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Aperture versus experience

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#26 jpcannavo

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 06:04 AM

Proving to be a great thread Pete!

In drawing attention to these flowers of highly cultivated skill, we diminish nothing, exclude no one, and in fact highlight something so lacking in our culture: The ability to slow down, experience deeply, wait, ponder, be awed, and walk through life embracing the art of being unjaded.

So many analogies here to being a musician, where we often savor, and reflect on (and sometimes agonize over!), the process of developing technique, while simultaneously appreciating (an sometimes envying!) the sensibility of those less preoccupied with virtuosity, but no less devoted.

It's all good, its all part of the same thing.

Joe

#27 kenrenard

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 06:26 AM

Pete,
I have found this thread very interesting. Being a novice observer today I see more than last year when I only had 6 months observing. I think sketching helped quite a bit. I also believe time looking at the object is the difference. I read in Stephen O'Meara's books that he spends 3 to 4 hours per object over several nights to get the most detail out. With me having a young family and not the best weather it wouldn't be practical for me to devote that time to one object. But, I can devote 20-30 minutes!

I did notice something watching experienced observers work. They move slower and take more time to look. I see this at my club viewing nights. Some folks look and say I got it and move on. Others look and study and contemplate. I am not saying there is anything wrong with either technique, just slower sees more.

I still have no idea how Stephen O'Meara, Jay Freeman, and Sue French see what they do!

When I read Freedman's accounts of the Hershel 400 with a 55mm I am spellbound. I don't think 15 inch would have helped me on some objects :bawling:

Ken

#28 azure1961p

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 07:55 AM

Thanks guys Im glad this topic is well received.

Joseph, I think the worst thing in the world is to come to the end of ones life and realize it went be in a rush of experience that never slowed down to "smell the roses" as they say. I've grown up with some people still living and passed - its a sad thing when you see it. Particularly, workaholics I think suffer greatest here with the test coming as retirement sets in and instead of time to do the things that was always pushed aside, dysfunction sets in and they waste away. I wouldn't be at all surprised if senility and/or dementia were fueled (sometimes) by such people's perception of what a meaningful life was or ought to be and how they that it isn't.
Ok digression over. At anyrate I would imagine the naturalist in general has a sense of what it means to slow down and appreciate the more meaningful things in life the others are often numb too. Observing just happens to be a great example of this.

I enjoyed your points Joseph. As well I appreciated accounts and testimony of others here. The leap from humble beginnings to full fledged pro grade is something we all enjoy it would seem. The most humble beginnings I can think of is Walter Scott Houston's childhood creation of a telescope- eyeglass specs in a paper mâché tube. That my first *real* telescope had a low power that was my first scopes high power was utterly intoxicating to me as a new teen.

Pete

#29 RussL

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 09:37 AM

I can only say, letting myownself be the inexperienced observor from decades ago to now with more experience, that one night a few years ago I began to see the dust lane in the Sombrero from a red zone with an ST80. Had it not been for the wisdom gained from experience it would've never been apparent. Mainly, wisdom gained over time has taught me to use averted vision better and to keep looking for long periods of time as the atmosphere changes. Even though my young eyes could've seen more decades ago I see more now simply due to things I've learned through the years.

#30 Qwickdraw

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 11:54 AM


Obviously the expert will see more.

Pete


I dont think that is a given at all. eyesight, LP and maybe other factors will come into play. The "expert may see less but know what he is looking at more so than the novice. Being able recognize what you are seeing does not necessarily mean you see more.

#31 Astrodj

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 01:11 PM

While acknowledging all that has been said here, it doesn't necessarily take too much astronomical observing experience to enjoy viewing stars of unending variance of brightness, color, and pattern in a wide field across the night sky. In that case I think an awareness, curiosity, and appreciation of nature is just about all one needs.


100% true Ray. My two boys 13 & 11 observe with me a lot. One is into OC's and Nebulae, the other is a double star lover. They are both novices but get as much enjoyment from viewing as I do. Everything is still so fresh to them.

I answer questions and ask some of my own about what they see and have a great time with that. Their take on things is very entertaining and interesting.

I don't worry too much about fine details I can see (with them or anyone else for that matter) unless it comes up naturally somehow. I just want them to enjoy it and remember it as something fun, exiting, and relaxing.

The music analogy mentioned previously also fits well.

So does fishing. You don't have to be Babe Winkleman or Jimmy Houston to enjoy fishing. A kid that can't even tie a hook can enjoy it as much as anyone.

#32 TexasRed

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 10:13 PM

Since experience enables us to see more, Sue French must be a very well-preserved 125 year-old. I think she can see H II regions in M33 through an empty toilet paper tube. When she says she sees something clearly through her 4", I wonder if I'll be able to glimpse it through my 12". When she says she only glimpses something through her 4", I know it's going to be beyond my capabilities entirely with my 12". I hope she's an organ donor and her eyes go to a deserving amateur astronomer.

#33 Qwickdraw

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 06:39 AM

I had a first timer look at Jupiter through a 6" at about 180x and didn't know what he was looking at to the point where he had to google an image of Jupiter to spark off he's imagination. I couldn't believe it. Some people need things to slap them in the face. My guess would be 10" for experience, 16" for novice.


I have had similar experiences but as it turns out many “first looks” are done with the eye not at the FP and they really cant see anything. I also think when pressed to explain what/if they are seeing anything many may say they see something when they actually don’t but say yes because of the expectation.

#34 jeff heck

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 06:46 PM

My take is experience trumps aperture, plus a good dark site adds to the mix. Experience is the only variable you cannot purchase or drive to, it is earned by making the effort and tallying up the photons. I have the good fortune of observing with some very knowledgeable amatuers, Astrodj being one of them. Last August we met a a green dark site and I was impressed with Dale's ability to see the entire bridge in M51/ngc5195, even though it was not in prime position.
I also pointed the scope at galaxy ngc6946 in Cepheus and asked him to describe what he saw. He could make out two arms, though faint, on this face on spiral. With ngc891 he saw a bit of pale yellow along the darklane. I commented that he must have good eyes, but since then I have learned that experience was the reason, a trained eye. Take time with each object is a good lesson to learn, wait for that moment of clarity and learn to relax at the eyepiece.
Anyway, it pays to join an astronomy club if only to learn from like minded amateurs who will regularly point out details in objects I did not know existed. :grin:

#35 azure1961p

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 07:10 PM

6946 is no easy galaxy !!!! That one fella I kno of here on CN actually began to see clumpy forms with an 8" is boggling but educating to me.

Pete

#36 Astrodj

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 11:45 PM

It was an incredibly good night Pete, about as good as it gets from a green zone. And Jeff's 16" Teeter with Paracorr and Ethos was blowing me away. He showed me a thing or two that night as well. ;)

So did another fellow with a big ole 16" Meade Starfinder. I learned a few things that night about some DSO's and saw some details I had never seen firsthand before.

#37 ensign

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 12:28 PM


I did notice something watching experienced observers work. They move slower and take more time to look. I see this at my club viewing nights. Some folks look and say I got it and move on. Others look and study and contemplate. I am not saying there is anything wrong with either technique, just slower sees more.


I think going rapidly through a number of objects is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if you're new to the hobby. I, for one, wanted to see as much as I could as quickly as I could. This is probably like taking a 'survey' type course when you're new to a subject.

Having completed the 'survey', it's perfectly natural to dig deeper, to spend more time in more leisurely and perhaps deeper pursuits.

I find the thrill of the hunt enjoyable now as well as teasing out more detail in familiar objects.

#38 RussL

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 10:19 PM

I am a musician. It is very important for me to know every note, understand all the theory, and be able to perform a song with precision and accuracy, time after time. I study hard learning songs in these ways. And yet, if I am not careful, there is something else that I may miss, something which is the essence of the song, it's soul and beauty. I must not forget to let the song come alive and live within my emotions---touch me, if you will. It is a place beyond the mechanical acts of studying. I become the song. The chords, notes, the structure are all still there, but thoughtless to me. It can become quite nearly religious at that point.

Analogously, my observing can be at the same level. It is the reason I sometimes go out with just one low-power eyepiece and scan the Milky Way, letting my thoughts wander among the stars. It is one way I truly become ONE with all that is.

#39 Tony Flanders

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 06:14 AM

Since experience enables us to see more, Sue French must be a very well-preserved 125 year-old.


What counts is the number of eyepiece hours, not years. And more to the point, number of attentive eyepiece hours. Gawking at beautiful objects is fun -- I do it all the time -- but it's not the same as studying them.

Sue is a bit fanatical. Clear, moonless hours are rare in the Northeast, so she tries hard to use each and every one. She's one of the few people I know who schedules her social life around the phases of the Moon.

#40 GeneT

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 04:28 PM

If the telescope size ranged between 4 and 15 inches, I would say that experience would rule over telescope size. So many people look--but, don't see when starting out.

#41 stevecoe

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 01:30 AM

"She's one of the few people I know who schedules her social life around the phases of the Moon."

Now I remember how I got divorced;-)

Steve Coe

#42 lordhaw

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:43 AM

I just have a little 76mm Newtonian. But starting out I couldn't really see details in anything. Now after 2 years at it with this little scope I can pull details out of objects I never saw before and see dim objects I couldn't before. Granted the aperture is extremely limiting as are the quality of the optics but the experience in trying to get details (sketching helps here) with that limited aperture will carry over nicely to my next scope. Even just spending more time on an object allows you to pull out a surprising amount of details. Planets are largely featureless however, with some faint banding on Jupiter now visible where I couldn't see anything before. So I'd have to say patience at the eyepiece, eye training over time and experience helps a lot.

#43 sopticals

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 09:02 PM

I remember when I was in my teens (very early 1960s) using my first real scopes. A 76mm (3") newt and a 60mm (2.5") refractor. Did attempt to draw some major Martian surface features.Whether I actually was looking at real detail,(thought at the time I was), or not, or just wishful thinking I dont know. Dont know what others experience is with viewing Mars with such small apertures? :question:

Stephen.(44deg.S.)

#44 David Knisely

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:53 PM

I remember when I was in my teens (very early 1960s) using my first real scopes. A 76mm (3") newt and a 60mm (2.5") refractor. Did attempt to draw some major Martian surface features.Whether I actually was looking at real detail,(thought at the time I was), or not, or just wishful thinking I dont know. Dont know what others experience is with viewing Mars with such small apertures? :question:

Stephen.(44deg.S.)


During the 1969 and 1971 apparitions of Mars, I too had a 60mm (2.4 inch) f/11.7 refractor that I observed the planet with at powers from 117 to around 150x. I could make out some of the major albedo markings like Syrtis Major, Sinus Sabaeus, Mare Erythraeum, Mare Acidalium, and Mare Sirenum/Cimmerium, along with the south polar cap (in 1971). It was a lot easier in the fall of 1973 when I had an 8 inch f/7 Newtonian at my disposal, but considering the limited aperture, I did OK with that little refractor. Clear skies to you.

#45 Starman81

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:48 PM

She's one of the few people I know who schedules her social life around the phases of the Moon.


I think there's a few of us here that do this... My wife wants me to take her on vacation. I said sure--it doesn't matter what month you pick just make sure you pick a week when the Moon is full!

#46 azure1961p

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 08:49 AM

Stephen I am confident you weren't imagining it. At even mediocre apparitions those size instruments reveal quite a bit - clouds and hazes included.

Pete

#47 gnowellsct

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 05:10 PM

Well the expert will see more even if the image is a sharp ccd image the size of dinner plate and they're both looking at it from three feet. Because the true novice doesn't know what he's looking at and the first time you look at something you're not that attuned to details, as a rule.

There are exceptions. I had a professional artist who had her first time at the eyepiece and she sat a long time at the eyepiece. She really took in every last detail first time.

But if you're looking at jupiter say the first impression will be a white disk then the next impression will be a white disk with bands. Typically if you coach the viewer he'll see the blue festoons and maybe the little red spot etc.

It's pretty much this way with any observation. A lot of people don't see what's in front of them. There was an experiment in NYC where they had a guy asking directions from a stranger. While they were talking two guys carrying a large obstruction, like a large piece of plywood, come between the two people talking. During that time the guy asking instructions ducks out and a new guy stands in his place. It can be a different coat, different hat, different height person.

Only a small % of the people giving directions noticed that the person asking had been switched.

GN

#48 northernontario

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 05:56 PM

There was a time when I needed my 16 inch Dob to spot M101.

I spotted it recently with my 6 inch refractor. I didn't see vivid detail. It is a tough object due to it's low surface bightness, but a few years a go, I never would have seen it with a 6 inch, because I wanted to see something...anything...big and bright...and I want to see it now.

I would say it is more about patience and a realistic expectation from the gear you are working with.

But, don't kid yourself.. There is a reason they make 2 meter mirrors.

jake

#49 BillFerris

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 09:36 AM

Obviously the expert will see more. The question however is simply: how large a reflector would the novice need to be able to see the same details as the expert?


It's a non sequitur. Aperture can't compensate for an absence of experience.

We often debate scopes but what about abilities?


A dedicated novice who takes advantage of every clear night, researches and experiments with various observing techniques can build a solid foundation of experience and skill during a single planetary apparition. Two-to-three years of dedicated observing is enough time for any person to develop the skill and technique to get just as much out of an aperture as an observer with many years experience.

Bill in Flag

#50 Madratter

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 10:51 AM

Here's the hypothetical. It could pertain to deepsky as well but for the sake of simplicity, lets use Mars...

Say you have a novice observer with a 10" Reflector looking at Mars with all his heart for the first time ever. Along side him we have a high ranking visual observer with seasoned expert skills and experience also with a 10" identical scope.

Obviously the expert will see more. The question however is simply: how large a reflector would the novice need to be able to see the same details as the expert?

I'm going to throw out 12-15" in aperture - my guess.

On deepsky the same scopes, again and a seasoned expert with a novice, but now its M51.

How large a scope might a novice need to see the same nuances? There's real technique here.

We often debate scopes but what about abilities?

Thanks guys.

Pete


My answer would be that if the expert has a 10". the beginner will never see more, regardless of how much bigger the scope is. He could be using a 200" and would still do worse.

Now if the expert had a 60mm refractor, there might be some size scope where the beginner would see as much. But actually, I doubt it.

EDIT: I want to be sure that people are aware that I am talking about looking at Mars here.






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