Contributing Real Results to the Astronomical Community
Welcome to our Science Pages. In this section you will read about the work we are undertaking at the observatory which is of scientific value. Generally, in these circumstances, the results are provided to national or international institutions and where our observations contribute to a greater body of scientific knowledge.
In some of the examples described below you will find that we are working with students of University of Portsmouth where those observations contribute not only to those national and international databases but are also used by the students for their final degree dissertation.
It is recognised that the in the field of astronomy, the amateur astronomer can make significant contributions to the body of scientific knowledge. There are many examples where amateur astronomers, by virtue of the many hours vigil at the telescope, have made important discoveries of astronomical objects such as comets, asteroids and exploding stars.
The word ‘amateur’ can have a connotation in everyday language of meaning poor quality. However, the Oxford English Dictionary definition states an amateur is ‘one who practices as a past-time’, other definitions emphasise the ‘unpaid nature’ of an activity. Around the world there are literally thousands of amateur astronomical societies and associations with possibly millions of members undertaking their hobby of astronomy as a past-time and unpaid.
However, of those millions there are a number of amateur astronomers who make their observations with a high degree of skill and accuracy. It is also acknowledged they are able to undertake a number of scientific programmes which, for a variety of reasons, the professional astronomers and observatories around the world cannot undertake.
This may be due to the lack of resources, telescope time at major observatories or by virtue of the long period of time that some observation programmes require. There is now acknowledgement amongst the professional astronomical community that amateurs can and do provide the high quality data required for a number of research programmes. Such work is coined ‘pro-am collaboration’.
We hope that by seeing some of the astronomical programmes that are undertaken at the Clanfield Observatory we will whet appetites to come and observe and participate in the observing activities at the Observatory.
The main fields of study at Clanfield Observatory are:
(Links give further information)
Astrometry is the precise measurement of the position of astronomical objects at specific times. This is primarily performed at the observatory to monitor asteroids and near-earth objects to provide data which is submitted to international databases. The data is used to calculate and update the orbits of these objects. This is important to provide advanced warning of any object which may approach close to the Earth.
We have cameras pointing at the night sky that capture black and white videos of meteors. We analyse these videos and share the data with other similar groups around the UK and Europe, and together we can determine their precise orbits.
PhotometryPhotometry is the measurement of the brightness of an object. It can be done using any type of camera (with or without filters) on any type of telescope. Usually a monochrome camera is used with special filters to measure the brightness in specific colours. Visual determination of brightness with the naked-eye can be used for brighter objects.
We use photometry in several areas of study:
- Determination of exoplanet orbits
Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars other than the Sun
- Observations of variable stars
There are many different types of stars that vary in brightness. Observations can be made with the naked-eye or binoculars for brighter stars. For more detailed study a camera attached to a telescope would be used to record the brightness changes with or without special colour filters.
- The HOYS-CAPS Project
HAG are regular contributors to this Citizens Science Project run by the University of Kent aimed at studying the processes involved in star formation and development of very young stars.
- Supernova confirmations
We regularly provide follow up confirmation observations of Supernovae and provide magnitude and positional data for the discovery records.
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. In simple terms this means the effect on light (or any form of radiation from X-rays to radio waves) as it passes though or reflects off gases or reflects off solid objects.
Studies of these effects can give information on the nature or chemical composition of the matter involved, its temperature, its movement and, in some cases, even the age and distance of the object.
This is how astronomers can tell what stars are made of and what chemicals exist in the space, gas and dust clouds that exist between the stars. It can also tell us what the outer clouds of planets such as Jupiter and Saturn are composed of and what gases are given off by comets.
Hampshire Astronomical Group is an active campaigner for dark skies. Light Pollution is a great problem for all astronomers across the world.