Outreach – Free webinars on Spectroscopy

What to know more about spectroscopy?  Invite Tom Field, author of the RSpec real-time spectroscopy software, to speak to your club or high school class.

Tom is a contributing editor at Sky & Telescope Magazine.  He’ll speak for free to your group via a live video webinar.

Tom says that most amateurs still think that spectroscopy requires prohibitively expensive equipment, a mountain-top observatory, and an advanced degree in astrophysics. That might have been true many years ago. But, the tools available these days make it easy for almost anyone to capture astonishing spectra. There are teenagers as well as 80-year-olds who are doing spectroscopy.

Isn’t it time for you to unleash your “inner scientist”?

For examples of the exciting science that can be done with a small telescope, see our samples page: www.rspec-astro.com/sample-projects.

Even if you’re halfway around the world, if your club or school has internet access in its meeting room, Tom can appear with live video using professional, webinar software. Tom uses web-seminar software called Cisco WebEx. It’s like Skype, but even more powerful because it’s designed to meet the needs of businesses.

These presentations are totally free of charge. These are not software sales demonstrations. The talks are aimed at the rank and file amateur astronomer or even high school classroom. Tom’s presentation focuses on the history of spectroscopy, the science, exciting sample results, and (when speaking to clubs) how-to-get-started.

His talks are followed by a live Q&A session.

Contact Tom (link) to schedule your presentation or to set up a short sample meeting so you can see this remarkable technology in action.

Web Presentations? Are they good enough for your club?

Over the past four years, Tom has spoken to more than 200 clubs, conferences, and star parties, both in-person and via the web.

See these testimonials on the CloudyNights forum: www.cloudynights.com.

Below is a testimonial we received from a large club in Maryland.



Below is an email from a board member at the Riverside Astronomical Society (link). This highly respected club organizes RTMC and PATS.

“I had been very leery of how your remote presentation was going to go. I have real high standards for the presentation for our meetings. That quality is one of the things that make the club so good. At any rate, I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out. I still prefer live speakers (not that you were not live, but, well, you know), but not by as much as I thought. The technology was much better than I anticipated. I had a sense you were there, even only as your little [live video] picture in the corner. Everything seemed normal enough.” – Alex McConahay


Here’s an email we just received from the president of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (link):


Thanks very much for doing your webinar remote presentation to Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston tonight! I got many positive comments after the meeting – members were really engaged and attentive during your presentation. To calibrate these positive comments, we get very high quality professional speakers for many meetings. With your high energy level and humorous banter from time to time, no one was in danger going to sleep during your talk.

You have raised a lot of interest in our club having more remote presentations like yours in the future. People were very positive about the whole web-talk experience, besides your specific talk. Before the meeting, we were a bit worried whether an over-the-web presentation could entertain our audience of about 50 people. But, it really worked out well. This potentially opens up a new source of speakers for us (although it’s clear that another speaker would have to be as skillful and experienced as you were to make this work well in the future).” – Bernie Kosicki

Here’s a text message that the president of a club in Michigan sent after a presentation to their monthly club meeting:


And finally, demonstrating that meetings can be done across oceans: From South Africa, here’s the Chairman of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (link), Pretoria Centre:

“Good day, Tom, [Ed. note: they’re so polite down there, aren’t they?!]

I wish to thank you for a wonderful experience with the on-line presentation. It exceeded my wildest expectations, and everyone was very impressed with the quality of both the presentation as well as the flow of data.

It was truly as if you were right there with us. The video was smooth and audio was very good. No lags or dips that we could make out.

Now I can relax, and go to to sleep with a job well done!” – Johan Smit


Will Tom’s talk be any good?

As a Contributing Editor at Sky & Telescope Magazine, Tom is well-known in the astronomical community for his lively and interesting presentations. With contagious enthusiasm, he clearly explains his topic and shows great example spectra of objects that are familiar to his audience. Tom has been a speaker at a large number of conferences, including the Advanced Imaging Conference, the Winter Star Party, NEAF, NEAIC, PATS, and OPT’s SCAE.

Tom has also given presentations over the web to many, many clubs, including the Boeing Employees Astronomical Society, Austin Astronomical Society, RTMC, Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, and clubs in Australia, South Africa, the UK, India, and others. He would be happy to put you in contact with board members of these clubs if you would like to hear their opinions first-hand.


Other outreach activities

Tom is listed as a lecturer on the Astronomy Outreach Network: link.

Dennis Di Cicco of Sky & Telescope Magazine did a great ten-minute video interview of Tom at the NEAF conference. Click on the image below to watch:

Tom’s 4-page article on spectroscopy appeared in the August 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine: