The collaboration between astronomers amateurs and professionals has been around for a long time, maybe forever. Now there is much more talk about it and it is called citizen science, but what is involved is that same participation of fans in the advancement of science. In the concrete area of astronomy we call it Pro-Am collaboration (of professionals and amateurs). What I recommend to people who want to collaborate with astronomy from the amateurism is that they register as members of an astronomical association. In Spain there are many. In these associations, people interested in astronomy receive advice on both telescopic instrumentation and basic knowledge to begin or more specific, to get into a specific field: study of variable stars, supernovas, comets, asteroids, meteors, heliophysics, occultations or even planetology because although it seems that the detections of new planets are very weak and are only available to professionals who have very powerful instrumentation, also there amateurs are able to do many things.
But in general, astronomers amateurs we can contribute in many different ways with professional science. One of the most common is with taking measurements by observation, for example, we can do astrometry, which is the part of astronomy that is responsible for measuring and studying the position and movement of the stars; photometry, which is the area in which the brightness of celestial bodies is studied and measured, and even spectroscopy, which is the study of the spectra, that is, how different stars emit or absorb electromagnetic radiation and in which some groups of astronomical research amateur they are starting. We can also collaborate with our astrophotographs. There are impressive astronomical photographs made by amateurs. And do not forget the disclosure part. The astronomical associations organize conferences, talks or initiation courses for members and supporters who help to know more about the universe and to improve the scientific culture of our country.
All this that I explained before is if we talk in general about the collaboration of amateur astronomers. But I can also tell you about concrete projects. On the website of the Federation of Astronomical Associations of Spain there is a registration form for amateur observatories that has led to the first astronomical instrumentation database amateur in Spain and that works in close collaboration with the requests of professional astronomers. There are many times that due to the magnitude, the position or simply the randomness, as in the case of meteors that are unpredictable, the participation of the observers amateurs It is imperative for astronomical science to advance.
Regarding participation in international projects, it is not only possible but also increasingly widespread. There are platforms that work precisely for that purpose. One of the most popular is Zooniverse, in which you can access different projects. One of them is, for example, "Asteroid hunting" to search for asteroids and there are many citizens who participate and discover asteroids that are then corroborated by professionals for their cataloging. Or for example, the Planet Hunter project that is based on measurements of light curves in photographs obtained by the Kepler and TESS space telescopes to identify possible exoplanets orbiting stars in our galaxy. Citizen participation in this project, for example, is key to distinguishing or identifying the types of light curves that correspond to exoplanets because the human eye has a great predisposition to recognize patterns, better even than computer programs.
There are many others, such as the classification of irregularities on the surface of Mars in which the participation of astronomers amateurs has served to identify even geysers. And there are also projects for the classification of galaxies or those that have to do with light pollution. In the latter, the participation of amateur astronomers is essential because it allows a constant monitoring of the quality of the sky and having that data is key to the maintenance of dark sky areas. As you can see, the forms of collaboration between amateur and professional astronomers are many and varied. And each time they have more importance. Proof of this is that the Spanish Society of Astronomy organizes this year the III Pro-Am Congress with the collaboration of the Astronomical Association of Huesca next December.
White Troughton is an astronomer amateur and president of the Federation of Astronomical Associations of Spain.
Question done via email by Gustavo Mendoza
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