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Should we encourage questions about amateur astronomy? i.e. what are the advantages of Dobsonian telescopes? How do I build a telescope? How do I get started on astrophotography?

Although it could be a good growth area for this forum, I'm not sure what we could offer that other sites don't.

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Yes, absolutely!

Astronomy is one of the few fields where amateurs can contribute significantly. With the affordability of relatively sophisticated equipment and advances in astrophotography, amateurs are still making significant contributions.

Amateurs discover comets, they measure occultations that help discover new planets, they contribute useful data to the knowledge base of professional astronomers. Some use home-made radio telescopes, and some use stuff that was once professional equipment re-purposed for amateur use. Then there's the American Association of Variable Star Observers who collectively use small telescopes to measure variable stars more effectively than professionals ever could — all amateurs;

… and they should be encouraged to become a part of this site, telescope questions and all.

Certainly, the capabilities between amateur and professional astronomer has widened, but I would take the questions of a budding enthusiast actually working with their telescope in the backyard over some of the highly-theoretical questions asked by those with little practical knowledge any day.

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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't have said it better myself, fantastic answer $\endgroup$ – RhysW Oct 25 '13 at 15:13
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I am not going to comment on the bigger picture of whether amateur astronomy questions are good for the site, but I can comment a little on the second part.

An SE site about astronomy can provide value, even with other sites, because it isn't a forum.

I gave a talk a few weeks ago about the site I help moderate. One of the things I brought up several times, is that forums facilitate discussion, but SE facilitates getting answers for real world questions.

I ran into this last night while looking up something. I can't recall the exact topic I was researching, but it was essentially about one of the various special purpose filters. I found several threads on the forums about the filter. Each thread led off with a question about the filter. Then there were many posts the followed

  • some asked where to get the filter, and what the best price was
  • some were just "me too" posts
  • some where "I have it but I haven't tried it yet"

All three of these types of posts would have been deleted here, leaving just the answer to the question.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is nothing wrong with follow up questions in science. On the contrary, that is how scientific research proceeds. This might be different concerning non-scientific topics and is why the science sites are not exactly the same as say for example the so-called Trilogy sites. And as I understand it this post is rather intended to figure out the scope of the site (if such applied questions are on topic) than the "style" of interaction among people (how much "discussion" they want to tolerate etc) which varies from community to community anyway. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Oct 27 '13 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ MPD: IMO this answer is slightly tangential, but it makes sense to me. @Dilaton Who said anything about stifling followup questions? Those are allowed, when asked as separate questions. And most mods leave a comment urging the answerer to do so before deleting. The problem with subquestions in threads is that other potential participants can't easily find it, and those not interested in the subquestion will find it as noise. I've come across many physics forums where this happens leading to threads derailing completely. To be clear: I don't think Astro and the trilogy differ in this aspect. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Oct 28 '13 at 5:59
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    $\begingroup$ In conjunction with Manishearth's comment I agree that we should be attempting to leave just the answer to the question as potential answers, follow up questions that arise should be asked separately provided that they are on topic and within scope of the site and wouldn't be duplicating existing questions. This way we create a separation of concerns to make it as easy as possible to find information relevant to each individual question. Hope this helps! $\endgroup$ – RhysW Oct 28 '13 at 10:33

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