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Our goal at Cloudy Nights is to assist amateur astronomers in better understanding the equipment that goes with the hobby. We strive to accomplish this goal in three ways.
- by providing a forum for reviews of telescopes and accessories
- by providing a forum for commentary articles on the many facets of the hobby that touch equipment
- by encouraging and sponsoring events and contests to get kids and beginners interested in the hobby
For most amateurs the decision of which telescope to purchase is a difficult and expensive one. We wish to ease this decision by providing a forum for reviews and commentary articles. Each amateur is different and has different needs and requirements. Part of the education process for an amateur is discovering what their needs are. While one amateur finds that instrument A is perfect for their needs, another amateur may not. Which fits your needs (and is therefor the "best") is for you, the individual reader to decide.
Objectivity Vs Fair-handedness
Cloudy Nights takes the position that writing a truly objective review is impossible. By the simple decision to measure one variable and ignore another, the review has become subjective. Only through the laboratory testing of the same set of variables for every review on Cloudy Nights could we begin to approach an "objective" review. However, even if this were feasible, I doubt most amateurs would find it interesting.
What I propose is the concept of "fair-handedness" in evaluation. Strive in an honest way to show both the good and bad points of a product and resist the urge to over emphasize one or the other. If one product doesn't measure up to the performance of another more expensive product, insure you mention this so the product exists within an economic context. Strive for a balanced review that meets the goal of helping your fellow amateurs.
A Few Words on the Star Test
Amateurs and professionals alike have debated the utility of the star test in evaluating optics. Proponents of the star test feel it is an invaluable tool that will illuminate any optical flaws a telescope may have. Skeptics of the star test feel it is a specialized tool best used by qualified and experienced people for the purpose of answering specific optical questions.
Cloudy Nights takes no stand on this issue. We politely request those authors wishing to include star testing results in their article to ask themselves two questions;
1. Do I truly understand the star test and feel confident in my results?
2. How are the results pertinent to the readers - in other words what question are you answering by including your star test results?
The number one request Cloudy Nights receives from readers is for authors to state their opinions in their articles. As you review a product or write a commentary don't be afraid to state your thoughts. Tell folks what you think and how you arrived at those thoughts. You experienced/used/are knowledgeable on the subject of your article and your opinion matters to folks reading it. Do them a favor - tell them what YOU think. Just insure you state it in a manner so it's clear it's your opinion and not some sort of fact.
How to Submit a Review
We ask all submissions to agree to some simple guidelines:
- Tell us about your general geographic location, years experience, # of scopes owned and biases you may have.
- No editorial changes will be made to an author's contribution without their consent. We may at times ask authors to clarify a section but will not interfere with the actual content.
- Authors are asked to be fair-handed, a process that we understand can be painful for a proud owner. Please tell the readership both the good points and compromises that were made. Don't pull any punches; tell it like it is.
- Comparative reviews are especially welcome. Showing how one scope/accessory stacks up against another gives the content a sense of context.
- We request that no "pre-production" instruments or accessories be submitted for review.
Cloudy Nights is particularly interested in posting multiple perspectives on the same telescope or accessory. Each of us has our own biases and experiences, which mold our opinions of different instruments. To be 100% objective is truly impossible and perhaps is rather uninteresting to read. The key to deciding which author is "right" is really a decision about which author shares your unique philosophy of viewing and optics. In other word, which author do you identify with the most, or keyed in on certain variables that you find important. To this end we would like other owners of already reviewed scopes to step forward and share their experiences with us.
Additionally, multiple reviews show trends or certain variables all the authors mention or agreed upon. This lends validity to the variables in question and ultimately helps the reader reach his/her own conclusion. Articles where the authors diverge in their results should not be viewed with any additional skepticism then any other article posted. Such articles merely reflect the honesty of the authors (they stated what they saw, not what others expected) and should serve as a reminder that all articles are inherently subjective. Here the readers should key in on how the authors reached their separate conclusions and decide which author's perspective they identify with most.
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