Astronomy is one field where amateurs still make significant contributions. There are a few reasons for this.
- There's more sky than the pros can watch.
- There are thousands of people who like spending their nights looking up.
- The equipment isn't expensive. Well, while it's not exactly cheap, you can put together a nice rig for quite a bit less than the cost of a new car. A smallish telescope, a camera and mount, dark skies, and Bob's your uncle.
That's why an Australian named Anthony Wesley is on the front page of the NY Times today. He discovered a new feature on Jupiter the other day, and immediately notified NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA pointed a big telescope at Jupiter and confirmed that he'd found something new.