Amateurs have contributed to the observational record of Jupiter for years and years. The official reports of the British Astronomical Association go back at least 114 years, to 1891. Individual reports by amateurs can be traced back even further than that to 1869, and Rogers (1995) shows sketches as far back as 1831. The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers can claim organized records beginning in 1947, the year the organization was formed; and certainly individual A.L.P.O. members were making serious observations even before then. Organizations in Europe and the Orient have also made serious contributions to the observation of Jupiter. The amateur and professional Jupiter astronomers of today stand in awe of observers like T. E. R. Phillips, P. B. Molesworth, Antoniadi, F. J. Hargreaves, Bertrand M. Peek, Walter H. Haas, Elmer J. Reese, T. Sato, A. W. Heath, J. Dragresco, and many, many others. If the accomplishments of the scientists of the past are due in part because they stood on the shoulders of those who came before them, it is all the more true for those of us who observe and study Jupiter today. The truth is, without the observational records of amateurs, we would not have a continuous record of the physical appearance of Jupiter, since professional astronomers are often busy elsewhere. Even in this ultra-modern, high-tech world, amateur observations will continue be important to the study of this giant planet.
Since the professional community never seems to get enough observing time on the world's professional instruments, they need the observations of amateurs to fill the void in their own observations or even to be the basis of their research. Serious amateurs make careful, standardized observations that can be measured statistically. Professional astronomers need the data amateurs collect. We used to say that, although amateurs did not have equipment that was as sophisticated as the professional astronomer, the amateur's data, carefully recorded, is still valuable. Well, that statement is still true except for the part about sophistication. Larger, better telescopes are becoming more affordable and more sophisticated. Instrumentation, such as CCD
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cameras, are no longer only within reach of professionals, and even really large instruments are becoming available to amateurs as amateur organizations find ways to build sophisticated observatories.
So, what are the observations that amateurs can make? Actually, there are many types of observations that amateurs can perform. These observations include disk drawings, strip sketches, intensity estimates, central meridian transit timings and the construction of drift charts, measurements of latitude, observations of color, stellar occultations, eclipses and transits of the Galilean moons, CCD and webcam imaging, measurements of images, and photometry of Jupiter and its Galilean moons. To the beginner this list must seem unbelievable; can amateurs really do all of this? Yes, they can and we'll discuss each in turn. We'll also discuss the different types of telescopes, advantages or disadvantages of each type, eyepieces and filters, and other helpful pieces of equipment.
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