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A stellar opportunity for amateurs.

A stellar opportunity for amateurs

Attention amateur astronomers: Bring out your best ideas for stargazing, and you may get to try them on the space telescope.

Riccardo Giacconi, director of NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is offering part of his time on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to a fea amateur astronomers. The idea, he says, is not only to reward amateurs for their contributions to astronomy, but also to allow the HST to benefit from good amateur ideas.

"At long last, there seems to be recognition by the professional community of the contributions amateur astronomers are capable of," says George D. Ellis of Ft. Worth, Tex., president of the Astronomical League, the largest U.S. amateur astronomy association.

At least since the late 18th century, when orchestra conductor William Herschel discovered URanus, amateurs have been making substantial contributions to astronomy. Today, thousands of amateuars around the world look for stars that vary in brightness, measure star sizes, observe asteroids passing in front of stars and look for unknown stars, supernovas and other objects.

The time Giacconi donates may be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the amateurs' ideas, according to Laura Fournier of the Space Telescope Science Institute. It will come from Giacconi's "discretionary time? (15 percent of the director's total allotment).

Although the space telescope is unlikely to fly until at least mid-1988, Giacconi intends to select the winning amateurs by December of next year. He has called together a working group of representatives from seven amateur astronomy associations to solicit proposals and recommend the top five, from which he will chose up to three.

"The exciting part of this project is that it really will stretch the creative thinking of the public at large," says Janet A. Mattei, director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers in Cambridge, MAss.

Application kits are to be mailed out beginning in October. To request one, mail $1 to HST Amateur Astronomers Working Group, c/o American Association of Variable Star Observers, 25 Birch St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138.
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Title Annotation:amateur astronomers
Author:Murray, Mary
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 23, 1986
Words:345
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