Wait – come back!! Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to hand out fliers, knock on doors or march in protest! This kind of involvement does require you to have a computer, and some spare time. There are many opportunities for the amateur astronomer to help the experts. You can help find super nova, help planet hunters find extra solar planets or help study the moon!
In February of 1999, the Stardust spacecraft left the earth on it’s journey to the tail of a comet. It’s mission was to collect particles from Comet Wild 2, a comet discovered in 1978 by swiss astronomer Paul Wild. After it’s amazing encounter with the comet in 2004, it arrived back on earth in 2006. The aerogel that held the tiny particles would need to be scrutinized under a microscope millimeter by millimeter.
NASA got help from The Planetary Society, who turned to people like me and you! They launched the Stardust@home project enlisting the help of amateur astronomer everywhere. In phase I, using a virtual microscope I viewed over 2000 slides, carefully examining every slide for any evidence of a particle trail.
This is one of many pro-am collaborations available for public participation. Check out some of the other opportunities at https://www.zooniverse.org.
I have to say that it was fun participating in this project. I was happy to know that I was contributing to a real science project. There was no minimum requirement and I was able to do as much or as little as I had time for!
Let me know which projects you get involved with!