Amateur Astronomy: Engaging the Public in Astronomy Through Exploration, Outreach, and Research

Sanlyn R. Buxner, Michael T. Fitzgerald, Rachel M. Freed

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Astronomy has an advantage over other sciences in the existence of a very large and active amateur scientist community with which to leverage interest, outreach, and research efforts. In this chapter we provide a broad overview of amateur astronomy, how it can connect the public to professional astronomy through direct involvement with the public, and how it is sustained through the creation of social groups and networks, both physical and online This chapter reviews the limited literature on the topic, as well as draws on interviews and stories from 53 people from across the spectrum of amateur astronomy involvement. We discuss historic demographics heavily skewed towards particular ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic categories, as well as new initiatives to increase diversity among the range of amateur astronomers. Through ongoing interest, support, and innovation, there is much promise in the capacity for three broad types of amateur astronomers - the independent explorers, outreach agents and researchers - to make a powerful contribution to Public Outreach. This may even have been amplified by the necessary diversification of approaches forced upon independent amateurs, societies, and organizations in the face of the recent world-wide pandemic. Lastly, we share thoughts for the future of amateur astronomy and share profiles of four relatively young amateur astronomers who exemplify crossing the boundaries of amateur astronomy from independent explorers, outreach agents, and researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Science and Public Engagement
Subtitle of host publication21st Century Perspectives and Opportunities
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780128173909
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Amateur astronomy
  • Amateur research
  • Astronomy clubs
  • Astrophotography
  • Informal astronomy
  • Pro-am astronomy
  • Public outreach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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