Small-Aperture Astronomy in the Modern Era: A Personal Account
Apostolos Christou (Armagh Observatory)
During the past decade, the advent of good-quality commercially available CCD and video equipment has opened up astronomical niches where aperture is no longer the main driver for science-grade measurements. Parallel advances in technologies such as GPS, the Internet, data processing and robotisation have rendered serious astronomical observation much more accessible to the amateur and professional alike. In this presentation, I will provide a historical account of my own experience with small-aperture instruments, mainly dealing with objects in our own solar system. Through these experiences and those of others in the astronomical profession, I will highlight the importance of careful target selection and adequate planning to ensure that the final result justifies the effort. Finally I will show how networks of amateur astronomers can make a real contribution to publication-grade astronomical research if ably directed and coordinated by experts.