John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 1986 September 1 
    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. 
 = = = = = 
 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 
    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 
    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. 

 1987 January 1

    In early December [1986] 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 
    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. 

 1987 March 1 
    The Association received in late January [1987] 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.
 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 
    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
 1987 October 1 

    Besides the news from official vocaries, EYEPIECE received over 
the past several months reader comments about the Hubble amateur 
    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 
    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 
    We will continue to observe the Hubble Space Telescope amateur 
participation scheme and keep our readers fully and timely informed. 

 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 [1987].
    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.

 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 
    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 [1987]. 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,