Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Amateur Astronomer

By Stephen Luntz

Trevor Barry has demonstrated that dedicated amateurs can still make important contributions to science, at least in astronomy.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Few scientists came to their field later in life than Trevor Barry, but he’s more than making up for the delay with enthusiasm – some might say obsession. Barry is an amateur astronomer, but the work he is doing with his personal telescope has had a major impact on our understanding of the planets and certain stars.

Barry had no interest in astronomy for much of his life, despite living under the dark skies of Broken Hill. “I spent my time walking around looking at the ground like everyone else,” he says. Then an apprentice with an enthusiasm for building his own telescopes passed through Barry’s department at Broken Hill’s zinc mine and persuaded him to come over and have a look.

“It got dark early, and I dropped my wife off at her mother’s place across town, promising to pick her up in half an hour,” Barry says. He then took a look through the 20 cm reflector with a home-ground mirror his colleague was using. “From working in the mines I was impressed with the mount he was using. Then he showed me Saturn. I could see the rings, Cassini’s division, five moons.”

Barry was dumbfounded. “I thought he was having a lend of me, I went around the front to see if he had a slide up there.”

Over the course of the night Barry was shown spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies, star clusters, emission nebulae and planetary nebulae. “I finally picked up my wife...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.