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Session 33 - Amateurs & Professionals: Collaborators in the New Age of Electronic Astronomy - II.
Oral session, Tuesday, June 10
North Main Hall C/D,

[33.03] Planetary Imaging to the Max

D. C. Parker (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers)

Since the time of Sir William Hershel amateur astronomers have been making valuable contributions to planetary astronomy. Organizations like the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers have been fortunate to have dedicated professional astronomers direct their research. These mentors have always stressed the value of quantitative data. While simultaneous independent drawings, photographs, photometry, and micrometry are still most valuable, planetary CCD imaging has taken quantitation to new levels. The CCD is particularly well suited for planetary astronomy. The small sensor size permits much lower effective focal ratios than was possible with film, thereby significantly reducing exposure times and minimizing the deleterious effects of Earth atmosphere. CCD images generally show far more detail than photographs and, for the first time, can reveal planetary details that equal or surpass what the eye can detect. In addition, images can be obtained in a wide variety of wavelengths. With no darkroom work, the amateur can spend more time gathering data. His images do not even have to be processed, only carefully calibrated. This raw calibrated data can then be submitted to the professionals via e-mail or on electronic storage to be processed and analyzed to suit their particular studies. Ongoing CCD projects include visible and infrared patrols of Jupiter in support of the Galileo Project; patrolling Saturn for outbreaks of spots not detectable visually or photographically; minor planet searches and CCD photometry programs; and monitoring Mars for changes in albedo features, atmospherics, and polar cap regressions. During the current Mars apparition hundreds of amateur CCD images have already been uploaded to JPL Marswatch FTP site. With improvements in CCD technology occurring almost daily, amateurs will be able to make even more significant contributions to planetary astronomy.

Program listing for Tuesday