And You Think You Have It Rough!
Sometimes there is cause for us to gloat -- no, perhaps a better word is "exult" -- in the fact that we're amateur astronomers. True, we don't get in on all the interesting leading edge stuff, and we don't have access to observatories where we can get a good look at what's out there in space. But from the relative comfort of our more mundane workaday worlds, consider the following quote from the October, 1998, issue of Outside magazine. The author, Richard Panek, refers to astronomers who work at Mauna Kea Observatory:
For astronomers at Mauna Kea, the stakes are often impossibly high. Time on a telescope can cost tens of thousands of dollars a night; at the Kecks, it runs about a dollar per second. An astronomer has to apply for observing time a year in advance, spending countless hours writing proposals, submitting them, and hoping one is accepted (and on the Kecks, only one in seven is). Then, when their two or three or four nights arrive, the astronomer is stuck with them, clear skies or not, functioning equipment or not, physically healthy and mentally agile or not. To astronomers, the data they collect on a major telescope determine whether they can write the papers that complete their Ph.D.'s, that support their hypotheses, that affect the trajectories of entire careers -- or not.