Backyard Science: How You Can Make a Difference
It’s a great time to be an amateur astronomer! Nowadays, “backyard” astronomers armed with affordable CCD imagers, high-quality tracking mounts, inexpensive PC’s and the internet at their fingertips are making real contributions to Astronomy science.
How are people in their backyards contributing to real science these days?
Consider that in 1991, the Hubble Space Telescope launched with a main camera of less than 1 megapixel. (HST’s array was 800×800 pixels – just over half a megapixel). Currently, “off-the-shelf” imaging equipment available for a few hundred dollars or less easily provides 1 megapixel or more. Even with a “modest” investment, amateurs can easily reach the ten megapixel mark. Basically, the more pixels you have in your imaging array, the better resolution your image will have and the more detail you’ll capture (sky conditions notwithstanding).
With access to fairly high resolution cameras and equipment, many amateurs have taken breathtaking images of the night sky. Using similar equipment other hobbyists have imaged comets, supernovae, and sunspots. With easy access to super-precise tracking mounts and high-quality optics, it’s no wonder that amateur astronomers are making greater contributions to science these days.