Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 58

LEAH TISCIONE / S&T
MAY 2024 OBSERVING
Pro-Am Conjunction by Diana Hannikainen
The IAU
Is Calling
A professional astronomical
organization is tapping into
the potential of amateurs.
A
little more than a century ago,
astronomy still wasn't recognized
as a profession per se - astronomers
engaged in teaching, true, but few
institutes existed that were dedicated
to research. In order to better cement
astronomy as a recognized scientific
discipline, a handful of intrepid
astronomers established the American
Astronomical Society in 1899. (You've
likely heard of the AAS - it owns
Sky & Telescope.)
The IAU. Not too long after, in 1919,
astronomers also founded the International
Astronomical Union. Its aim is to
" promote and safeguard the science of
astronomy in all its aspects, including
research, communication, education
and development, through international
cooperation. " Today, the IAU
counts nearly 13,000 members across
92 countries. Like the AAS, the IAU
unites and provides resources to professional
astronomers working in research
as well as those engaged in education
and outreach. It has various divisions,
subdivided into commissions, that oversee
the many facets of astronomy.
The IAU's influence on astronomy
includes things you might not give
much thought to. For example, at its
first General Assembly (a triennial,
member-wide event that continues to
this day), which was held in 1922 in
Rome, Italy, the Commission on Notations
and Units reorganized the plethora
of higgledy-piggledy constellations that
58 MAY 2024 * SKY & TELESCOPE
populated the sky at the time into the
88 we fondly refer to today. At the third
General Assembly (in 1928 in Leiden,
the Netherlands), the IAU approved
constellation boundaries, thus arranging
the sky into neat parcels defined largely
by right ascension and declination. More
recently, the 2006 meeting became infamous
for " demoting " Pluto.
Nowadays, for example, one commission
handles things related to exoplanets
and the solar system, while another
monitors changes in Earth's rotation.
On top of all this, the IAU establishes
temporary " working groups " that tackle
targeted issues. Recently, it has created a
working group specifically for amateurs.
Pro-Am WG. As you may know from
reading previous installments of this
column, it's challenging for research
astronomers to secure observing time
at the large, professional telescopes
around the world. So, pros sometimes
tap into the vast and varied resources
and experience that amateurs provide.
And amateurs are increasingly expanding
their contributions beyond purely
visual observations into other areas.
For example, they can record brightness
variations with greater precision thanks
to the availability (and drop in price) of
astronomical cameras. Radio dishes are
popping up in backyards. Solar eclipses
and aurorae, too, have their cohorts
of amateurs busily logging valuable
data. Yet, there's still limited crossover
between professionals and amateurs.
One of the goals listed in the IAU's
strategic plan for 2020-2030 is to better
connect the two worlds of astronomy.
And so, in April 2021, the IAU formally
adopted a new working group - the
Professional-Amateur Relations in
Astronomy. The Pro-Am WG's mission
is to promote research collaborations
between professionals and amateurs,
and to inform the professionals of all
the areas amateurs engage in.
If you're an amateur with your own
backyard equipment, or perhaps analyzing
data or developing equipment is your
thing, https://is.gd/iau_amprojects
has a list of projects that might spark
your interest. If instead you're a professional
astronomer looking for
collaborators for your research, you
can submit your project details at
https://is.gd/iau_proprojects.
Last December at a conference in
Mumbai, India, the IAU - spurred on
by the momentum from the working
group's formation - organized its
first gathering of professionals and
amateurs. Maybe you'll be inspired to
attend such an event in the future -
possibly even the one in August this
year in South Africa - and see your
hard-earned results shared with a
wider audience.
ยข Observing Editor DIANA HANNIKAINEN
is a member of IAU Division D: High
Energy Phenomena and Fundamental
Physics.
https://www.is.gd/iau_amprojects https://www.is.gd/iau_proprojects

Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - May 2024

Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 1
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 3
Sky & Telescope - May 2024 - 4
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