When You Were A Kid Astronomer?
Posted 18 October 2008 - 12:26 PM
Kids reading this can also reply to these questions.
Please note the decade you are referring to in your posts replies.
For me, I was a loner. I could'nt find anyone interested in the hobby (late 50s to early 60s) and my parents were only slightly interested in it. Learning resources were far and few between so learning the hobby was slow with lots of trial and error experiences. But I survived and still enjoy the hobby today. My equipment was a 50mm refractor bought at a department store and a cheapie glow in the dark planisphere with only the largest constellations on it. My only bad memory is not having anyone to share my excitement and pleasure with that the hobby gave me. My best memory was being allowed out at night alone, a responsibility I did not abuse, gazing in wonderment at the vast sky above and wondering what it was all about. As for what I looked at, mostly the planets Jupiter and Saturn, some star clusters and satellites (which were a new, astonishing thing to behold in the night sky after Sputnik).
Posted 18 October 2008 - 12:35 PM
Like Mr. O, we got all kinds of excited when a satellite would pass over. I remember people in the neighborhood coming out into the street/yards to watch for them. I also remember people being afraid that one would fall on them. We didn't understand orbital mechanics so well back then.
Posted 18 October 2008 - 01:02 PM
When kids today ask me if we could survive a nuclear attack and how to do it, I tell them it's easy. Just go to the roof of the tallest building in town, turn your back towards the nearest city and bend over forwards, placing your head between your legs and proceed to kiss your but goodbye :dabomb: :rofl5:
Posted 18 October 2008 - 01:41 PM
Christmas night was a cold one that year--and clear (no curse back then?). Dad and I set the little scope in the front yard, aimed at the first quarter or so (or was it last quarter) moon. Anyway, it was a basically half moon. With the chilly air and great excitement I remember standing there while Dad tried to find the image, trembling. It wasn't so much the chill as it was feeling like I was about to have a personal interview with the Creator. It was important and all-meaningful. I'll never forget the whole scene of the moon just over the rooftop and the Christmas tree shining through the living room window.
The next big event came when I found Saturn all by myself the next spring. Just above the distant water tower. I remember running up the back steps into the kitchen and dragging Mama way from making biscuits. I was plum out of breath with excitement. The amazing thing is that I found it at all in an f8 scope with a .965" plastic eyepiece at 90x. Maybe I tried the 45x one first, can't remember. Dad wasn't there then, but he and I had fun with that scope until we got us an RV-6 a few years later. Then, the real exploration began. Dad didn't study astronomy like I did, though, so I got to introduce him to things. The best thing about the RV-6 was the smell inside the Bakelite tube, which to this day is the smell of astronomy to me.
With the little scope I didn't know what to look at except for the few things I had picked up from my cousin, John. I suspect he's the one who tipped me off on how to find Saturn. He was about five years older and was already grinding mirrors and making open-frame Newts with boards, coathangers, and old irons for weights. LOL, they worked! I learned from him the joys of clusters and a few dimmer objects like M13, M57, and M31. Finding them in that tiny scope was a challenge, though. But I did it. Too bad I didn't have another friend my age who had a scope, but a couple of friends would come over sometimes and look with me.
The media was full of space stuff, including the flights of Alan Sheppard and John Glenn. We tracked John Glenn in grade school class on the radio. At night folks would come out to watch satellites. I even caught Echo in the RV-6 once and could see that it was a silver ball. One time only there was a rare showing of the Northern Lights in SC. There it was, just over the old high school building, sure nuff--just barely.
I miss those old simple times for their naivity and first discoveries. It's all still with me, though, everytime I go out nowadays. And I still talk to the Creator while I'm out there.
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Posted 18 October 2008 - 02:41 PM
Posted 18 October 2008 - 02:50 PM
Posted 18 October 2008 - 07:17 PM
Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:00 PM
... until last year, when I got my own telescope. H. A. Rey's books on constellations were among my very favorites.
(Oh, about commies on Sputniks, I recall having to practice, in addition to fire drills, I had to participate in "shelter drills": the teacher told us to duck under our formica, pressboard and sheet steel desks. Even we kids knew that in the event of a nuclear attack, we'd be less than even toast.)
Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:56 PM
First scope was also a 3" Newt on a pressed-metal ball mount -- but I had great views of Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon. Next was a 60mm 700mm Tasco with a 6mm and 12.5mm Huygens eyepieces. Often an exercise in frustration, but I seemed to have limitless patience.
Finally, I tried my hand at mirror grinding, starting with a 3" and proceeding to an 8". I did not know any other amateur astronomers, although there was an "0ld" guy in town with a 12" in an observatory that I got to look through once -- I was in awe!
Posted 19 October 2008 - 01:00 AM
I will say in the 29 years that have passed my local viewing conditions have become a lot worse. In 1979 the Milky Way could still be glimpsed from my backyard on a nightly basis. Those were the days.
Posted 19 October 2008 - 09:43 AM
Things have certainly changed! Today the answer to any question is only moments away with only a few strokes of the computer key pad. Additionally, the computer puts one in touch with thousands of other aficionados such as those right here on CN.
Posted 19 October 2008 - 01:04 PM
1960-61: The US manned space program was just getting started and my brother got a 3" Gilbert Reflector for Christmas. Everyone was talking about rockets and space men. I was 3 years old and just barely remember seeing the first US manned launch with Alan Shepherd on board. My mom sat us all down to watch because it was historic and educational. I think I had nightmares about space men that night when I saw my brother's jacket hanging over his telescope as I drifted off to sleep. I thought one was trying to come and get me .
Early to mid 1960's: Again, the space program had everyone's attention - remember TANG commercials? I got to look through my brother's telescope at the moon - it was cool and I became interested in the planets. I remember finding a picture of the solar system in a cheap set of encyclopedias we had at home, and taking the picture outside one night to identify all the planets based on their stationary positions in the picture. I was very scientific and accurate about it too . I could see North America on the earth's globe, and the location of the Sun, and figuring that the earth had turned away from the Sun since it was night, I proceeded to orient myself as best I could to approximate where I was located on the earth's surface and then to identify the planets in the sky based on that picture . Well, at least I realized that I was on the dark side of the earth at the time.
Late 1960's - Early 1970's: Apollo was everything! Saw the first moon walk and decided I wanted to be a scientist (I guess computer science counts, right?) I'd get up early or stay up late to watch all the moon walks live on TV. No one else seemed that interested. That's when I started to realize that I had more interest in space and astronomy than most people I knew.
Mid 1970's: High school. I remember being discovering Sky and Telescope at the library. Drooled over Criterion Dynascope ads. Comet Kohoutek (actually 1973 I think) was coming and I ordered an RV-6 and waited. . . waited. . . waited. Called and they said that they were back-ordered ever since Consumer Reports published the ratings on their scope tests. A week later they sent back my down payment and said the price had gone up and they needed a bigger down payment. Despair, anger, and a crushing of dreams occured which turned me off to astronomy for a couple of years. I did however, spend most of my time in geometry class drawing my own ideas for equatorial telescope mounts and OTAs
Late 1970's: Decided to grind my own mirror after learning that it could be done. Read everything I could on it, bought a kit, started but soon decided I needed help and, of course, no one else was interested so the kit went into hibernation (I still have it and am determined to one day finish it.)
OK, that's enough since at this point I was no longer a kid. However, I have since acquired that RV-6, and a Meade 8" Starfinder Dob, and a Tasco 7TE refractor, and an ATCO refractor, and a couple of the Tasco Rocket Scopes that I want to rebuild - and I still have the one that started it all. The mirror from my brother's 3" Gilbert reflector. Good times!
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Posted 19 October 2008 - 08:24 PM
Posted 19 October 2008 - 11:30 PM
Back in 1975 when I was 15, my Dad decided to take a class from this guy in SF. He asked if I was interested in helping. This was an interesting request and I decided to go with him to check it out. We met his kind of strange man with a long gray pony tail who spoke very funny and was very grumpy. He was very smart and I could tell he intimidated my Dad a little. Little did I know this was the now famous John Dobson (Dobsonians). We were grinding and building Newtonians to his very inexpensive design, with old â€œportholesâ€ from ships as the mirror blanks and a tool that he lent each participant. I really got into the fact that I would be able to see lots of cool things in the sky-- at that time I really only knew of the planets and the moon. I spent every night on my back in our yard looking at the stars and using an old set of Bushnell binoculars to try and figure out what was what. I was having fun, but there was no one who could help (no computers back then and of course no friends that were interested). Frankly, I enjoyed being alone.
We ended up making two, a 10â€ and an 8â€. My poor Dad cursed every step of the way, and I tried to encourage him the best I could. John D would verbally abuse him when he didnâ€™t get something right or didnâ€™tâ€™ understand. My Dad put over 100 hours into making these instruments and I know he would have quit if it wasnâ€™t for me.
When they were done, I begun to spend every clear night outside looking at thingsâ€”I was hooked!! Jupiter blew me away, and I saw clusters, nebula and even galaxies. I learned the constellations and the stars like a map of California (where I am from). We went to star parties, saw incredible stuff, and joined the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the SF Sidewalk Astronomers. Like many of you, I got up at all times of the night to catch a particular object or comet.
None of my friends were interested and it was funny that whenever some company came over to our house my Dad would excitedly ask me to show them Jupiter or Saturn or the Moon. I realized that many of them were just being polite and really didnâ€™t care. I believe I taught my father something when I finally told him that not everyone thinks Astronomy is so neat like us. Only a few will appreciate it, but most people never look past their everyday environment, work, school and stuff and I knew he understood.
Being that he was a teacher in SF, we spent many nights at schools showing hundreds of kids the celestial wonders. If there was a field trip, we were part of the night time attractions. I remember kidsâ€™ looking down the tube saying thereâ€™s a picture in there isnâ€™t there? Maybe we touched some of themâ€”I donâ€™t know.
I wrote a report when I was in the 8th grade on Astronomy. It was the only time I ever took an assignment seriously and remember typing the thing out for weeks and adding pictures. Most of it was about my own adventures. I still keep that report in my office. I dedicated the report to my fatherâ€”what a great man. I got an A+ on itâ€”the only assignment I ever got an A on.
By the time I was eighteen, I had seen all nine planets, a couple of minor planets and all the Messier objects--many from my own 10â€ and others at star parties through some very nice set-ups.
I grew up a relatively normal middle class kid, played sports, was very competitive and happy go lucky about life.
As I got older I realized that many amateur astronomers had similar personalities. Most were loners--spending so many nights by yourself, the scope, and an endless list of things to look at. Most are above average smart, a little analytical and have the enthusiasm of a kid when looking and showing and explaining to others about this well, unusual hobby. Good peopleâ€¦
Now at 47, with a 12 and 13 year old that I would love to get interested in this hobby, however, I remember what I told my Dad so many years ago. Itâ€™s not for everyone, only a few will appreciate the vast wonders of the night sky. I wonâ€™t push them---but I wonder if they will.
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Posted 20 October 2008 - 09:53 AM
In high school my interest became my goal as a career. I knew I wanted to be an astronomer but being in high school was also a little tough. No one my age had a remote interest in it. Everyone wanted to party among other things. In 2006 atteneded my first serious star party, the Grand Canyon star party. One of the best sites I have ever seen.
Well now its the end of 2008 and I am graduated from high school (thank god) and now studying astronomy in college. I have become extremely good at dealing scopes and equipment and I have worked very hard for my current line of scopes. I have done imaging with a C-8 Hyperstar, gazed at planets with my Orion 100ED, but those didnt do it for me.
I traded my 100ED for my WO 80FD, Sold the imaging stuff to fund my WO110ED, and saved for months for my 16" Truss. But I still have my trusty 10" Intellascope!
You can have anything you want as long as you are willing to work for it. Whats my next scope? A 25" or 30" Truss dob.
But its not about the equipment. The equipment reflects my experience with the sky, needing larger scopes to see what I want to see.
I love the sky and I love to share it with others and to this day I am still out with the same group every weekend sharing my scopes (they are just a little bigger and nicer now).
Posted 20 October 2008 - 10:03 AM
Like so many others in this hobby, I was a bit of a loner, but not completely so. I did well in school, but I loved music and I loved playing sports, as I attempt to do even today. And I had friends who had zero interest in astronomy. With regard to the need to be cool, things really haven't changed that much since those years. Since I had no desire to be a complete outcast, I was sort of a closet amateur astronomer, bringing up my interest with nobody. I wound up with two lives, and the two never met. Only when I was completely out of college did I begin to invite non-astronomically oriented friends out to observe. Even then, I think it was considered a fringe activity. I'm sure glad I stuck with it, though.
I was fortunate to have parents who were supportive of my pursuits. It was not easy for a lower-middle class kid to convince them that I'd be able to afford college and the Celestron 8 that I coveted.
My fond memories of dark-sky astronomy then are similar to the ones I have today. Read the first post in the parallel General Observing thread started by Kevin "skyward eyes" LeGore to get an idea of what I experienced at his age, as I do today.
What is it about the night sky?
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Posted 20 October 2008 - 10:47 AM
In fact, today, I am supposed to conduct some college kids to view through a wonderful Meade 16" Cassegrain, and generally, I ask my two boys if they want to accompany me. They used to all say yes immediately and look forward to the evening. This time, they are a tad older than yours, and one said, "No, I'm not very interested, really", and the other said, "It'll depend on how much homework I've got tonight". It used to be that they'd suspend homework, even computer games and TV for it. I suppose I ought to compliment the one for his apparent maturity in opting for work before pleasure, but I suspect that their interest levels are not where mine are.
But as you, I will not shove or drag them into something they don't really want to do, possibly so making them hate it (I might nudge or softly push, but if I feel resistance, I stop).
Still, they admit that the view through that 16" scope is grand, so grand they didn't want to look through my 8-incher after the 16-incher.
Posted 20 October 2008 - 03:28 PM
Then came Halley's Comet, boy was that something, now I know why Messier was so obsessed with comets. It was my first attempt at AP and I may still have a slide or two around. That was the time when we watched the Cosmos series in high school and I was wide awake and would later go to the school library and pour through astro books. All that made me aware of many things in astro but I was not really doing any astronomy. I can only imagine what it's like to be a kid today with access to so much astronomy stuff on the internet.
Posted 21 October 2008 - 12:08 PM
He went to veitnam and i had a blast with that scope.(mostly playing spy)
I lost the scope in all the moving since then.
when Ike came through my observatory was damaged.
and during the clean up process guess what I found that old mayflower.
Good mercy what a poor quailty scope that thing is.
still it has a lot of good and bad memories so it will get restored. and will get used by the grand kids.
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Posted 21 October 2008 - 02:49 PM
I was 9 years old in 1973, when my dad subscribed to a new magazine called "Astronomy". When each issue came in the mail I used to carefully take it out of the brown paper wrapping and flip through the pages, admiring the excellent photos and drooling over the ads for those orange tube C8s! Then I'd just as carefully re-wrap it and put it back with the rest of the mail before he got home. He belonged to the astronomy book club, and had a nice library including Burnham's, Richard Berry's original "Build Your Own Telescope" and several other ATM titles, Louis Bell's "The Telescope", and many other "classics". These books and magazines were the foundation of my own astro library years later and remain in my collection to this day.
My father was the quintessential armchair astronomer, he never had a scope but seemed to have been building an 8" reflector since before I was born - I remember a steel drum in the middle of the garage where he was grinding a mirror blank, and years later after he passed away while cleaning out the garage I found a bunch of telescope parts that he built from scratch - an equatorial mount and a focuser made from pipe fittings, a hand-built Foucault testing rig, a set of plywood mounting rings, his unfinished mirror blank and a box full of pitch and whatnot, a stack of ATM booklets from the 50's and 60's from Edmund Scientific... it was like stepping out of time machine.
But he never finished the 8", nor did he ever actually own even a department-store scope, at least none that I remember... until my mom bought him a Super C8+ for Christmas in the 1980's. I think I was more excited than he was. He rarely used it, I think he was more interested in building his own scope than buying an "appliance". So the Celestron sat in a corner for years, gathering dust instead of light. One night when my parents went to visit some friends I lugged the thing outside and without knowing anything about aligning an equatorial wedge or even knowing what to look at, I managed to find a few interesting star clusters purely by accident. I then hurried the scope back into the house before they came home and busted me. That was the extent of my early astronomical observing.
I lost interest in my late teens/early twenties - maybe because my enthusiasm was never really fostered by my father, who in fairness probably had no idea I was even remotely interested in astronomy. I was a momma's boy and, sadly, not very close to my father, a fact that I regret today every time I find myself outside under the stars, wondering why he and I never shared this beautiful hobby together. Might astronomy have brought us closer?
My father passed away in 1992 and I ended up with the Celestron, the books, and a nearly complete collection of Astronomy magazine from the first issue in 1973 to around 1988 when he let his subscription lapse. It didn't take long to rekindle my interest in astronomy; I've spent the last 16 years out under the stars as often as time permits. I may someday collect all of the parts of the uncompleted 8" reflector and finish it in my dad's honor as a way of thanking him belatedly and posthumously for introducing me, however unwittingly, to mankind's oldest science.
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Posted 21 October 2008 - 04:15 PM
Posted 22 October 2008 - 12:00 AM
When my dad came to CA for a job and it became apparent that we would come to live in the US, I pleaded with him to buy me a pair of binoculars. Sure enough when I met him at the air port, he had a pair of tasco binoculars. They were pretty cheap, but I enjoyed looking at the moon with them until I broke them while roller blading with them around my neck... and naturally falling on them
That was it for a while. For one reason or another I kind of forgot about astronomy or my astronomical aspirations until the beginning of junior year of high school. I had worked as a cashier in Michael's arts and crafts for the summer.
On the first day of class I walk into my new physics teacher's room, and what do I see A shiny new reflector on an EQ mount. I asked her about it, and she told me her husband had bought it for her as a xmas gift, and she told me there was a store nearby.
The world stopped.
I had money....I had a place to get a telescope.
I COULD HAVE A TELESCOPE!!!
That was the beginning.
I was 17, so I can't count myself as a kid, but I was somewhat of a loner, oh I had friends and did stupid teenage stuff, and all that jazz, but I also did alot of middle of the night driving up in the santa cruz mountains to catch a glimpse of the milky way during the summers since.
I believe this hobby has altered the way I think and see the world and my place in it more than pretty much anything else I have done in life... except perhaps a singular experience with a certain ergot derivative whilst camping one hill over from the lick observatory for the perseid meteor shower a few years ago... Let me put it this way, the ethos is like looking through a straw compared to my apparent field of view while lying on the ground looking up that night.
Posted 02 November 2008 - 09:23 PM
My father passed away in 1992 and I ended up with the Celestron
Nice story, Paul. My dad passed in 2006 and I inherited his Celestar 8. He hardly ever used his either, but was always interested. We did share some time under the stars, though, when I was growing up, and later. I always think of him when I'm out.
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Posted 11 November 2008 - 01:53 AM
My mother was very Catholic and suspicious of astronomers. She was only just convinced that the Earth was not the center of the universe. My father decided that I needed to have some proof for my self and I spent a summer charting the orbits of the moons of Jupiter. It was quickly apparent that Galileo was correct in showing that Jupiter was the center of another orbital system. After this my father decided that if he was injured on the boat and we were out to see I would be the one to have to navigate and I was taught to take readings with the sextant.
Because when I left home there was a recession during the Regan administration I had no money to invest into a hobby. I looked into grinding a mirror but I finally found a 10.1" DOB from Coulter. I still have it and when I am going to a dark place I still use it.
I now live in a city and there is not much dark sky. The planets and the moon are still exciting but solar viewing has replaced most of my astronomical viewing. I find the sun in H-Alpha to be so dynamic that observing for hours is everchanging and beautiful.
Posted 08 December 2008 - 01:09 PM
I have two vivid memories of astronomy from that time period: The first was my father getting me up around 4:30am one morning and driving me down to North Beach at Hampton, NH to watch the planet Mercury in his binoculars. The second was lying on my back on top of Mt. Katahdin one summer night - a YMCA camp overnight hike - and watching a meteor shower for hours. The sky was so clear and dark in those days. The vast majority of kids today will never see the naked eye sights that I saw.