The point of amateur observing
Recently there was a letter in Astronomy Now asking if there was a point to amateur observing any more, what with all the light pollution and the large professional telescopes regularly producing spectacular images. I replied pointing out that the discovery of supernova 2005cs in M51was made by Wolfgang Kloehr, an amateur astronomer from Germany. Many other supernovae and comets have been discovered by amateurs, and they can also provide useful data on variable stars and meteor showers. Aside from all that, it is still fun!
Ken Crawford, an amateur astronomer from California, has some pretty impressive equipment and is lucky enough to have dark skies in which to make use of it. Amongst his large collection of deep-sky observations he has photographed Sh2-188, a nebula is the constellation of Cassiopeia. It is worth having a look through his image archive as they really are very good, but here is his image of Sh2-188:
Sh2-188 in hydrogen alpha and oxygen three. Credit: Ken Crawford
Along similar lines, after a distance learning weekend a while ago, one of the students emailed me a picture he had taken of M82, the galaxy I spend most of my time studying. As a research astronomer (in training) it is great to see people taking these images. Personally, it's always nice to see that there are other people with the same enthusiasm for looking at the sky, something that often seems to be largely lacking in the world of professional astronomy.