Paolo Amoroso's Journal


Forty years ago these days, in November of 1983, my book Saturno: nubi, anelli e lune was released by the small Italian publisher Italy Press. Early that year I had started writing this astronomy book about the planet Saturn.

The paperback book "Saturno: nubi, anelli e lune" (Saturn: clouds, rings, and moons) by Paolo Amoroso, Italy Press, 1983.

Such a traditional publishing deal, my first and only one, was a stroke of luck.

While most debut writers collect dozens or hundreds of rejections before landing a deal, I got mine easily at the first try. I was a kid almost old enough to sign a contract and, when I pitched the idea, the publisher agreed with no objections. What's even more remarkable is the publisher trusted not just one kid at his first book writing experience, but four.

Along with three friends of similar age we pitched the idea of a series of astronomy books. I picked the one on Saturn and my friends did the others.

The book proved a success as the print run of 4,000 copies was distributed throughout Italy and sold well. It earned me roughly one fifth of what top science writers were paid for for similar work at the time.

#publishing #books #astronomy

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As an amateur astronomer, Astrophotography mode is one reason I got my old Pixel 4 XL and my current Pixel 7 Pro.

But there’s another essential piece of gear for taking long-exposure photos of star fields or astronomical phenomena, a tripod. The one I bought for the Pixel 4 XL and now use with the Pixel 7 Pro is a Phinistec photo tripod, here with some of the included accessories:

Phinistec photo tripod with accessories: carrying pouch, smartphone adapter, Bluetooth shutter.

I do all my astrophotography from an apartment building in Milan, Italy, where I live. It’s a light-polluted urban area but these days I can’t wander around much.

I observe the sky from the apartment’s small balconies, which have the area of a medium-sized carpet. This constrains the camera holding gear I can use. I wanted a full-height tripod that can extend to at least waist level, not a tabletop tripod, as I can’t use tables or other elevated surfaces to set the photo equipment on.

The Phinistec tripod reaches a maximum height of 125 cm. It’s cheap, compact, and very light. It comes with a smartphone adapter, a Bluetooth remote shutter, a carrying pouch, and a Gopro adapter I don’t need.

Although the product specs mention compatibility only with iOS, the Bluetooth shutter works fine with Android. To pair it with your phone turn on Bluetooth discovery on the device, power up the shutter, and follow the prompts on Android.

The tripod is perfect for Astrophotography mode with the my Pixel. I can quickly set up the tripod and bring it to a balcony.

There’s a minor inconvenience, though. Even at full height, when pointing areas of the sky at high angular altitudes, viewing the phone’s screen is not much practical. I have to uncomfortably crouch or bend behind the screen.

#astronomy #Android

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I've always worked in astronomy and space outreach and education. But one of my assignments led to an unusual experience in a completely different field, art.

In 2018 I was hired for an art project at Fondazione Prada, precisely because of my astronomy background.

Fondazione Prada (Prada foundation) is a contemporary art museum and cultural institution in Milan, Italy, where I live. It's a unique and intriguing place, especially for someone like me with no art background. What impressed me most were the architecture and the insightful conversations I had with staff members, such as the room guardians who are usually art or design students.

Between August, 11 and October, 22, 2018 Fondazione Prada run a temporary exhibition by Brazillian artist Laura Lima, Slight Agitation 4/4. It featured an impressive series of room-sized installations, including one named The Telescope. It was a giant scaffholding structure with a lecture space and an actual small telescope.

My job was to do daily performances inside the structure, i.e. ordinary astronomy lectures. Laura Lima advised me to focus and geek out on astronomy, not art.

I talked about the Moon, Mars and the planets, comets, space exploration, and more. This is the whiteboard I used, with my doodles after a lecture on comets and meteors.

Astronomy lecture whiteboard at the Slight Agitation 4/4 exhibit at Fondazione Prada in Milan, Italy.

It was a fun and unique experience the many visitors who attended the lectures seemed to appreciate. I didn't anticipate so much interest and questions in a context where people didn't expect to stumble upon science.

Prada Foundation published a video that shows Slight Agitation 4/4 and the structure where I performed. I'm the guy with sparse hair and glasses handling the telescope at 00:45 and 03:08, and lecturing at the whiteboard at 02:47.


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