Executive Committee WG Professional-Amateur Relations in Astronomy

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Credit: TWAN/Babak Tafreshi.


The new Pro-Am WG wants to reach connect professional and amateur astronomers, with the aim of promoting research collaborations, delivering workshops, and promoting and facilitating the integration of professional astronomers within amateur societies, for example, via the IAU OAO programme "Meet the IAU Astronomer!".

The IAU working group for professional-amateur relations in astronomy (for short, the Pro-Am WG) was formed in April 2021 as a WG under the Executive Committee. The IAU Strategic Plan 2020-30 stated that connecting professional and amateur astronomers was one of its goals for the decade (see Strategic Plan, Goal 4). This is also an integral mission of the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach.

For the first century of its existence, the IAU has had very few formal contacts with the much larger body of amateurs around the world. This changed in 2019 with a successful one-day workshop for amateurs in Brussels, followed by the formation of the new Working Group in April 2021 for professional-amateur relations in astronomy. At the present time, no-one has a clear idea of how many amateurs there are in the world, but it is likely to be of the order of a million individuals, some two orders of magnitude greater than the number of active professionals in the IAU.

An initial Organizing Committee (OC) for the new WG was established as follows: John Hearnshaw (New Zealand, co-chair), Lina Canas (Japan and Portugal), Beatriz Garcia (Argentina), Stella Kafka (USA), Yuko Kakazu (USA and Japan, secretary), Moein Mosleh (Iran), Mirjana Povic (Ethiopia), Kazuhiro Sekiguchi (Japan), Boonrucksar Soonthornthum (Thailand), Aniket Sule (India, co-chair), Timothy Spuck (USA), Ilya Usoskin (Finland, EC liaison), Antonia Varela (Spain). At the end of 2021, Povic and Kafka both resigned from the WG. They were replaced by Mayra Lebron (Puerto Rico) and Clementina Sasso (Italy).

Secretary Contact: IAU.proam@gmail.com

EC Liaison: Ilya G. Usoskin



Executive Committee


Pro-Am Research Collaboration (PARC)

The IAU Pro-Am Research Collaboration (PARC) initiative promotes and facilitates professional-amateur research collaborations in astronomy. To this end, we invite IAU individual members (professional astronomers) who have research projects that would benefit from collaboration with amateur astronomers to register their projects on this website. In addition, we ask amateur astronomers interested in collaborating with professional astronomers on research projects to sign up via this website.

Throughout history, amateur astronomers have made significant discoveries and contributions to the field of professional astronomy. While many amateurs are observers using smaller optical telescopes to image the night sky directly with CCD detectors, others are engaged in making radio observations or designing and building their own instruments. Some amateur astronomers collect data on solar eclipses and aurorae or are making astrometric and photometric observations of asteroids and comets and reporting them to the Minor Planet Center, while others are engaged in the precise timing of stellar occultations by bodies in our solar system. PARC will harness this knowledge base and interest from amateur astronomers to enhance the capacity for professional research. 

There is an array of useful projects that demonstrate how Pro-Am collaborations can benefit researchers. Galaxy Cruise, from the National Observatory of Japan, and Gaia Vari from the European Space Agency demonstrate the power of amateur astronomers in processing and classifying large sets of data. Individuals can recognise patterns in ways computers can’t, and their efforts can save time and resources, expediting research processes. In some cases, amateur astronomers' observations have led to the creation of new sets of data used by professional astronomers. For decades amateurs have been observing variable stars and reporting data to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), and NASA uses amateur astronomers' Jupiter telescopic images and data of Jupiter to inform the JUNOCAM mission. 

Beyond the direct impact on researchers and amateur astronomers groups, the involvement of citizens in research collaborations can increase engagement with astronomy among educators, non-profit organisations, and industry, fomenting societal support for research activities.

Pro-Am collaborative research projects broadly fall into three categories:

  • Observational data contributed by amateurs
  • Data analysis by amateurs (either their own data or data provided by professional astronomers) and including citizen science projects
  • Instrument design and development

I’m interested, how can I get involved?


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