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Meade Options; S&T Article and Outreach and Other

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#1 JayinUT

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:51 AM

Anyone see the article over at S&T on Meade considering bankruptcy? Interesting that it also talks about the consolidation of companies due to falling sales. Discusses how kids today would rather use gadgets and tablets etc. and that competes with kids using telescopes. Also discusses how it isn't perceived as cool to have a telescope displayed in the home, less people are attending star parties There is one quote I found interesting:

"Astronomy buffs increasingly have turned to smartphone apps that give users the feel of exploring the skies without "investing hundreds of dollars in a telescope," said Jock O'Connell, an economist with Beacon Economics."

Here is a link to the article. Thoughts on this? Agree or disagree?

I am just now getting back on a schedule so if this is posted somewhere else please lock. I looked around and didn't see anything and thought this was interesting.

Edit: Change the Title to Reflect the Variety of the Thread.

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:55 AM

Well, you know what they say about opinions........and everybody's got one.......

#3 brianb11213

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:43 AM

"Astronomy buffs increasingly have turned to smartphone apps that give users the feel of exploring the skies without "investing hundreds of dollars in a telescope," said Jock O'Connell, an economist with Beacon Economics."

Well, the Jock O'Connell considers to be "astronomy buffs" aren't the same people I come across.

Smartphone apps don't allow you to do observing ... which is the whole point. Sure you can explore libraries of images and even discover things (Zooniverse etc) but that's web browsing not astronomy. Actually I doubt most professional "astronomers" are worthy of the name, sure they know their specialities but few of them can find their way around the sky.

The real problem here is that most people just don't have access to reasonable skies, and there are so many other distractions (TV, net etc). But, done properly, there are still plenty of people interested: for example around 1000 people queuing up to see Jupiter through over 20 different scopes at the Northern Ireland Jupiter Watch event at Queens University Belfast last January ... miraculously the sky was clear & though the light pollution was horrendous that really doesn't matter much for the observation of bright objects like planets.

Meade really just need to sort out what market they're aiming at. Pile em high, sell em cheap, provide very little customer support may not be a viable model ... IMO better quality control, more robust design, better customer support at a higher price would get more customers in the long run.

#4 Diana N

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:46 AM

It's not just astronomy that's falling off: all outdoor activities are. The great outdoors isn't air-conditioned, there are bugs and scary critters outside, and (in the case of astronomy) it's dark out there! An increasingly urbanized population has less and less affinity with the natural world, and light pollution makes even simple observations more difficult. Why dance with the stars when you can sit on a nice comfy couch and watch "Dancing with the Stars" instead? Frankly I'm surprised Celestron isn't flirting with bankruptcy as well.

#5 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:53 AM

Discusses how kids today would rather use gadgets and tablets etc. and that competes with kids using telescopes.


It's an interesting point, but people still go places to see things with their own eyes. And they do things themselves instead of letting somebody else do it for them.

People go to the Grand Canyon because they want to experience it with their own senses, even though there are DVDs of the Grand Canyon that can be watched from the convenience of ones own home.

People go fishing and hunting despite the fact that fish is available in grocery stores and restaurants and you can even find venison in some grocery stores and restaurants.

I do visual astronomy because those are MY photons. Those photons left that star, nebula, galaxy, whatever, traveled for tens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of years until the flew through my telescope and eyepiece and into MY eye.

On the other hand, I also go out under the stars to get away from the telephone, television, computer, and people.

#6 csrlice12

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 10:28 AM

"Astronomy buffs increasingly have turned to smartphone apps that give users the feel of exploring the skies without "investing hundreds of dollars in a telescope," said Jock O'Connell, an economist with Beacon Economics."

What about the hundreds they spent on the phone? These things ain't cheap. You could buy a decent Intelliscope for what a smartphone costs.

#7 Erix

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 10:41 AM

experience it with their own senses


And you've just hit the nail on the head on why visitors come to star parties during outreach events. It's still going very strong in my area. I also believe that gadgets and tablets can increase youth's interest rather than discourage it. During the last outreach event I helped with, one young girl had her tablet out to look up information about what she observed through my telescope. She also used it to find constellations and help her to navigate the sky. When I show people how to use planispheres and paper star atlases, I also show them cool apps on my iPhone that can be used to get the most out of an observing session.

I suspect that the economy and light pollution play a big part on why sales go down, among other things. People have to travel further these days to find dark skies.

#8 youngamateur42

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:33 PM

I should know all about the youth and technology, I'm 14! Technology cannot be "fought" with astronomy, new innovations have to be sort of integrated into modern astronomy.

#9 BrooksObs

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:45 PM

I would say that the overall assessment of the hobby's current situations as it applies to Meade's problems is reasonably accurately presented in the write-up. The hobby, interest in it, and the participants have all changed dramatically over the years that I have been a part of it. One basic fact too often overlooked, or appreciated, is that technical and scientific hobbies and interests - particularly astronomy and rocketry - gained a huge boost with the advent of the early space age. Schools all had astronomy clubs, many had planetariums. Adult clubs sprang up in just about every larger town. Huge numbers of the populace would turn out to see a passage of the Sputnik booster rocket under nightly dark skies that prevailed just about everywhere. All that has changed.

At the same time, the numbers of potential personal distractions teens and young adults are presented with today are overwhelming. The practice of amateur astronomy is not a particularly social affair, yet social networking has become a dominating aspect of the lives of younger people today. There is likewise a growing tendency in our society to "want it now, without expending any effort to do so." However, learning observational astronomy is a slow and occasionally frustrating process that is in conflict with that outlook.

Interest in hobbies in general have been waning for years and amateur astronomy is no different. The downturn in the economy a few years back only made it more obvious. As the Boomer Generation (the major source of all hobbyists today) shrinks, I'm afraid that we are going to see traditional hobbies dwindle in both public interest and support.

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#10 Geo31

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 01:58 PM

I pretty much agree with you, but want to make a few comments.

The practice of amateur astronomy is not a particularly social affair...


It can be if done right. Most of my oldest friends and one of my closest came from my teens that I met through astronomy. We gathered at least once a month to observe and if it was cloudy, it turned into a social. Even if it wasn't cloudy, it was something of a social.

This past weekend I attended my second star party at the dark site of my club and was a little disappointed at the lack of social atmosphere. There should be more of it at star parties as it's a time when people come together to share something they have a passion for on at least some level.

There is likewise a growing tendency in our society to "what it now, without expending any effort to do so." However, learning observational astronomy is a slow and occasionally frustrating process that is in conflict with that outlook.


GOTO actually would seem to mitigate that issue, but I know what you mean. I think that there is probably less wonder in the world today thanks to the Internet and immediate information, and then there is the fact that the visual view through most scopes is nothing like the photos people see. Youth and even younger adults today are used to immediate visual impact, thanks to movies and TV, and again, the Internet. The view through an amateur scope for the first time for a great many people will be disappointing. Not sure what to do about that. I still get the sense of wonder I got almost 40 years ago, but younger generations seem to feel less of that.

#11 sg6

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 02:43 PM

I agree that astronomy seems resistant to technology. In the UK if you had a goto even 2 years ago you were in league with the devil and doomed to the deepest reaches of hell for eternity :bawling:. Bit better now, it may no longer be the deepest reaches anymore :lol:.

Meade may oddly in a fair placement to make more advanced scopes, their range is not that big, so innovation across a range is not too difficult. But also there is the need to make them robust and reliable, don't save 50c by not putting in protection diodes for wrong polarity. Make software updates easy and reliable. In general no-one buys an unreliable car, well no-one is going to buy an unreliable scope. A 5 minute google search rapidly shows all the reported reliability problems on scopes. One day Meade, Synta, iOptron will realise this.

Meade going for bankruptcy seems pointless, nothing is going to change. JoC did/does seem the best option, although that is on the assumption that the Meade name and products can add to and integrate with JoC.

Technology does need to be integrated more, I did think that the LS scopes would prove more popular. They are I think what many entering this hobby may well expect, or at least something similar.

Question I always had was why I couldn't aim at polaris for initial position for alignment on Meade's. Just seemed a better easier option.

But a tablet with an app is "instant" way to "see" the sky. Any manufacturer out there supply an app to interface their scope to a tablet+smartphone?

A store near me is slowly realising that the sale of PC's is dead, laptops is reducing fairly quick and tablets is increasing. Scope manufacturers need to realise the same.

#12 orion61

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 02:56 PM

Kids are so Pandered and Spoiled, on top of being FAT.. They just dont do the things outside they used to for recreation. Just try and get a Kids attention in the middle of a Play Station Video game!
That on top of the Hubble images and Planetary missions have taken a lot of the mystery out of observing for many.
I have actually been told "Why Bother" by others!
When I first started observing in the late 60's we thought there may be Vegetation and "green" Life on Mars.
Heck they even want to shut down the CB radio band to make more room for Smart Phone Apps.. "Breaker,Breaker, Bandit ya got your ears on"?
I'm 10-7 on the side from my 10-20 in NW Iowa....

#13 dpippel

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:19 PM

Yep, don't discount the effect of what I call "The Disappointment Factor" as a culprit in the lack of interest in observational astronomy. The public has become mislead by seeing so many colorful, high resolution images of astronomical objects from the likes of the Hubble Space Telescope. Thousands of spectacular pictures have flooded the public consciousness over the last couple of decades, and as a result many people have come to expect the views in an amateur telescope to look the same. When the Orion Nebula presents itself in the eyepiece as a diffuse greenish blob sprinkled with a few stars, many people experience a letdown. They want the Hubble version of M42, not a ghostly green smudge. I think that this kind of expectation causes quite a bit of discouragement in the inexperienced. When I'm doing outreach, the only objects I'm guaranteed to get oohs and aahs over at the eyepiece are Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon. Most people are less than impressed with things like deep sky objects and double stars, even in an 11" scope at a relatively dark site.

#14 Kfrank

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:34 PM

Heck they even want to shut down the CB radio band to make more room for Smart Phone Apps.. "Breaker,Breaker, Bandit ya got your ears on"?
I'm 10-7 on the side from my 10-20 in NW Iowa....


Speaking as a Ham who thinks that "appropriating" the (old) 11 meter Ham band for the "Citizen's Radio Service" was one of the greatest mistakes (among many mistakes)that the FCC has made, I'd say "Go for it". CB radio was never worth a darn but today it's degenerated into utter uselessness.

#15 okieav8r

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:36 PM

"Astronomy buffs increasingly have turned to smartphone apps that give users the feel of exploring the skies without "investing hundreds of dollars in a telescope,"


Kinda like looking at a picture book about the artwork of the Sistine Chapel, and then saying that you've been there. :p

If a smartphone app gives people the 'feel' of exploring the skies, then those folks have no feeling at all.

#16 Unknownastron

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:37 PM

One reason children today don't do outside things is the crop of current parents who hover over their children in a case of constant fear. Children can't play outside because they will either be kidnapped by a child molester, catch the avian flu, be killed in a terrorist bombing or something. When they are allowed out of parent's sight at some organized school or church function they still have to check in every so often by phone. I am very glad I grew up well before the helicopter parents of today. And I thought my mother was over-protective!

#17 dpippel

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:43 PM

Word.

#18 David Pavlich

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:46 PM

One reason children today don't do outside things is the crop of current parents who hover over their children in a case of constant fear. Children can't play outside because they will either be kidnapped by a child molester, catch the avian flu, be killed in a terrorist bombing or something. When they are allowed out of parent's sight at some organized school or church function they still have to check in every so often by phone. I am very glad I grew up well before the helicopter parents of today. And I thought my mother was over-protective!


This is the #1 post here!!! Helicopter parents are taking away the kids' childhood. There is some reasoning behind it, but it has gotten to the point that some kids have no clue what it means to be a kid. I have customers that bring their kids in that fit this category and it's easy to see it. Sad, indeed. :p

David

#19 Erix

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:29 PM

Times change, that's for sure. I was outside every chance I had growing up.

What I'd suggest is that, whether or not parents are overly protective, they become more involved in their children's lives and participate in hobbies as a family. In other words, be the spark the child needs to grow an interest in various hobbies.

#20 pdxmoon

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:58 PM

You know, I'm a middle school teacher, and I don't see kids as particularly anymore spoiled than we were (I'm 59+).

In my day, the cool toy was a Lionel train set, a Gilbert microscope, a reel to reel tape recorder, a refractor scope. I had them all, and I'm sure folks in the early 60s might have looked at me and said, "wow, that kid's spoiled!" :-)

Now a days that hasn't changed--the cool things have changed. iPhones, iPads--they're the cool toys.

I saw it happen in the model train world--only old guys playing wit trains, Lionel going bankrupt. But then somebody started putting sound in trains, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and The Polar Express, and Harry Potter, and now many kids have a train set again.

I think astronomy as a hobby needs to help kids get excited about scopes by embracing their technology. When I was a kid a 60mm refractor was enough to get me excited, but that was a 1962 world.

Let me tell you what I'd like to see: I still consider myself a newbie, and I need all the help I can get. My bride has an iPad. So I bought the astronomy ap that let's me take the iPad, point at the sky--no--overlay it on the sky--and wham: it tells me what's what. It's fantastic. It's how I found Saturn, and knew the path it would take in the sky. It's teaching me the stars--it's amazing.

So I got to thinkining: wouldn't it be great to have a scope with THAT capability? I look into the eyepiece and I'm told what I'm looking at. It reads, like an iPhone, my position. It lets me take a photo of what I'm seeing, with a click I can post it on Facebook.

That's what will get kids back into this hobby. And I'd buy one, too!

#21 brianb11213

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 05:01 PM

CB radio was never worth a darn but today it's degenerated into utter uselessness.

OK, but lots of us find life much enriched by things which other people consider to be utterly useless - amateur astronomy, for instance. Ham radio is another hobby which some people find fun but really has very little practical value indeed.

Fact of the matter is that CB radio still is a useful resource for some people in some parts of the world, especially remote areas where there is no cell phone coverage. The fact that it's anarchic is a feature which some people find charming ...

#22 allnight16

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 06:14 PM

I believe Mallincam and other short exposure cameras wired to small screens could possibly ignite people's interest in DSO's. The chance to view in color only after a ten to twenty second exposure might sway some to realize that there are options beyond black and white..... and sometimes green...

#23 AngryHandyman

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:26 PM

Interests come and go, priorities change in personal lives, priorities change in business strategies, good business decisions are made and poor ones too, kids are a reflection of their environment and the community is a reflection of a collection of shared values, parents over parent and parents aren't involved enough. Choices are easy to make, except when they're not. I enjoy astronomy, I coach my daughters sports teams, I have a good job but little extra money for hobbies. I approach things differently than my parents do but we end up on same side of the fence - usually. I have opinions, and learn a lot from hearing yours. The point of all this is I think it's often overlooked that it's not possible to simplify most issues into a couple of bite size statements about what's the right way to be and what's not.

I hope Mead pulls through and is able to offer quality equipment and a price I feel is fair. They (who ever "they" end up being) have a lot of work ahead of them, and if they simplify their line and improve their quality (perceived or not) they might find an audience and carve out a profitable niche in a world where there's so much choice on how we spend our dollars.

#24 Greyhaven

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:43 PM

Jay
There is a group that is working on getting telescopes placed in public libraries at no cost to the library, my astronomy club is helping to place them, so far we've placed abtout 12 in various Maine and New Hampshire libraries.

My local library was one that received one. I dropped into my library two weeks ago and asked at the front desk how the telescope loaner program was going.The librarian she was not aware of any such program. I then asked the reference librarian
If she knew of the telescope loaner program she said she thought there was a telescope around but was not aware of any loan program ???? My next stop was to see the assistant director he told me that there was a telescope at the library.
After explaining my indirect connection an position as simply a member of a club that helped provide the scope.I anxiously asked how the program is was going. He said the program was going well considering the scope was free. He said the scope had been out twice and since he felt that a library's real focus was on getting kids to read he didn't see any reason to encourage a lot of effort going to getting into borrowing the scope. He brought up budget cuts, short staffing, and not really seeing a positive reason for the scopes being there after all the library is downtown what could be seen.
I took a deep breath and started countering his objections with
How much would it cost the library to inform the librarians of the scope program? What expense would it involve to place the scope in any of the lockable glass display cases or even a hand made poster? I then asked him if all the library's patrons were
from downtown? This is a small town only one library services the entire town. I asked if he had ever heard of the sidewalk astronomers of San Franciso setting their scopes up on busy street corners in a "real" downtown and asking passersby to take a look at the Moon.Now as far as his the goal of a library being to get kids to read my counter point was get a kid interrested in astronomy and then try to keep him from reading all of your astronomy books, and searching the web from any of the dozens of computers spread around this library and the benefits of increasing a child's desire to learn math real math
Algebra.calculus and trigonometry the math that will open doors.
About this time he gave up and said if I thought thought he was wrong I should take it up with the director, who was not in that day. I emailed the director that day and detailed that day's events. The next day he replied that all personnel were now aware of the telescope and its availability to the public.
He followed that with we will consider implementing some of your other suggestions.
My main reason for boring all of my friends here is to say you can't just blame the kids today for not entering our hobby the adults that we should have the confidence in to make learning resources available to our children are failing them.
I left my local public library discouraged and saddened by the let's blame everything but ourselves for our narrow view and limited imagination for not taking advantage of all we have to offer. We have to accept responsibility to speak up when it is not just write off today's children when it more likely adults failing them. Rave over, I thank you for putting up with me.
Be Well
Grey

#25 pdxmoon

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:00 PM

I also think the scope manufacturers have to take responsibilty for being a large part of the problem.

Let's take refractors: 60, 70, 80, 90 mm Synta jobs. Almost everyone agrees that the optics on these can be very good. But how many of them are packaged with wobbly mounts and crummy eyepieces, almost assuring a kid frustration instead of pleasure.

Now, my Sears scope from the 60s wasn't perfect, but it was built well, the mount was strong, and it worked. Someone in another thread suggested the old makers built the entry scopes well because they wanted you to come back for more.






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