LOWELL AMATEUR RESEARCH INITIATIVE

Past Collaborations

Introduction

Lowell Observatory has an extensive history of professional/amateur collaborations. Percival Lowell himself was an amateur but professional astronomers were always on staff at his observatory and he collaborated with professional and amateur astronomers the world over.

Below, we have listed some of the recent collaborations between Lowell astronomers and amateur astronomers, and the results from that relationship.

In every case, the professional/amateur collaboration was one of mutual benefit. It was created because the collaboration was the right way to get the research done.

Asteroids

The Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (LONEOS), directed by Dr. Ted Bowell, was a NASA-funded project to discover near-Earth objects. The project ran for 15 years between 1993 and 2008. During that time, LONEOS discovered hundreds of NEAs and reported millions of positions of asteroids to the Minor Planet Center (MPC). A group of four amateurs from Phoenix, Arizona, Paul Johnson, James Ashley, Bob Cash, and G.H. Bliss, examined LONEOS images with the aid of "blinking" software in an attempt to find asteroids missed by the LONEOS software. They were quite successful in finding missed asteroids primarily because they were able to work at fainter magnitudes than permitted by the automated LONEOS discovery software. They sometimes doubled the number of asteroids seen on a set of frames. One of the most interesting discoveries they made was 2003 SQ222 which was, at the time, the closest well-documented Earth approaching asteroid. The asteroid 2008 SQ222 came within about one quarter the distance to the Moon. (Since that time, an NEO search group in Tucson, Arizona found asteroid 2008 TC3 a day before it actually crashed into the Earth.)

Amateurs with modest telescopes and CCD cameras participated in an asteroid lightcurve campaign. The goal was to gather photometric observations of selected asteroids and build lightcurves for these asteroids. We emphasized slowly rotating asteroids that were difficult for a single observer to handle successfully. We favored near-Earth asteroids.

There were other, less formal collaborations, too. One of the most profitable was an amateur astronomer in Phoenix, Arizona, Charles Juels, who performed extensive follow-up observations on hundreds of LONEOS preliminary discoveries and not only got credit for the discovery but put these asteroids on a solid footing for later numbering.

Mars

Leonard Martin, a Lowell Astronomer, and Jeff Beish, an amateur with a deep and abiding interest in Mars, had a long and successful collaboration. Maybe the best way to understand how profitable was their collaboration is see a list of publications on which they both were authors or Martin was the author and Beish contributed:

Comets

An amateur astronomer, Joseph Marcus, has done a careful analysis of Sunlight scattering from Sun-grazing comets. Dave Schliecher, a Lowell astronomer, used Joe's analysis to build a full phase angle dust scattering model for Comet Halley and used the model to find some of the emission properties of Comet Halley.


Comet Holmes and the California Nebula

This photograph of Comet Holmes and the California Nebula was graciously provided by Ralph Nye. The photograph was taken on color film through Ralph's fully restored 1911 Brashear telescope.

   31-inch telescope

Lowell's 31-inch fully-automated telescope