Well, the 50th NACAA conference has come and gone. This was my first attendance and I have to say that I was impressed. Impressed by the breadth and depth of the work that amateur astronomers are doing, mostly, as we all do, from their backyards with modest equipment.
I sat boggle - eyed while hearing about how, by merely watching the change in brightness of a star, one can determine whether it pulsates, rotates, gyrates or dances the dance of the seven veils. Well, perhaps not the last one. Variable Stars South is a collection of like - minded amateur souls who are assisting the pros with thousands of high - precision measurements of variable stars that help out understanding of the way stars form, live and die.
The PACA project - Pro-Am Collaborative Astronomy is another venue where amateurs are contributing to science on a large scale. Lead by Dr Padma Yanamandra - Fisher from the Space Science Institute in Boulder Colorada, the current project consists of observations of Comet 57P, the tenuous home of the Rosetta probe and its little lander, Philae. This effort is adding to the history and "long story" of the comet's life and is invaluable to future researchers.
On Monday I attended a further meeting, the Trans - Tasman Symposium on Occultations. Here I heard and saw how groups of observers spread along and across the shadow of an asteroid blocking the light from a star can build a picture of the asteroid to very fine resolution. I must say that I am very taken by this simple method and its sophisticated results.
So, besides comets watching, I have now decided to get a bit serious about this occultation business. A flickering of a star's light and the resulting beauty of the picture drawn from same is too pretty to resist!
The NACAA Dinner. A good time had by all with Prof Fred Watson providing the after dinner talk - as usual funny, informative and engaging. Thanks Fred!
About the Author
Dr Richard Brown is a life - long sky watcher receiving his first telescope at 7 years of age. Richard's chief joys in astronomy consist of looking for new comets (37 years and no luck yet!), talking about astronomy, and watching the moon for no other reason than it is beautiful.