AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS AND THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE ------------------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc firstname.lastname@example.org www.nyskies.org 1986 September 1
Introduction ---------- In August 1986 the Space Telescope Science Institute opened the possibility for home astronomers to run their own projects on the Hubble Space Telescope. At that time the launch of the instrument by the Space Shuttle was indefinitely delayed following the Shuttle Challenger disaster earlier in 1986. The articles I wrote about this program are here collected into one file. Typos were removed and trivial errors were corrected. The issue date for this file is that of the first piece.
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SPACE TELESCOPE FOR AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS ------------------------------------- 1986 September 1 The Hubble Space Telescope will be open for projects run by amateur astronomers. This proviso was announced by Dr Riccardo Giacconi, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, at the AAVSO convention on Wednesday 6 August 1986. Elaborations were issued the next day by the Institute and subsequently furnished to Eyepiece by Cheryl Gundy and Laura Fournier, Institute press agents. The time allotted for amateur projects will come from the director's "discretionary time", hours held in reserve for unforeseen targets of opportunity. Once approved, the amateur's project becomes part of the HST's regularly scheduled observing scheme. The STSI estimates that several hours may be released each year to amateurs. The Institute established an Amateur Astronomers Working Group to receive and evaluate submitted proposals. Mr Steven Edberg of JPL and IHW is the Group's first chairman. Other members are Dr David Dunham of IOTA, Mr Jesse Eichenlaub of ISRG, Mr George Ellis of AL, Dr Janet Mattei of AAVSO, Mr Gerald Persha of IAPPP, and Dr John Westfall of ALPO. Procedures and standards are undergoing final workout and will be announced within a month. In processing proposals AAWG will draw on technical assistance from Mr Michael Potter, Research Assistant at STSI. Preliminarily, it looks like the Amateur Astronomers Association may send in any projects of its own via AAVSO. Data delivered to amateurs from HST will be in the same form as to career astronomers, reel-to-reel magnetic tape requiring college or laboratory sized computer facilities to digest. Since virtually no amateur astronomer uses such facilities, assistance to secure computer services will be offered during the project's evaluation. There are no plans for preliminary reduction of Telescope data by STSI so they can be manipulated by business or home microcomputers. In all cases of accepted proposals the amateur must arrange for financing the project. The Institute has no funds to grant or lend. Besides actually "looking thru" the Hubble Space Telescope, by remote electronic imaging, amateurs may avail of the data archives. After a six-month "proprietary use" period, HST data are placed into public access files. However, STSI has no customer service bureau nor does it send records to NASA repositories around the country. An amateur astronomer must send requests to STSI and receive the data by mail. Amateurs will also join In simultaneous observing. By arrangement an HST target also will be monitored by conventional terrestrial instruments, much as are now certain variable stars in concert with UV or X-ray satellites. On the sad note, all this amateur work is a couple of years away. The Challenger tragedy scrubbed the Telescope commissioning slated for this very August. The physical HST machine is in storage at Lockheed's plant until its launch aboard the Space Shuttle is rebooked. The Institute is currently operating toward a mid 1988 launch, a date perhaps too optimistic according to other sources in the space industry. The Space Telescope Science Institute was founded in 1982 and is operated for NASA by AURA. It is housed at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, about five kilometers north of the Inner Harbor. Dr Riceardo Giacconi is the Institute's first director, having cone there from the Einstein Observatory at CFA, Cambridge. MA. APPLICATION FOR HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE PROJECTS --------------------------------------------- 1987 January 1 In early December  AAVSO began distributing application packets for amateur astronomy projects on the Hubble Space Telescope. the AAA received its set on December 8th, The packet contains an invite to propose a project to be run on the HST, application forms, and an HST descriptive booklet, The AAA is now assembling an office, provisionally called the HST Service, to assist and support its members with their applications. It being at presstime only in gestation, full particulars will be announced when they are in place. A first look-see at the HST material and consultations with AAVSO drew out many points which applicants must pay careful attention to. AAVSO is the Association's liaison with HST's Amateur Astronomy Working Group, a federation of seven amateur astronomy groups who administer the HST amateur participation scheme. This application is just the first step toward the running of an HST project, Applicants approved In this stage will then prepare a full-blown proposal for the project, on the scale of a university grant proposal. From the approved proposals will come the one or two ultimate "winners" to actually run projects on the Space Telescope. No way Is this thing an essay contest. This application is for projects during the first year of HST service, mid1989-mid1990. There is at presstime no promise of followon applications for later yearˇs. Indeed this entire HST scheme will undergo close monitoring by STSI, AAVSO, and conceivably the AAA. The outcome of this scrutiny will determine if HST amateur participation is continued, Pragmaticly, consider this application as a one-shot opportunity to operate the Hubble Space Telescope. The material alludes to both an actual HST project and use of the HST data archives, The application is really for the HST project only. When the data center at STSI is set up, separate procedures will be announced for its access, They will not involve the heavy review and competition of this instant application, By the way, all HST data will be in mainframe digital form. There are no designs afoot to offer the data for home computers, You are in this for the long round. From your getting the forms to your running of the project is substantially three years, The review process lasts until fall of 1988 and it can be yearend 1989 before your project comes online. The August 1986 announcement of the HST scheme cited an application deadline of 31 March 1987. Since then a rescheduling of the HST orbit emplacement and routine delays in printing the H8T material called for an extension. The deadlIne is now 30 June 1987. This looks like six long months. It isn't. Time does fly. Get started early and do steady ongoing work. You positively can not throw your application together on the evening of June 29th! The application must have a specific named person as its guarantor, even tho it may be a group or committee effort. This person, the principal investigator, better be of solid name and calling to conduct business with the AAA, AAVSO, STSI, and the other team members. If the principal investigator leaves the project for any reason the project dies unless a new person is duly installed. The application form has no attestation or notarization, probably an oversight. Never the less, you better regard it as seriously as any other government form, like a benefits or licence application. The principal investigator takes on all the usual and customary liabilities associated with government business and contracts. While STSI posits no age qualifications for the principal investigator. one will almost have to be a major (18 or over, typically) to be legally accountable and responsible for the application and project. The other members apparently have little control over the project and, hence, they may be minors. Altho the principal investigator must be a US citizen, proof is not required in the application. It must be presented if STSI requests it later. The other investigators need not be US citizens. None of the members may be a "professional astronomer". Neither STSI nor AAVSO as yet implemented tests for this qualification. Pending such tests the AAA holds that any AAA member in good standing enrolled In Its HST Service Is In a "not-a-professional-astronomer" status. AAA members who wage their project on their own and all unattached applicants are beyond the Association's promotion in this regard. The project must be one which actually can not be performed from ground-based facilities. This excludes projects that merely confirm or supplement ground-based work. The HST booklet suggests many projects to Illustrate the capabilities of the HST. These are not posed as qualifying projects for the application. Also the project can use only the instruments already onboard the HST. It can not require changes to them or call for entire1y new instruments. You will absolutely have to verse yourself thoroly in the HST's facilities and in contemporary astronomy. Expect to live in at MidManhattan. CUNY. Columbia. Goddard. &a to study litterature and consult experts. For starts, the Association put together a file of HST litterature and is getting the HST "Call for Proposals". This. will be on desk at our Thursday Open House Nights. First and foremost. get the HST application packet. We have a desk copy to look over. Send one dollar, payable to "AAVSO" to AAVSO, 25 Birch Street, Cambridge. MA 02138. To sign up for the HST Service, send us a copy of your request letter. With this simple means of getting the packets the AAA itself does not distribute them. HST GUIDELINES NOW ON FILE ------------------------ 1987 March 1
The Association received in late January  Its set of the HST "Call for Proposals" (CFP). Altho targetted for academic astronomers, it contains a thoro description of the Hubble Space Telescope's instruments, their capabilities, and their limitations. The CFP extends thru ten books amounting to over 840 pages. The bulk of the CFP quite detailedly explains the design and operation of the HST equipage with one book each for the Fine Guidance Sensor, Faint Object Camera, Faint Object Spectrograph, High Resolution Spectrograph, High Speed Photometer, and Wide Field and Planetary Camera. Another volume elaborates the plans of the guaranteed time observers, members of the HST design team entitled to a first crack at observing time. A perusal of their observing schemes will aid immeasurably in structuring your own amateur HST project! The remanent volumes give general background, application forms, and sundry instructions. Amateurs do NOT go thru the proposal process set out in the CFP. They obtain their own forms from AAVSO, as we spelled out in EYEPIECE January 1987. The HST "Call for Proposals" is in our HST file at HQ and is for your study during our Thursday Open House evenings.
DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR HUBBLE PROPOSALS ------------------------------------ 1987 September 1 The amateur participation program of the Hubble Space Telescope revised its schedule due to continuing delays in the Space Shuttle resurrection. The new scheme was explained to EYEPIECE by Ms Laura Fournier of the Space Telescope Science Institute on 30 July 1987. The deadline for the initial proposals, heretofore 30 June 1987, is now extended to the date of the first launch of the revived Shuttle. This date is rather uncertain, but space industry sources estimate that June of 1988 is not infeasible. Hence, the amateur proposal deadline is extended by approximately one year. By the June 30th deadline about 300 requests for applications had been filled and about 50 actual proposals had been submitted. These were received continually since December 1986, when the application kits were first distributed. On the whole, STSI noted, the proposals at first glance seem to exploit the HST's potentials. However, the proposals are in pendency until the new deadline; they have not undergone any detailed assessment. New applications, filed from now until the Shuttle launch, will be integrated into the existing stock without prejudice or jeopardy. Applications for HST projects are obtainable from AAVSO, 25 Birch Street, Cambridge MA 02138. Cost is one dollar, payable to "AAVSO". AAA members can enroll in the Associations own HTS Service, to receive advice and support in developing their proposals, by sending to the AAA a copy of the application request letter. The HTS amateur participation scheme was described in EYEPIECE Sep 86, Jan 87, and Mar 87. As for the HST orbit emplacement, it is tentatively set for summer of 1989, a date somewhat optimistic according to space experts. For each Shuttle flight will be minutely examined before the next is permitted to go, thereby easily causing cascading slippages in any contemplated payload schedules
COMMENTARIES ON THE HUBBLE AMATEUR PROGRAM ---------------------------------------- 1987 October 1 Besides the news from official vocaries, EYEPIECE received over the past several months reader comments about the Hubble amateur program. The program has been largely underpublicized and underreported, Only the inaugural announcement of August 1986 attained wide diffusion thru the astronomy and general media, Since then, of the major amateur astronomy media, only EYEPIECE carried continual substantial news of the program. Not even the newsletters of at least two of the seatholders on the HST working group, those of the Astronomical League and of AAVSO, had any major pieces about the scheme since that initial announcement, There's been essentially no aggressive promotion of the program among amateurs. Nothing like the promotion among schools for the Skylab and Shuttle Getaway experiments was ever elaborated, Not even a quiet promo like that for the Teachers in Space project, ever materialized. The singular exception, among amateur astronomy unions, seems to be the AAA itself thru its HST Service, an advisory and support base for its members under application in the program, And this service is wholly an inhouse feature of the Association with absolutely no attentions from the HST program, Several comments addressed the preliminary applicatIon kit, There were no promulgated procedures or criteria in it for rating the application nor any visible means for checking the entrant's citizenship, maJority, or nonprofessional qualifications, Commentators whose work involves business with the government pointed out the lack of any statuatory citations and of any assignment of authority by which the HST program can operate. They noted, too, the absence of an affirmation, attestation, or, for minor applicants, signoff by a parent or legal guardian. It seems rather unclear just who sits on the working group, the specific individual or the associated group. The STSI initial announcement played up the vitae of the individuals. Being that amateur groups typically turn over their officerships annually, there must be a defined process for allotting seats when their holders no longer speak for their groups. And some reallotting may well be coming soon since about a full year is elapsed since the original composition of the working group. There was for a while an impending flap over the deadline extension. Sources close to the program, informed EYEPIECE that news of the extension was disseminated to various contestants privately in late May or early June of 1987. STSI in its account to EYEPIECE in late July stated that the extension was established sometime earlier in July. And the STSI news release of 10 August 1987 stated that the extension was instituted just then on that very day. It looked for a tine that potential applicants received prepublic insider dope accruing to them an utterly unfair advantage. For by May- June amateurs whose proposals were still unformed could well have abandoned their efforts upon seeing the 30 June deadline closing in. Concurrently it seemed that there would arise two tiers of entrants. Initially It was misunderstood that only the preJune entrants would be passed into the second stage without a preliminary evaluation. The postJune applicants would be put thru the evaluation and risk a disselection for the second stage. Both of these last two scenarios, if allowed to flourish, would have unleashed severe inquiries about the competence and integrity of the HST program. Moreover, being that the program is, ultimately, a government activity, there would have been constitutional questions regarding due process and equal protection, at least. The opening of the detailed proposal stages to all applicants from the preliminary stage avoids the issue of two-tiered status. All entrants are equal with no prejudice as to filing date before the prevailing deadline. The generous extension, about one full year, quite substantially dissipates any advantage from an early-on knowledge of the extension over those who had no such insider knowledge. We will continue to observe the Hubble Space Telescope amateur participation scheme and keep our readers fully and timely informed. CLARIFICATION OF HST DEADLINE EXTENSION ------------------------------------- 1987 October 1 Further news regarding the Hubble Space Telescope amateur participation program was received by EYEPIECE, derivative from the deadline extension from 30 June 1987 to the date of the first launch of the Space Shuttle. These were provided by Stephen Edberg and Janet Mattei, two principals in the program, in separate discussions with EYEPIECE during August . The new deadline is ambiguous on the calendar simply because there is no sure date for resuming Shuttle flights. Furthermore, that first launch must be a "successful" one in that the results of it do allow further flights. For amateurs working on HST proposals, 30 June 1988 is as early a date as any to consider as a realistic deadline. None of the preJune applications were subjected to any deliberate evaluation. All will be offered the chance to continue on with the detailed proposal. However, as at presstime there is yet wanting a duly constituted procedure for submitting the final proposals. When the detailed proposal scheme is in place, all entrants, both preJune and postJune, will be allowed into it. The evaluation of the preliminary applications will be dispensed with. There will not be, as some have feared, two classes of entrant. These would have been the preJune applicants let into the second stage without assessment and the postJune applicants put thru the preliminary rating process. Anyway, the deadline for turning in the detailed proposal is tentatively set at the date of Iifting the HST into successful orbit. (An unsuccessful launch kills the entire HST enterprise, both amateur and career, since there is but a single specimen of the instrument.) This date, by space industry observers, is at the earliest in July of 1989. Fall of 1989 is rather more realistic. HUBBLE TROUBLE ------------ 1988 January 1 The amateur project scheme for the Hubble Space Telescope looks to be in deep trouble, as described by its managers and principals. The program was to allow amateur astronomers to operate projects on the Hubble Space Telescope, as conceived by Dr Riccardo Giacconi, director of the HST groundbase, the Space Telescope Science Institute. To manage the scheme the STSI set up an Amateur Astronomy Working Group of seven groups across the country under the chairship of Stephen Edberg. Edberg is the representative of the Western Amateur Astronomers, a coalition of clubs in California. However, after the fanfare of Giaccani's initial announcement at the AAVSO convention in August 1986, and a second announcement a day or two later at the Astronomical League national meeting, the project has been steadily and strongly disadvocated by many of its principals and by the major astronomy media. EYEPIECE polled STSl's public affairs office and Mr Edberg at his office on 7 December 1987 after having heard no official news since August. In August, on the 10th, the STSI issued a press release to note the extension of the proposal deadline from 3! June 1987 to the launchdate of the resurrected Space Shuttle. See EYEPIECE September and October 1987 for details and supplemental commentary. This deadline extension announcement, coming from a cardinal NASA center, home of astronomy's most awesome telescope, was ignored by astronomy media and centers. Only EYEPIECE, even up until presstime, carried the news. So complete was the "blackout" at other info sources casually available to amateurs that some critics thought EYEPIECE was recounting privileged information! For virtually all amateurs the HST project closed on June 80th, 1987, period. Applications are no longer considered, full stop. Of the members of AAWG it appears that only WAA got any ongoing publicity of the HST program. This, Edberg stated, was due to his own personal efforts as a senior officer of WAA and not from the receipt of generally distributed news from STSI, EYEPIECE, thru its other cotidian business, learned that AAVSO, Astronomical League, Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, and International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry all have not advocated the HST scheme to their members by any good faith means. By presstime EYEPIECE could not yet check with the last two members of AAWG, Independent Space Research Group and International Occultation Timing Association. For unattached amateurs, the poor fellow eking out the hobby thru the local museum and Sky and Telescope. the situation is no better. Indeed it is far worse. He probably is wholly unaware that there ever was an entree for him into the Hubble Space Telescope. S&T, apart from the August 1986 notice, does not promote -- or even journalisticly report on -- this program! Local museums, science centers, college astronomy departments, and other reasonably competent sources of astronomy assistance for the amateur appear blissful ignorant of the scheme, even up to pointing out its implausibility because HST time is too dear for amateur astronomers. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies, approached by an AAA agent posing as an unattached amateur, had nothing on the project, altho it offered good general material on the HST and space-based astronomy. Goddard is the New York City branch of NASA headquarters. Internally the program is suffering badly. Altho the HST application forms set out severe qualifications, neither STSI nor AAWG ever promulgated the standards and criteria by which to assess compliance with them. This defect alone would vaporize the integrity of the HST scheme. for it is open to fatal charges of being arbitrary, capricious, or even discriminative toward applicants. Other defects include a maldefined legality of the scheme thru an absence of any reference to law or other authority under which it is enpowered to operate. Actions taken by AAWG could be -- convictively -- challenged, as by complaint to a local US attorney or the NASA inspector general. Edberg noted that only now are the forms and specs in the works for the second, detailed, phase of the proposal process. He and Ken Wilcox of AL are currently working on them, but Edberg could offer no firm finishup date. It is not clear how Wilcox came into the program; the only official roster of AAWG members lists George Ellis as the seatholder for AL. If the above were not enough to spell D-E-E-P--T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the HST amateur participation project, the pointed disregard for it at the AAVSO October 1987 meeting sure did. At that meeting Dr Janet Mattei, AAVSO's director, gave two talks. One was a summary of her role in the Paris IAU Colloquium and her followan trip to Belgium, Holland, and England; the other, her annual director's report on the activities of AAVSO. The former highlighted amateur-career cooperation such as thru the Colloquium itself, exchange of variable star records, cross membership in astronomy unions. It cited as a supreme example the Leiden Observatory. This antique facility in downtown Leiden was deconmissioned by career astronomers and turned over to the Dutch national amateur society! The paper wondered if there could be a way in America for amateurs to acquire use of a career observatory. The latter paper recounted the many -- and excellent -- ways amateurs and careers work together within the profession. It noted cooperative projects with various NASA stations to coordinate ground and space viewing of certain stars, furnish historical data, obtain computer services for AAVSO, preserve AAVSO archives, and so on. Altho the report named many cooperant facilities, STSI was not among them, Both talks were deservingly well applauded. They illustrate and encourage continued amateur-career mutuality. But behind the handclaps of praise were the thunderclaps of shock. What's going on here?? Don't American amateurs have a shot to run a career observatory? Isn't the American amateur specially privileges to operate the world's most fabulous telescope? Doesn't AAVSO cooperate with NASA's Space Telescope Science institute? Hadn't NASA turned over to AAVSO, thru AAWG, the gubernation of amateur projects on the HST? Neither of the two otherwise solid reports mentioned the HST program! Many from the auditorium, in later hallway chats, took the absence of word about the HST as a sign of the abandonment, dissolution, withdrawal of the Hubble Space Telescope amateur projects scheme. After all, if the premiere seatholder en AAWG isn't pushing for it, the thing must be out of business, right? And these attendees also gazed in surprise in the basement of the AAVSO house at the stacks of boxes of HST applications, each holding several thousands of them, all never opened, One just knows that a lot of delegates went back to their home clubs to report, "It looks like the amateur participation program for the HST is a flop." Back at STSI, there was little concern or enthusiasm evidenced to EYEPIECE for the scheme. Yes, it told us, the program is still alive. Yes, only some one hundredish actual project proposals were filed. No. there were essentially no new entries after the old June 30th deadline. No, there were few inquiries beyond the 450 or so it received since August . And, no, there are no plans to drum up business or increase publicity, There's also a nasty vagueness in the claimed number of filed proposals, The figures quoted to EYEPIECE in preparing this piece ranged from from about 50 to about 150. Even allowing the upper value to prevail, 150 contestants for observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope is one positive national disgrace. In sum, the idea that amateur astronomers might in a bona fide manner acquire use of the positively most magnificent telescope on (above?) Earth could have grabbed for America the highest of high honors thruout the world. As it's going now, tho, we may in for some colossal shame and ridicule from every corner of the globe,