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Amateur astronomer or recreational sky observer


jambouk
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I'm reading an interesting book, "Stargazers : the contribution of amateurs to astronomy" edited by Dunlop and Gerbaldi (1988) and one of the chapters, rather abstracts, outlines the author's criteria for differentiating professional astronomers, amateur astronomers and what he refers to as "recreational sky observers". It is only two pages long (these are transcripts of talks), and I've shown these below. It is an interesting philosophical topic, but by the definitions used, I am a recreational sky observer rather than an amateur astronomer.

What are you?

James

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i dont like to put things in boxes, it seams to put classes where theres no need, but im a human who likes looking at the sky and i leave it at that and looking at everybody else i think where all the same :happy11:. clear skys, charl.

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Well I fall firmly in to the category of recreational sky observer.  However, I'm not sure I entirely agree with his definitions.  

If someone isn't formally trained or qualified in a specific discipline, who determines whether they are "highly skilled"?  My dictionary definition of Astronomer is "an expert in or student of astronomy".  I think that defines us all as astronomers.  Also, someone making their living from astronomy is not necessarily making their living from the actual astronomy or doing astronomy, but from the business associated with it, such as an Astro retreat where the income is predominantly bed and board related as opposed to being paid for being an astronomer.

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I always refer to myself as a stargazer in conversation. I think an 'Astronomer' is someone who contributes to the scientific field of Astronomy (professional =gets paid, amateur =doesn't get paid).  I don't contribute anything so wouldn't class myself as an astronomer, though I do have an interest in astronomy. 

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Like Charl I can do without these boxes. Their primary function seems to be to glorify or to belittle. 

I always describe myself as an astronomy provider so those to whom I 'provide' can call themselves whatever they like!

Olly

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Show many "professional astronomers" the night sky and they wouldn't have a clue what they were seeing.

I guess when they start doing it for a living it is so specialised they spend their whole time studying one very small bit of a very large subject.

Dave

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I've always thought of myself as a "sky tourist" rather than anything more. 

As to how others would define me, well I don't really care much !!!

 

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13 minutes ago, Dragon_Astro said:

I'd go for "amateur astronomer"......and definitely NOT an astrologer!  Now that bugs me and I can't believe people make that mistake so often :p

Never underestimate public ignorance..

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When people ask me what sort of things I'm into, I say "astronomy". They all instantly know what this is and it involves me looking at the night sky with a telescope or whatever. 

I've never labelled myself in any way with regard to astronomy. I just like looking at the night sky. If you want to put a label on that, fine, go ahead. Stargazer, occasional recreational observer etc etc. I do what I do and don't define it with a label. It's just something I do. 

I make coffee a couple of times a day. Does that make me a master coffee maker?. 

Obvious the definition of professional and amateur are well defined in society

 

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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3 hours ago, David Levi said:

I'm inclined to agree with the definitions but recreational sky observer is a bit of a mouthful. Perhaps something like recreational astronomer would be better.

Agreed, what I do certainly does not contribute to science, I don't advance any knowledge other than my own  perhaps. I have no issue with that and I think his definitions are accurate. I'm certainly not an astronomer by any classical definition of the word. 

Jim 

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I know a guy who has a day job. At night he likes to hunt down Super Nova. Last count, he had discovered 3 brand new never seenbefore, unknown SN. 

He reported his findings. He clearly contributes something to astronomy without getting paid. He is by definition an amateur astronomer. 

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Everything I look at & research is for my own curiosity. Star party of one. 

Nobody knows what I have spent to do that. I'm in denial about it myself, & only a few would understand. 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, 25585 said:

Everything I look at & research is for my own curiosity. Star party of one. 

Nobody knows what I have spent to do that..., & only a few would understand

 

Love it, and how true of many of us :) 

My name is James and I am an amateur/recreational sky observer/astronomer :) 

Jim 

Edited by saac
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Richard Feynman:

"A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of the stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let us give one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!"

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There are many professional astronomers who never look through the eyepiece. I am no way a professional astronomer. But I do enjoy looking through the eyepiece of my telescopes. I don't as yet make any scientific observations or discoveries. So I think that I am very much just an observer of the night skies.

An interesting post jambouk, thankyou.

Edited by Guest
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5 hours ago, niallk said:

Richard Feynman:

"A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of the stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let us give one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!"

Wine? :). I am a black hole when it comes to wine :p

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I've just had a thought (fire in the hole). I used to be a member of the Irish Amateur Archery Association. As a member, I used different equipment to reach an end goal of putting an arrow into a target. Astronomy is no different. I use different equipment to reach an end goal of seeing objects in the sky. So by this thinking, perhaps we are all indeed amateur astronomers. The grouping of amateur astronomers can be subdivided. Those who submit finding for no payment and those who do it for themselves simply because they enjoy it. 

I do call myself an Archer. I don't call myself an amateur archer, nor am I a professional archer. 

Funny old thing this labeling. Confusing more than anything. 

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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Funny thought. If you work in a public observatory and collect tickets from people attending say a show (you know the type. You sit down and look up at projected images on the ceiling). Would this make you a professional astronomer?. You are working with and around astronomy and getting paid to do so. 

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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