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Do you generally observe alone or with friends?

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#1 aa6ww



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 02:15 AM

I'm kinda curious if astronomers out here generally observe alone or in groups or with a single friend or two. The more I get involved in the skies and whats out there, the more I find myself wanting to observe by myself. I have a few astronomer friends but when we are together, they are more of a distraction to me and talk to much about things unrelated to what we are doing, or they play with the phones and blow out their eyes, and generally are wishy washy about astronomy and just wait for me to find what I'm looking for, then they try to find it also. Usually they are very unprepared for a night of observing and forget something or get hungry and lately, seem to annoy more more than help compliment my experience. I know this doesn't sound very fun, so for that reason, I find myself enjoying myself in my back yard just by myself, sometimes listening to the end of a basketball game on the radio, and gearing up for a night of astronomy and research by myself till early morning.
The company of someone else at night is nice, but more often than not, I find others I observe with to be more of a distraction to me.
When I go to star parties in the mountains however, I like to go by myself because people out there generally do their own thing and leave me alone, and I can usually tell within a few hrs who is a serious astronomer trying to get involved in deep space, and who just wants to go out and talk and waffle around the sky and pester others as to what they are doing.

Is this common, or am I just blessed with these fortunate types of friends?
Do people generally observe by themselves or with friends or in groups?
thanks for any inputs...

.... Ralph

..attached is my back yard set up I get lost in with my C14 and 4" refractor on top. The portable walls are 10' wide by 7.5' tall.

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#2 stratocaster



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 02:39 AM

I enjoy viewing with others if they're serious about what they're doing themselves. If we chat about something it typically is about the object we're looking at (or going to look at), equipment, or something else that is astro-related. Before dark is when we can shoot the breeze about other things.

There was a dark sky weekend about 6 months ago where I had my 10" dob and 102mm refractor set up. I had probably only been observing for about 1/2 hour when some guy from San Diego comes up and asks me what I'm looking at. So he started talking to me and asked about two or three questions. In very short order I gathered he had been in the hobby for quite some time himself, but then he just kept on talking...and talking...and talking...and talking. After 20 minutes or so I had to interrupt him to tell him I was going to go back to observing. I was pretty torqued that he was so self absorbed. Dark sky weekends don't happen very often. And I when they happen I want to spend time observing.

I don't generally mind helping, showing, or explaining things to visitors who are interested in what's going on and have questions about things astronomical. I kind of view that all as part of the hobby. On an occasion or two I have to catch myself from attempting to "over explain" things, though, and just keep my own mouth shut.

However, when the outreach portion of an evening ends I'm for the most part all business trying to track down objects I haven't seen before - and I'm only now just starting to log my observations. So I get pretty engrossed. Not much time for chit-chat unless I come up for air.

#3 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:13 AM

Generally I observe alone.

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#4 Tony Flanders

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:37 AM

I'm kinda curious if astronomers out here generally observe alone or in groups or with a single friend or two.

I do them all fairly regularly, but observing alone is the one that I value most. The reasons are both practical and aesthetic.

Although there's certainly a lot to learn by comparing views with other people, it's hard to get much work done -- or maintain focus -- when there are other people around.

And for me the real thrill of stargazing is when it's just me and the stars. Other people disrupt the magic. Not as badly as (say) listening to music would, but badly enough.

Because most people observe mostly in their backyards, it's a fair bet that the majority of stargazing is done alone.

#5 JimMo


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:06 AM

I usually don't have to worry about others around here as there just aren't that many willing to drive 50 to 70 miles to observe. At the Lake Hudson dark sky site it's usually just myself and maybe one or two others most nights. I actually prefer when there is at least one other person for security reasons even though I've never had any trouble when by myself. I do find I get the most out of my observing when I am alone but can get spooked when the coyotes suddenly start howling.

If it's a weekend night with warm weather and no Moon all bets are off as there can be loads of others and a lot of time is spent catching up with folks you haven't seen in a while. These are nice once in a while but I mostly prefer when I can observe in solitude with one or two like minded friends.

#6 Feidb


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 09:53 AM

Safety in numbers. I only observe with other people for safety reasons around where I live.

#7 Achernar



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 10:53 AM

Most of the time, I observe by myself. I'm a lone wolf by nature and astronomy is my way to take a break from everyone else. Only at public outreach events or at the monthly club star parties do I observe with others, and the local club's members are mostly folks who have been amatuer astronomers for many years like myself.


#8 ensign


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 11:15 AM

I see benefits in both. If you observe with people at similar levels of experience, it can be interesting to trade notes. Keeping conversations short and focused on observing helps (don't want to hear about your sick cat and your vet bills - let's go for coffee to get to know each other).

Helping folks new to stargazing is legitimate as well, but the noobs need to allow stargazers to do what they came out to do.

There is a certain magic in being alone under dark skies too. Just me and my scope. :cool:

#9 deepskydarrell


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 12:34 PM

You guys hit it on the head. Great points from all. But remember, there are way fewer of us viewing "Deep Sky Observing" than there are reading all the other forums on Cloudy Nights. It appears we're a rare breed when compared to all the other types of observers. This took me a long time to realize --- the majority of observers aren't into the serious observing and collecting that we are. Many? are most happy just rounding up the usual suspects / objects and leaving the tracking on and then just visiting.

Observing alone is great but having one serious, quiet sidekick along is even better.


#10 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 02:10 PM

When it comes to going deep, I usually observe with one or more fellow CAS members, since we plan on trips to various distant dark sites via the club web site. Occasionally, some chatting goes on but, for the most part, it's all business.

At one time, I did a lot of solo DSO observing from the ASH Naylor Observatory but the skies are just not very dark there anymore. It's becoming increasingly more difficult to see M74, M101, or NGC 3628 through the club's 17" classical Cassegrain.

The skies at my home are pretty bright so, with a few exceptions, my targets are mainly the Moon and the bright planets. Every once in a while my wife will come outside to take a look.

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#11 LivingNDixie


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:23 PM

Personally I am about 50/50 when it comes to alone versus group observing. I tend to observe more when I am alone, but tend to stay later when in a group. Having a list of objects for the evening really helps.

#12 wky46


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:31 PM

Alone, I'm not what one would call a 'club' or necessarily a 'people' person. What would be ideal for me would be to have a family member, friend or close neighbor into astronomy and go to dark sites with them on occasion but it doesn't look like that's ever going to happen. Be cool though to look through some different scopes, so I do want to attend a star party in the future...Phil

#13 Feidb


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:39 PM

I observed solo for 25 years because #1, it was in my back yard in either Spain, Turkey or where I lived in the states. #2 I was solo because I didn't know any other observers.

In Oklahoma in the 90's, I got involved in some groups but still did the majority of observing in my back yard. In Indiana at the turn of the millenium, I observed strictly with groups because I couldn't even see the sky from my back yard and was in a club anyway. Once I got to Las Vegas, I had to go to remote places because of the LP and with the hazards from critters, mechanical issues and crazies, safety in numbers. I'd never go out alone around here but don't have to. I've missed a few great opportunities, but also had peace of mind. That's life.

A more elaborate explanation of my first response!

#14 mountain monk

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 04:53 PM

Alone--unless I am introducing someone to observing, and that's only a couple times a year. I love the solitude and silence. Recently two wolves visited us. I sat on the deck hoping they would sing while I watched the Moon but, alas, they were silent and moved on north. Now, they would be great companions for a night sky!

Dark skies.


#15 The Planetman

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 05:00 PM

It's about 50/50 for me too. I do like observing by myself sometimes. I like my 80's music lightly playing in the background and sometimes it's nice not having to deal with anyone.
When I observe with friends however, we are all a pretty serious bunch; often sharing our observations and/or asking for confirmation on something. We do take an occasional group break to chat and grab a snack. 95% of the time, our subjects are astronomy related.

#16 Madratter



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 05:07 PM

There are some activities I much prefer doing with others (Golf, playing guitar in a band). But when it comes to astronomy, I'm a lone wolf. I enjoy occasionally showing things to others. But I really enjoy the peacefulness of being out under the stars by myself.

#17 drbyyz


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 05:23 PM

I tend to observe alone. But I think this is mainly just because I haven't found anyone to observe with. However, I do have plans to attend my local astronomy club's next session and a user on here that lives near by has even contacted me about getting together.

I would imagine they both have their benefits. I do love the peacefulness and solitude of observing alone, but I'm also a social creature so I think I would have fun observing with others. A happy mixture of both would be nice.

#18 mountain monk

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 05:54 PM

I would add:

The dividing line for me when I am away from home and alone is whether or not I have cellphone access. I've had enough medical problems in recent years that I don't really like being alone when out of cellphone contact--and my wife really doesn't like it. Just another consideration.

Dark skies.


#19 MDB


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:26 PM

Jack, like you I tend to be a lone wolf too.....except a couple of years ago on Uhl Hill (not far from you near Spread Creek) I discovered I was not a lone wolf at all but one of several. When the Sun came up I could see what all the commotion had been about as there were still two black wolves on an elk carcass on the shore of Elk Ranch Res.


#20 Madratter



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:36 PM

I would add:

The dividing line for me when I am away from home and alone is whether or not I have cellphone access. I've had enough medical problems in recent years that I don't really like being alone when out of cellphone contact--and my wife really doesn't like it. Just another consideration.

Dark skies.


I see the necessity of that, but I would definitely turn the ringer off.

#21 Doug Culbertson

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:36 PM

Alone 100% of the time. My home is still in a borderline yellow/green zone, so on a good transparent night I get around mag 6.0 or so. I would still like to find a darker site to travel to, but my searches have proven fruitless as far as a dark clearing with public access is concerned.

When I did belong to a club the only advantage was the darker site that they had. Otherwise, it seemed that observing nights were social nights more than anything.

#22 CelestronDaddy


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:20 PM

I now observe by myself. When my daughter was still at home she was my observing buddy, a real trooper. Time has moved on and now she is married living in another part of the state. I have a friend who will probably get a telescope soon so we'll probably start observing together at some point. Good thread.... Tony

#23 khoferer


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:29 PM

In recent years its been alone except for the critters wandering through the yard. I live in a rural area and built a small observatory which makes getting out convenient. When I started this hobby I was in a club and have many fond memories of the observing sessions at the club's dark sky site. It is nice to compare views occasionally.

#24 Carol L

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:05 PM

I always observe alone from my rural 40 acres.

#25 JayinUT


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:52 PM

Alone about 30% with 1 to 3 friends 70%. My friends are serious observers so we observe for several hours, and then visit or share views or confirm a faint object then back to observing. It is fun to share laughs and make memories with others. Solitary is good also and all my observing, and well 90% is at dark sites.

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