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Why do People Stay or Leave the Hobby?

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#1 JayinUT


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 01:35 AM

I think there are many reasons for many of us to have gotten into the hobby. I guess with this post I am asking 4 things.

1. What drew you to the hobby?

2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?

3. If you've quit the hobby for a significant amount of time why did you leave?

4. What drew you back to the hobby?

I'm really interested in hear why some leave and have come back and why some stick through the hobby no matter what, and why some just leave and never come back. Some of the answers are pretty clear I think, but I just want to hear what others think. What are the signs of someone getting ready to leave the hobby? What advice if any do you give to those who want to leave? Oh, to clarify, I'm not leaving the hobby, I'm just waiting for new moon and hoping the weather is good. Again, I am just curious to what others opinions are on this subject.

#2 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 06:16 AM

1. What drew you to the hobby?

2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?

Interesting questions...

1. What drew me in? Opportunity... My wife and I love to go camping, she loves the red rocks of the Four Corners area. The skies are dark and clear... a $5 broken down telescope at a garage sale... Early one morning out on the Arizona desert I was just looking around and stumbled upon some faint bit of nebulosity.. Later I found out I had "discoverd" the Orion Nebula...

2. I can really only speak for myself as to why I have stayed but I can guess why others leave...

I just love looking at the night sky, finding new objects, looking at old favorites, watching the seasons go by, learning the sky, finding my way around the sky unaided. Since that first night more than 20 years ago, things have not changed much... I have much better equipment, I know a lot more but I still just go out and look around to see what I can see.

As far as why people leave... the night sky in huge but this is a small hobby, it takes a certain combination of traits to enjoy it enough to be serious. Patience and curiosity critical.. I suspect that for many, it's something of a passing fancy.

For those who leave and return I suspect that for many, time is a factor. A young person or young couple, there might be time to enjoy it. The family grows, the jobs becomes more demanding, there is not enough time, not enough energy... The hobby is on the back burner but the flame is still there, waiting for the time when life has slowed and one again has the discretionary time and energy.


#3 FeynmanFan


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 06:51 AM

1) I came into the hobby by way of the book my Dad bought me in 1956 showing a drawing of the Moon, and then looking through a small telescope. There actually were holes in the Moon!
2) I enjoy the peace and solitude of astronomy. Just me and the Universe. I seldom observe with others, exceptions being the grandchildren, and certain special events like the transit of Venus and the earlier partial (from here) solar eclipse, when I try to involve neighbors and friends.
3) I've never really left the hobby, although time was seriously reduced while raising my family and paying for the house, college educations, etc.
4) Reference #2. I enjoy being out when the world is asleep. Around 1 AM or so, the noise of traffic dies down, the darkness increases, and all my friends are arrayed above.

#4 sg6



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:48 AM

1. What drew you to the hobby?

2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?

3. If you've quit the hobby for a significant amount of time why did you leave?

4. What drew you back to the hobby?

:question: :question: :question: :question:

1) Always been interested in sciences and I suppose this was the first possibility as a kid of 10-12.

2) Expectations I suppose mean many go. I see too often that someone gets a scope, expects to make an astronomical discovery and almost always comes up with some theory of the universe and everything.
Many get a scope then ask "What can I look at?"
Many have no idea about the instruments they buy.
Hate to say it but modern astronomy is not looking through a scope, what we do is often more like birdwatching.
Here's a question: Do we take ourselves too seriously?

3) Didn't bother to observe for 5-7 years, kept scopes just didn't use them. Cannot give a reason. They were there if I wanted them.

4) I started again after starting a new job and the person I worked with was an astrophysicist. Then joined a club that does no real observing. Pleasant enough for a monthly talk of good standard. Most people there are easy going which as said makes it pleasant.

#5 Tony Flanders

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:48 AM

I don't think anybody really leaves astronomy; it's just that their involvement waxes and wanes. People certainly stop using telescopes; that's a rather fussy and demanding aspect of astronomy. But as long as you look up at the night sky, and know and love the constellations, you haven't really left astronomy.

#6 Rick Huber

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:52 AM

Great Post -
#1 - It was Winter 1955 - Went on an outing with a science class to a teachers farm - One of the students had a 60mm Jason - First thing I saw was Orion (M42) - I was hooked and here we are all these years later -

#2 Still hooked

#7 edwincjones


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:02 AM

I don't think anybody really leaves astronomy; it's just that their involvement waxes and wanes. People certainly stop using telescopes; that's a rather fussy and demanding aspect of astronomy. But as long as you look up at the night sky, and know and love the constellations, you haven't really left astronomy.

:waytogo: :waytogo:

I have always had a casual interest,
got very involved mid 1990s for 10-15 years,
then, due to health and family issues, and burnout,
am less active now.
I have gone to bigger and bigger optics - 14.5" scope, 150mm binoculars
now more hand held binoculars and naked eye
also more internet and less observing

but still interested, and probably always will be-just more casual now


#8 MikeBOKC


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:02 AM

I think expectations is the biggest barrier to staying involved in astronomy. Many people come to the purchase of a scope with Hubble photos in mind and then are baffled by the faint fuzzies they see. A second reason is time . . . I drifted away for some years due to job and life conflicts. That's one reason I suspect the average age here in CN and in most astrnomy clubs is north of 50 . . . folks are more settled and less career driven as they pass into middle age. Finally, I would imagine that some fail to understand that astronomy does require some financial and time investment, buy a department store scope and then toss it in the closet when it shows them not much at all. It doesn't take big bucks to enjoy astronomy, but it does require some bucks to do it right . . . and some patience to learn observing skills.

#9 Mr Magoo

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:20 AM

I grew up in a "science" family with both my parents being scientists. My Uncle had a scope and that was the first look I got. From then on I was hooked. Like many, adult life and career made my hobbies take a back seat in my 20's and 30's. I got back into it by way of the Astronomy MB in Boy Scouts.

I built my first Dob a few years ago and that really inspired me. I love working on the gear and restoring old stuff, but I really need to spend more time out observing now. That is going to be my goal this next year. Going to work on a few AL awards that I've been trying to finish.

Working with kids a lot doing outreach, I've found that one of the worst things that makes people give it up are these cheap department store scopes with the shaky mounts. They advertise unrealistic magnifications and use pretty pictures on the box that people will likely not see with these scopes.

#10 GOLGO13



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:47 AM

I can tell you that my interest has gone up and down a bit. When I was going to dark skies often, it went from being really good to sometimes feeling a little repetitive. Or sometimes I was more interested in scanning the milky way then looking through the scope. That may be because I have no hint of the Milky way at home.

I find having a small group of people who are into observing helps. However, I don't usually like large groups...which is somewhat in my nature anyways.

When I had my first daughter I had a lot more going on so the interest slowed. I used my free time to go fishing...which is unfortunately opposite timing from astronomy (early morning to lunch).

However, I don't think I will ever go away from astronomy. In fact, I found that going away from it for a little bit helped revive my interest when I picked it up again. Sometimes when you go whole hog into something you can get burned out a bit. Now I feed comfortable with my observing...just need to get a house that better supports the hobby.

#11 bumm



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:48 AM

1. What drew you to the hobby?

I'd probably have to get windy and write a book. I think I've always loved the night sky. One of my earliest memories is riding in the back seat of my father's car and looking UP at the back window and out at the stars... no idea where we were going. Later, in the later 50's, the planetarium at the University of Nebraska seemed like the most wonderful spot on this planet. It wasn't until I started taking late night walks when I was in high school that I really managed to learn the constellations, mainly due to a desire to know the sky like the ancient navigators... This led to me checking out a few bright DSO's with my father's binoculars, and I've been hopelessly, deliriously, in love with the night sky ever since.

2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?

All I can really speak for is myself. (see above) I'd expect though, that many have unrealistic expectations about what an amateur scope will show. Others don't have a really deep interest, and once they've been around the sky a few times, their curiosity is satisfied. Nothing wrong with this. Some lose interest when they find out that some amount of effort and learning are involved. I don't mean to sound elitist about this last bunch, but that's probably true in many fields.
Astronomy isn't an interest that requires a lot of time. I get busy and run down, and often don't take my scope out for months, but if I couldn't run out at night for a quick look at the constellations, I'd go out of my mind. Literally. I absolutely have to be able to see the stars at night.

#12 Ed D

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:03 AM

Interesting post!

"1. What drew you to the hobby?"

I don't believe I was drawn into the hobby. My entire life I have had a strong interest not only in the universe, but also in the evolution of life on our planet, geology, etc. I think of observing as a part of my bigger interests.

"2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?"

I believe many people become curious about the night sky and get a telescope, use it to satisfy that curiosity, then move on to another interest. Others observe as part of a bigger interest, like myself, and maintain a life long desire to observe.

"3. If you've quit the hobby for a significant amount of time why did you leave?"

Life is ever changing. Marriage, children and work all have determined how I spend my time. Also, I have other interests that I pursue, so I juggle my time accordingly.

"4. What drew you back to the hobby?"

One of my daughters is strongly interested in science and the universe like I am. One day we were in the back yard and began talking about the planets, and she pointed out Jupiter. On a spur of the moment I grabbed a target rifle scope and strapped it to a tripod, afterwards using a surplus spotting scope on that same tripod for many months. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ed D

#13 wky46


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:05 AM

I have three hobbies- 1. Painting 2. Guitar 3. Astronomy. I pretty much devote most of my spare time to one and then the order of importance of those three changes with my mood. With astronomy, of course the weather plays the most important part so I can get sidetracked. And since the skies aren't cooperating my paintings #1. But as soon as the skies clear, astronomy will take its place :) Oh yeah... Seeing Saturn on Christmas Eve through my brothers little refractor 40+ yrs. ago gave me the bug!

#14 BlueGrass



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:39 AM

Hello. I tend to believe people stay or leave this 'hobby' for primarily two reasons. Time and expectations.

Time: Their life requirements push whatever aspect of astronomy they enjoy farther to the side, many times to the point where they simply abandon it.

Expectations: They have an initial avid interest, eager to learn. At some point, their expectations of what they want to see or do does not match what they actually can see or do.

There are dozens of factors that impact our expectations and the time we feel can be dedicated to amateur astronomy: Local skies, light pollution, need to make dark site trips, equipment quality and cost, complexity of use, ability to understand some of the essential basics of the physics involved, etc... Each person's ability to enjoy whatever aspect of astronomy peaks their interest drives their level of success and their length of involvement.

In my case, astrophotography is my primary interest. To me, it's been a life long interest. Even after struggling with its complexities and the associated cost and frustrations, my interest has not waned. What has changed, is my expectations and the time I can directly spend. As I've learned and grown in my abilities, my expectations continue to grow but the time I can directly spend is being impacted by the increasing hours I'm having to spend at work. I will not abandon my goal, it's simply taking longer to get there than expected ... :grin:

#15 aaube


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 10:47 AM

1. When i started sailing over 30 years ago, the only reliable mean of positioning, to go across the ocean, was the Sextant. You dont need much knowledge about astronomy per say to do this but you do learn the basics related to celestrial mechanics and the likes. I always like using a Sextant, call me crazy but there was something noble about it. As a bonus, the middle of the ocean is "the" dark site, there is just so many stars! This is what started the real interest in the hobby. Night after night, the show was just fantastic. The problem was, i just could'nt zoom in! Quite frustrating indeed as even in the calmest sea, there's always that tiny movement that makes it impossible to observe with anything but your naked eyes. I wanted to see more.

2. Cant tell about the others what there reasons are for staying or leaving but i can say this is the one activity i do that completely immerse me. Any probleam, stress, obligation, you name it is gone when the scope is pointing up. That in itself is probably enough to keep me in. Also, astronomy is such a vast hobby, it never gets boring. There's always something new to try.



#16 ArizonaScott


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:02 AM

The family grows, the jobs becomes more demanding, there is not enough time, not enough energy... The hobby is on the back burner but the flame is still there, waiting for the time when life has slowed and one again has the discretionary time and energy.

I fall somewhere between what Jon mentions here and what Tony Flanders shared.

2.5 years ago I was laid off from a 7-5 job and became self-employed. Now I'm up at 5 AM and most days I'm wrapping up paperwork around 10 PM. I'm so exhausted by that point I just fall into bed and try to get enough rest to tackle the next day.

I've set up a scope only a few times in the past few years, for a marathon or public observing session. Also, a lack of money to purchase gas to get me to these events has thrown a wrench into the works too. To top it off, my stepdaughter and grandchildren moved in with us this year. And while that'll give me opportunities to introduce them to the hobby, they're toddlers now so the interest isn't quite there yet. I've considered selling off some of my gear, our family could use the income. BUT.....

I will always have at least one or two scopes. I will check in here on CN every day. I really enjoy "armchair" astronomy and pick up books and magazines on the hobby every week. Someday, I hope to have more free time on my hands and get really active again like I used to be.

I haven't really left amateur astronomy, I'm just on hiatus from visual observing!

#17 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:52 AM

OK as a relative newbie (3 years) I will chime in...

1. What drew you to the hobby?

Always loved weather, the sky, and just looking up. I always found it fascinating how much is just above our heads. You don't have to go anywhere. just look up the there all the stuff is. The moon, planets stars all just soothe me. Then my wife kept at me to get myself a telescope for years, and finally she funded me one for Christmas. From then on it has been AWESOME..

2. What keeps some in the hobby long term and why do others quit?

I haven't quit yet...But what keep me in the hobby is the unending learning of astronomy. there is so much we know as well as what we don't know. I find reading up on Cosmology is something that keeps the wonder in my sails. And the internet with all its info... Not to mention the Cloudy Nights Forums.

3. If you've quit the hobby for a significant amount of time why did you leave?

Hasn't happened yet. I hope it never does.

4. What drew you back to the hobby?

I cant leave it in the first place. Love it so much!

#18 ensign


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:53 AM

1) A latent interest. I was fascinated by space as a kid and read everything I could get my hands on. Then life got in the way, other priorities.
2) Money, time and interest revived after kids grew up.

I don't know why some people leave. I will always love looking up at the night sky. I suspect that many may be curious, but relatively few will be passionate.

#19 mountain monk

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:57 AM

1. Dad, sometime in the late 1940s. I am in love with seeing things--birds, objects in the sky, even clouds. I graze the related knowledge, but my main interest is in the seeing, better seeing, new seeing. 2. It seems they are often dissatisfied with their gear and expect too much from it. They start with Hubble photographs instead of cardboard refractors or binoculars, and that gives raise to expectations, and expectations are the mother of.... You get the idea.

Good questions.

Dark skies.


#20 SpaceOtter


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 12:12 PM

I can't be the only person here my age (early 40's) or thereabouts who credits the TV show Cosmos for launching my lifelong interest in astronomy.

#21 Jay_Bird


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 12:31 PM

1 - learning exotic & mythological star names and constellations from dad the former air-sea navigator starting maybe 2nd grade

2 - one aspect to keep in the hobby is to do what you can (eyeball, binocular, telescope, image, etc. may all fit schedule and location at different work-life situtations)and another is to do something new (learn the Lunar 100 or other new observing target, do a new activity like outreach or IDA)

3- scaled back to binocular / eyeball looks in grad school, and later moves to light pollution and poor weather locations.

4 - open ended nature of hobby. Lately, only occasional scope use and outreach, lots of binocular quick looks, walks with kids to darkest pockets in neighborhood, early morning previews of coming seasons. Living in SW USA means dark skies are a wonderful aspect of almost every camping trip.

good questions! interesting answers too!

#22 csrlice12



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 12:37 PM

If you thought the TV series was good, (and it was), taking that course in college was one of the best classes I ever took.

#23 Grandpa Jim

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 01:18 PM

I was "drawn to the hobby" towards the end of my life because I have always liked the outdoors, and very often at night found myself looking up.........plus, I tend to be a bit of a loner, so me, a telescope, and the sky seemed like the perfect thing. I also want to introduce my grandson (7, soon 8) to some of the wonders of the night sky.
I have "considered leaving the hobby" for several reasons........first among them is that this turned out to be a LOT more expensive than I originally thought. It seems like there is *always* someplace to drop several hundred dollars :(
Secondly, although I have met a few nice folks here willing to share advice and help...........there seems to me to be a level of snobbery in this hobby, with a "mine is bigger than yours" mentality. (I ran into that at the local club as well, couldn't be bothered to help the "newb" - which is where I may have got off on the wrong foot, so I keep trying).
*Many* times, I have posted questions here, and although I did get a fair amount of help, I also! got many instances where my questions went unanswered.
I ask questions (some dumb, I'm sure), so that I don't have to make expensive mistakes and it aggravates me when I get no answer, and THEN I see a similar post to mine get answered by several (???). I'm old enough to have left "High School" behind long ago, and I don't like the behavior...............

#24 Paco_Grande


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 02:25 PM

I'm 57 and began enjoying this hobby only a few months ago. I've always enjoyed the sky but didn't look up all that often; light pollution will do that. A couple of years ago I was dating this beautiful woman from Ukraine, she's a bio-chemist and scary smart. We used to hang at night time and look at the stars. It was awesome. (Note to self: never date a Ukrainian/Russian again, remember how crazy they are!)

Anyway, I stumbled across Brian Cox on Youtube and that was that. Bought an Orion 90mm Mak, looked at Saturn, and was hooked.

I suppose my interest may wax and wane, which is fine. You know, it tends to wane as the moon waxes and, um, never mind. :D

#25 The Ardent

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 02:53 PM

1. Popular influences from the late 1970's Movies: Star Wars, Close Encounters. TV: Battlestar Galactica, Project UFO, Cosmos. Carl Sagan sealed the deal.

2. Some really have a genuine interest, some dont. Those of us who are truly into astronomy often find time to help others.

3. Age 16-26 there are better things to do on weekends.

4. Comet Hyakatuke and Hale-Bopp

Jay, there is more detail on the moon than in the deep sky sometimes. (not trying to start a debate, just something Ive discovered on my own) Dont wait for the new moon, make the most of what you have.

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