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Amateurs and Telescopes

The word amateur comes from the latin for “lover” and is most usually used to describe a person who engages in an activity as a pastime rather than as a profession, ie for the love of it.

When that pastime is astronomy, the boundary between professionals and amateurs can sometimes become very blurred as astronomy is one of the very few sciences where amateurs can still make significant independent discoveries and they also routinely act as part of professional research teams.

For more than two hundred years amateur astronomers have been discovering planets, asteroids and comets, observing the varying brightness of stars and observing nebulae.

If you want to join in, why not have a look at our shop section where we show our recommended telescopes and tech for a range of experience levels,

Technical advances mean that whilst professional astronomers now use very large, advanced instruments, well beyond the means of amateurs, modern interested amateurs can obtain smaller but still technologically advanced telescopes, cameras, and computers at a cost which is low enough to be accessible to many millions of citizens around the world and they can use them night in and night out - weather permitting of course..

Cutting edge research observatories only allocate expensive telescope time after extensive and detailed reviews of the detailed proposals of what is to be observed, what is expected, how the research can be useful etc. and so force the observer to jump through all sorts of administrative hoops, long before they are given the opportunity to investigate what is actually out there. This cumbersome planning process means that the amateurs, who can control their own observations and are really only limited by the weather and their free time, can and frequently do see new objects or phenomena before the professionals are aware of it. Equally, if something unexpected turns up, the professional telescopes don’t have the free time to investigate and so the amateurs are often are useful to provide supporting data to other discoverers.

Indeed, there is even still a chance that an amateur can become immortalised and have their name entered into the record books, for example - the discoverer of a new asteroid can propose a name which could be their own or something else of their choosing whilst new comets are frequently named after their discoverers. Sadly, so far there is no asteroid or comet called “Ince or StargazerRob” - but we are working on it.

So, who knows, if you look up and see something new tonight, it could end up being the first time it has been seen and maybe, just maybe, it could make your name go down in history….

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