Getting Real Research out of Your Consumer Telescope

Today at AAPT, I gave an 8 hour workshop on using small telescopes to do real research. Since I don’t think any of you were there, I want to share with you what I covered. Below is the content and links from the web-text I created for the workshop. The links will connect you over to my campus website (which you’ll find looks strangely similar to this one – something that will change before the semester begins). Enjoy!


It is widely recognized that people learn better when they are able to participate in activities related to what they are learning. These gains are further increased when learners can participate in real research experiences. In astronomy, there are two basic paths to get into research: data-mining and telescopic observations. While data mining is a powerful and often free research tool, it is hard to get excited about downloading images from a database to analyze. There is a certain romanticism inherent getting out under the stars that can turn a classroom assignment into a lifetime hobby. Making these experiences possible requires an investment in optics.

Telescopes aren’t cheap, but large optics aren’t required to make real contributions to science. New telescopes aren’t required either (but clean telescopes are). In this webpage I discuss different research projects you can do with all levels of resources, and where to go to submit data and get more information.

  1. Equipment
    1. Minimal Setup
    2. Ideal, real-world setup
    3. Ideal, approaching dreamland
  2. Techniques
    1. Visual Observing
    2. Differential Photometry
    3. All-sky Photometry
  3. Projects
    1. Dark-Sky Monitoring
    2. Minor Planet Tracking
    3. Targets of Opportunity
    4. Transiting Exoplanets
    5. Variable Stars

See Your Projects Here
As you and your observatory explore science research, you will come up with ideas of your own. If you wish to share your ideas, please send them as PDFs to pgay at siue edu. I’ll include them on the main website this is copied from.

5 Comments

  1. Eric B July 30, 2007 at 12:54 am #

    Very cool. Thanks.

  2. Bernardo July 31, 2007 at 3:26 pm #

    Starstryder, this is really great, thanks a million!!!!

  3. Andy August 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm #

    These links don’t work anymore 🙁

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Ler…-- Rastos de Luz - July 30, 2007

    […] Getting Real Research out of Your Consumer Telescope no Star Stryder […]

  2. AstroGeek Glad I didn’t…. « - August 1, 2007

    […] of doing real science, Pamela Gay has an excellent post on doing real research with your consumer grade telescope. Posted in […]

Leave a Reply