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"I became an astronomer because I looked ... "

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#1 core


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 01:29 AM

There's a nice little article this week written by Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy Blog) for Slate with the subtitle I became an astronomer because I looked through a telescope at age 5. More kids need to experience that joy. - a timely and enjoyable read.

imo, I'm always reminded that getting someone "interested in science" during outreach events (in whatever form, organized or just showing your neighbor) may only be one facet of our hobby; it can be as basic as sharing the aesthetics and simple wonders of the universe, to the re-telling of the various myths and legends of our early sky-watchers.

Mods, not too sure where this post might belong to, but I'd thot Outreach would be the closest - please feel free to move accordingly :grin:

#2 ColoHank



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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:58 AM

I had my first look through a telescope -- the Cincinnati Observatory's venerable old Merz und Mahler refractor -- at age five or six. I was dragged along, probably reluctantly, by my parents, who were chaperoning my older sister's Girl Scout group that evening. Our guide was University of Cincinnati astronomer and Observatory Director Paul Herget, whose daughter Marilyn was one of my sister's classmates. I don't remember what I viewed that night, but I do recall having to mount some kind of ladder or stairs to reach the eyepiece. More than sixty years later, I returned to that observatory for a second look, and in honor of the occasion, the docent let me remove the lens cap from that same ancient Merz und Mahler scope, now 170 years old. My childhood experience didn't lead me into astronomy as a career, but I enjoy observing from my own back yard, and I frequently join my local astronomy club in its public outreach activities.

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#3 tedbnh


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Posted 13 June 2012 - 09:57 PM

...better in the dark.

#4 amicus sidera

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:41 AM

...better in the dark.


(wiping away a tear)... Seriously, Peter, thanks for the link. While the author seem more than a little biased towards the scientific paradigm (and I don't take seriously his statement that science is "under attack", although dogma masquerading as science may very well be), it was an interesting read.

#5 snorkler


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Posted 06 July 2012 - 12:17 PM

at one of the Comets Kohoutek (C/1969 O1) while camped on a beach in northwest Sonora. It was my first naked eye comet, and sparked my interest in the sky. The spark wasn't kindled until 35 years later, when I bought my first astronomical telescope, but there were other sparks. Among them were Comet Hyakutake, Halley's Comet, Cygnus, Orion, Jupiter and Saturn through my spotting scope.

#6 michael hester

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 01:01 PM

... at a quarter moon out of my apartment window and it was so crisp and clear

#7 astroRoy


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Posted 06 July 2012 - 01:12 PM

I used to own a PC retail store on main street in my home town. A gentleman came in and said that since we were "computer people" maybe we could help him figure out how to operate his Meade 10" LX200. He dropped it off, and my brother, who managed the store, read the manual and explained to him what he was doing wrong. Well he never picked it up for a couple months, and since it was winter and the stars were out during business hours, we set his scope up on the sidewalk and did a little public outreach, figuring it might help bring in new PC customers - it did too. By doing outreach with this scope, and neither myself or my brother ever had much interest in astronomy, I got hooked and bought my own LX200. I've been at it ever since. So, while outreach converted me, it was my own outreach that did it. Funny turn of events I guess.


#8 joelimite


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Posted 07 July 2012 - 11:51 AM

...through a 30-inch telescope at Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kansas in August of 2008. I went with some friends to a public outreach event hosted by the Kansas City Astronomical Society. I'd never looked through a telescope before, and the view of Jupiter through the observatory's massive reflector was jawdropping. Some club members were there with smaller scopes and we spent several hours looking at clusters, galaxies, and nebulae. I was hooked and bought my first scope a couple months later.

#9 buddyjesus



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Posted 08 July 2012 - 02:37 PM

...in an astronomy picture book when I was a toddler. Been hooked ever since.

#10 Skyshooter


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Posted 09 July 2012 - 07:27 AM

...I used to visit my uncle and one day in his garage I spied a newtonian reflector. It was gleaming white with black accents. I was about five years old and it looked like something out of a Science Lab. Having asked about it, he took it out and showed me the moon. I was blown away, impressed and inspired. I've been hooked ever since.

#11 skyguy88


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Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:12 AM

I guess that I am the outlier here.
I have no recollection of looking through an ep until I was long retired.
Moved from the east coast to Northern Arizona expecting to concentrate on geology, fossils, and rocks.
Found dark sky. Bought an 8 inch starfinder and didn't find much. Decided I was too old to develop star hopping skill. Bought a go-to scope. Joined local astronomy club. Found a lot of stuff but wasn't really impressed with the grey fuzzies.

THEN I REALLY FOUND ASTRONOMY...IN A BOOK. Our club had scheduled a public talk on stellar evolution and the planned speaker was not going to be available. I had a couple of months. Bought a good text and carried it wherever I went. I was hooked. What really grabbed me was the ideas of astronomy, the way they have evolved and the astonishing discoveries. Throw in the stunning views of so many worlds and you have a really awesome package.

Then I discovered Mallincam and my scope could deliver detailed color views of so many of those wondrous objects.
I now do a couple of dozen public programs a year, using the video to introduce the ideas of astronomy. For me, IT'S THE SCIENCE, STUPID.


#12 MikeMcCaskey


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Posted 10 July 2012 - 03:40 PM

.......up at the night sky as a kid.

It was a normal progression from my roots in Ohio. John Glenn came from a town about 15 miles from where I grew up. Neil Armstrong is from Ohio. I remember watching Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches on TV and sitting up with my mom watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. I looked forward to National Geographic issues about the space programs, the planets and the stars.

The curiosity for learning more about the world/universe we live in drives us to search for an explaination but also reveals the beauty of and the intricate design of the universe in which we live.
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