As mentioned in the first chapter of this book, for many amateurs the sense that they are actually doing something beyond looking at pretty things or taking pretty pictures is the impetus to keep pushing on night after night. Given the incredible and powerful scopes, computers, and CCD cameras we have at our disposal today, scientific contribution is an area that's understandably beginning to experience growth. Where in astronomy can amateurs find the opportunity to do science?
Traditionally, the amateur "beats" have been comet-searching, variable star observing, double star measurement, and planet monitoring. Although sophisticated and automated professional surveys have reduced the amateur comet "take," dedicated hunters like David Levy are still beating the pros to the punch occasionally. Variable star observing and binary star measurement were two pursuits that seemed to be dying out among amateurs, but the coming of computers and CCDs has made both activities easier and more fun, and both of these traditional amateur pursuits are surging back. Planet monitoring has not only made a big comeback, amateurs are contributing more than ever. A C14 can deliver details on Jupiter rivaling Hubble, and can do it every single night Jupiter is in the sky. Given the high quality of current amateur gear, it's not surprising that some amateurs are engaged in far more sophisticated scientific programs than even these traditional ones. Some, for example, are on the forefront of science assisting the pros in identifying gamma ray bursters and searching for extrasolar planets.
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