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Sky at Night Magazine - - IMAGING FOR SCIENCE - For more in­for­ma­tion visit: www.popas­tro.com/ main_spa1/plan­e­tary

“The big­gest thing am­a­teurs can of­fer pro­fes­sional plan­e­tary sci­en­tists is time,” says Alan Clitherow (pic­tured), di­rec­tor of the So­ci­ety for Pop­u­lar As­tron­omy’s Plan­e­tary Sec­tion. “Am­a­teurs ob­serv­ing and imag­ing the plan­ets pro­vide a level of de­tailed cov­er­age that pro­fes­sion­als sim­ply can­not match us­ing their lim­ited num­ber of ex­otic tele­scopes, which are con­stantly in de­mand for many dif­fer­ent ob­serv­ing projects. When the Mars Pathfinder land­ing was threat­ened by dust storms it was an anal­y­sis of thou­sands of am­a­teur images that al­lowed an un­der­stand­ing of the pro­gres­sion of such events and a de­ci­sion that the land­ing could con­tinue safely. The cur­rent NASA Juno mis­sion re­lies on am­a­teurs con­tribut­ing images of Jupiter so that Juno’s highly de­tailed pic­tures of a small strip of Jo­vian cloud can be put in a wider con­text of weather pat­terns de­ter­mined from those am­a­teur images.

“Am­a­teur tele­scopes and cam­eras can now pro­duce out­stand­ing re­sults. The images are of­ten pro­duced and pro­cessed by soft­ware writ­ten by am­a­teurs, and an am­a­teur team cur­rently co­or­di­nates the search for ‘im­pact flashes’ – the ev­i­dence of as­teroid strikes on the face of Jupiter – in videos of the planet taken from any num­ber of back­yards world­wide.

“The So­ci­ety of Pop­u­lar As­tron­omy ex­ists to help am­a­teurs of all lev­els as they progress their in­ter­est in the night sky; it al­lows them to make a real con­tri­bu­tion to hu­man un­der­stand­ing of the Uni­verse.”

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