ron.

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Thanks for the reply Ron - it makes a lot of sense.:(

The fact that you were the only one who replied shows the lack of interest there is out there in the UK - this lack of interest in the UK is seriously making me consider emigrating to France - where I know far more spectroscopists.

Oh and the weather is better as well.......

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Hi thanks Ron,

Yes I know about Robin - an extremely dedicated and gifted spectroscopist. He is the notable exception I was referring to in my first email. But one swallow doesn't make a summer and he is at the opposite end of England from me.

cheers

John

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I agree 200%!

We need a bit more exposure and to drum up interest in the local societies...they have been encouraging variable star observing for many years....now it's our turn.

Onwards and Upwards.

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I am interested, have been since I started astronomy.

I just find it difficult to get into. Most of the sites I've found about it are very technical.

Sure, I could just buy a £100 Star Analyser filter and muddle through.

Guess what is really needed is for the subject to be kick-started with a nice "pack". E.g. A filter and a simple to understand book. By simple I mean aimed at amateur astronomers who understand astronomy but not necessarily physics or chemistry.

I've looked online at a lot of books but never committed to buy one. And never seen any in the flesh in bookstores.

Without great materials like this, I think it'll never get going.

Just my opinion. :(

Cheers

Ian

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Hi Ian,

Well there are books out there on amateur spectroscopy. In fact Merlin brought one out about a year ago:

Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs: How to Build and Use Spectroscopes Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series: Amazon.co.uk: Ken M. Harrison: Books

Thats only £21 quid. And the star analyser is only £100. So money and information is NOT a barrier to get started.

In fact if you wanted to get into higher resolution spectroscopy then Merlin is selling spectoscopes at extremely cheap prices $950 - and yes that is dollars.

The problem is that there is no media attention given to amateur spectroscopy in the UK - I think this is a complete embarrassment. And its not as if the people who are presenting the programs don't know about the importance of spectroscopy to astronomy. Most of them aren't amateurs - they are professional academics - and my opinion they should be pushing the amateurs forward. This is definitely not the case in Europe and USA and Canada where I regularly see the professionals ask (and rely on) amateur work for their papers.

In particular if we had the likes of Brian Cox or Sir Patrick or Chris Lintott supporting our cause we may get more interest.

To do amateur spectroscopy - you don't need to be an astrophysicist - you only need to be a keen amateur who is willing to learn to use his equipment and record his results methodically. This is something amateur astronomers have been doing for centuries!

You don't even need to struggle to work out what stars to take spectra of these days as the ARASbeam website gives a list of the current pro-am campaigns on the go and what stars you should take spectra of.

In short I think it is lack of publicity and the fact that no-one else is doing it in the UK that are the main barriers. And as I have said before these barriers have been overcome in other countries.

kindest regards

John

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Ian,

With exactly your problem/ concern in mind, the recent "Grating Spectroscopes - How to use them" has been prepared specifically for the beginner with a Star Analyser/ Rainbow Optics grating. It walks you though the very basic steps of setting up the grating, obtaining spectra with a DSLR or CCD, how to calibrate and process the spectral profile and where to look for comparison spectra. The end chapters cover the basics of Quantum theory and the extensive appendixes give lists of stars suitable for observation

An ideal companion to the grating and hopefully a good resource to get you started.

Grating Spectroscopes and How to Use Them Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series: Amazon.co.uk: Ken M. Harrison: Books

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I made a grating Spectroscope out of a cereal box, a blank CD, and a lot of tape.

It actually works!

I have not tried clipping it to the telescope yet but I have high hopes.

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These "school" diffraction grating experiments are great to show the basics and will, with a bit of fiddle show the spectra of neon and Fluoro lamps. They will also (just) show some detail in the solar spectrum. That's about it. They won't work on the scope for stars - maybe the moon if your lucky.

You really need a proper blazed (higher efficiency) grating to make a start in astronomical spectroscopy. The Star Analyser was specifically designed for the purpose, and Robin Leadbeater put a lot of time and effort into its development and acceptance by the amateur community.

Getting started is relatively easy, and learning how to do the basic processing will stand you in good stead. A bit like astroimaging, you can start with the simple camera before getting into CCD's and filters and auto-guiding etc etc - a grating provides that easy starting point. Think of it as "Spectroscopy 101"

Edited by Merlin66

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I still use my Starlight-1 photon counting stellar photometer so in some ways its much like Spectrocope I had to do a new program to use it as all it give me is computer data by useing filter position U,B,V,R,I,0, with a aperture cotrol 1to 6 ,,,, .020 inch .052,.0995,.1495,.250 ,and from this i can work it out .

Edited by Starlight 1

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Yes,

Spectrophotometry is also an active area....there's good comparison data in the AAVSO and other journals.

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I was talking to an Oxford University professional astronomer last week. two things

  1. Spectroscopy requires large aperture
  2. The one thing where amateurs can really help is follow-up photometry data on supernovae.

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These "school" diffraction grating experiments are great to show the basics and will, with a bit of fiddle show the spectra of neon and Fluoro lamps. They will also (just) show some detail in the solar spectrum. That's about it. They won't work on the scope for stars - maybe the moon if your lucky.

You really need a proper blazed (higher efficiency) grating to make a start in astronomical spectroscopy. The Star Analyser was specifically designed for the purpose, and Robin Leadbeater put a lot of time and effort into its development and acceptance by the amateur community.

Getting started is relatively easy, and learning how to do the basic processing will stand you in good stead. A bit like astroimaging, you can start with the simple camera before getting into CCD's and filters and auto-guiding etc etc - a grating provides that easy starting point. Think of it as "Spectroscopy 101"

I am new to this all and so far I have had some fun with my 'school project' :(

I can see differences in the patterns of my lamp compared to the streetlight and the sun.

I am seriously thinking about getting a Star Analyser filter.

Will their be a lot of difference between stars in the same star cluster or will they be made of the same stuff and show the same absortion lines? :(

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I still use my Starlight-1 photon counting stellar photometer so in some ways its much like Spectrocope I had to do a new program to use it as all it give me is computer data by useing filter position U,B,V,R,I,0, with a aperture cotrol 1to 6 ,,,, .020 inch .052,.0995,.1495,.250 ,and from this i can work it out .

What is a photometer and how do you use it?

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I'll let Starlight1 explain about photometers (You'll get the basic info from Google/ Wiki)

The grating will show the differences between the OBAFGKMRN stellar classifications.

The Pleiades cluster for instance, is a very young "hot" star cluster and they all have similar spectra

Themos,

you're correct!

But having an excellent "camera" like Hubble doesn't stop us mear mortals from imaging with CCD's from our back yard.

Amateurs are doing some significant work in spectroscopy in the fields of nova/ super nova, Be Star monitoring, and as John said there are many ProAm projects available ie WR stars etc.

We are only limited by our imagination!!

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WR? Wolf Ryat? = cool.

And thank you for the replies, I will check those links and have a proper google later on tonight.:(

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I've tried to find resources for doing photometry with a DSLR. Any pointers from anyone?

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The more info on this the better, I find it very interesting.

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Unfortunately a DSLR ( or a OSC) isn't the best tool for photometry. The bayer matrix tends to screw things up and makes the camera response curve (required for calibration) difficult.

A better tool is a cooled mono CCD.

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Most imaging porgrams (AstroArt v5 etc) have an aperture photometry module built in -this let's you define the size of the "virtual" aperture around the star and can give very good results.

"A Practical Guide to Lightcurve Photometry and Analysis" by Brian D Warner, published by Springer is a good introduction to the subject.

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