Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present
Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:19 PM
Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:34 PM
2) much more information on things to view
3) more detailed atlases
4) software that does much more than plot a few crude-looking starfields
In general, I find this time period for the astronomy hobby to be better in all aspects than it was in the early 1980s (30+ years ago).
Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:37 PM
What a wonderful hobby!
Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:43 PM
Wide field of view eyepieces are a second revolution . . . no one then could have imagined a 100 degree field eyepiece.
Of course go to and tracking were in their infancy then. Today they make astronomy easy for beginners and veterans alike, regardless of light pollution.
Overall the hobby has matured, grown and diversified beyond anyone's dreams from 30-40 years ago.
Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:59 PM
Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:00 PM
Started out with sci.astro.amatuer (R.I.P), and now with sites like CN, the online community is quite amazing - you're never truly alone in this quirky hobby. I still remember sending SASE's to authors that had written articles in S&T so that I could get a copy of whatever ATM project plans they'ed graciously provided - now, just a couple of months back I got a 3D-printed part onine for my mount (NexSXW panel cover).
PS - okay, granted the internet is way beyond a broader change to every aspect of our lives and hobbies.
Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:18 PM
1. More detailed atlases available. I've found a lot of things I never would have without being able to make a detailed starhop.
2. The internet. I've had the opportunity to see comets and such that would have been gone before I learned about them back when everything was print media.
Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:56 PM
As for what I miss? The mystery of discovery I once had. I know too much now. It's all a bit less of a mystery (both equipment and up there in the sky) but that doesn't make it any less pleasurable to pursue.
I enjoy it just as much if not more than I did back in the day. In fact, I probably enjoy it more now because I have better tools and better skills to get to where I want to go. The only thing missing is that bit of mystery everything once had. I'll never get that back. I think the sacrifice is well worth it because at least now I know what I'm doing.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:41 AM
I once spent 2 hours trying to site in Pluto. Today, 2 minutes.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:16 AM
For those that have been in the hobby for quite sometime (lets say 30+ years), what do you enjoy about today's amateur astronomy vs. that of the past, and vice versa? Anything you miss? Just curious to hear your thoughts.
I have almost fifty years of experience; my thoughts:
1. Good optics are more easily obtainable, and generally less expensive than was the case in years past.
For instance, there is now much more light pollution, far too much emphasis on aperture and extreme over-reliance on technology. The quiet, thoughtful pursuit that was once amateur astronomy, which embraced both the aesthetic and the cerebral in equal measure, has been largely subsumed into yet another consumerism-fueled "lifestyle" activity with all its attendant competition and avarice.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:52 AM
Posted 09 September 2013 - 10:46 AM
I actually paid heed to the recommendation in "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide" to aviod aperture fever. My plan to contend with the paradox is to get the really big scope later in life, increasing exit pupil at a given magnification to help me "see" and stay engaged in the hobby.
I haven't been in the hobby as long as you guys. I am still relatively young but perminently disabled. I mirror your experience with years of not biting the aperture fever apple and am hopefully soon going to have a big scope despite my bad back. I am still fit enough to be able to use a hand truck.
Really funny discussion there David. I started with saying I did that for years with the first few statements but then it went over the edge. haha
Posted 09 September 2013 - 12:26 PM
As for me, everything today is better about amateur astronomy except for:
1) Light pollution. Worse, but better equipment (faster set up, better light gathering, etc.) mitigates it a little bit.
2) My eye. Dang, but would I like to have my 18 year old eyes back.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:23 PM
Things I enjoy today, Goto mounts and scopes, excellent eyepieces at very good prices, much more equipment selection, internet astronomy forums, technology in general.
Things I don't like, light pollution, less public property in dark sky area's (a lot has been bought up and posted), and growing older and more decrepit while there is so much more observing to do with all my new astro gear (not enough time).
Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:43 PM
Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:56 PM
When I started in the early 80's, a C-8 was a big scope and a 10" was crazy talk.
The decline in mirror making is significant but I think most of it is because we have such an amazing cornucopia of astro stuff available for cheaper than homemade (especially if one's time is considered in the equation).
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:05 PM
Of course, half an hour ago, CSC said it would be a good night and Weatherbug said it would rain. They're splitting the difference: cloudy, but no rain (they're thin, maybe it'll pass).
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:13 PM
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:17 PM
However, at star parties people were just like today. Very helpful and generous. I think it is, generally, a great community and am glad both that that hasn't changed and that technology has let me know more of you.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:46 PM
A lot has changed. Whether for better or worse is in the eye of the beholder I think.
I'm amazed at the ease of astrophotography today. All you need is money. Back 35-40 years ago, regardless of money, you still had to stay glued to an eyepiece and guide a LONG exposure. Now, with autoguiders, you take several short exposure images and stack. I think that's actually a good thing.
The changes in ATM are dramatic. When I was involved at the start, more than half my astro friends were involved in ATM in one form or another.
Eyepieces are simply a whole different world. OMG.
And of course apertures owned by amateurs are simply amazing. Dobs were just getting national attention when I dropped out. That was the start of very large apertures.
I like all the changes. Yet I'm still pretty much old school. Forked C8. No goto. Simple, yet quality eyepieces (mostly TV Plossls). I like it that way for my own observing (although some wide-field eyepieces may find their way into my eyepiece case).
Posted 09 September 2013 - 10:08 PM
Many such pursuits, where relatively basic equipment but mostly personal dedication were the necessary ingredients, have declined markedly, or vanished altogether. Visual comet hunting is essentially dead and amateur discoveries by even advanced means are becoming less and less. Meaningful visual observation of the moon and planets is today rather pointless with spacecraft having basically eliminated the roll amateurs once played. The current push in variable star observing is toward use of technically advanced and expensive CCD rigs coupled to sophisticated scopes. The value of solar observing is a pale shadow of what it once was. And to boot, the skies under which perhaps 90% of today's observers function would have completely deterred observers of old. Then, too, as expressed by a poster up-stream, a lot of the mystery and wonder has gone out of the hobby for those who have advanced beyond the dabbler phase. No, give me the hobby of years gone by thank you.
Posted 10 September 2013 - 05:46 AM
Posted 10 September 2013 - 10:42 AM
As has already been stated, the proliferation of equipment at all price levels is wonderful. And even at the low-end (not department-store low end, but $300 Dob low end) its quality is good enough to provide years of enjoyment.
And the variety of equipment has provided innumerable ways to enjoy the hobby. In the past ten years alone I've been able to do visual, planetary imaging, deep-sky imaging, asteroid photometry & astrometry, and stellar spectroscopy --- and I never had to touch my retirement fund!
Moreover, one of most enjoyable aspects of modern amateur astronomy is being able to discuss and engage with others over the internet, especially in forums such as this one. I was active in the CompuServe and sci.amateur.astro forums of years past, but they were nothing like what we have today. I also posit that as most amateur astronomers are solitary, introverted types, we are very comfortable with the written word, which tends to heighten the enjoyment of the engagement in forums for us.
Have things changed? Of course. Some have mentioned that ATM isn't as prevalent as it once was. I don't think of this as a negative, really, just a reality. My notion is that ATM is no longer as necessary as it once was. Most assuredly, people still do it -- just look at our own ATM forum -- but they do it primarily as it is enjoyable not because it is the only way to get an 8" or larger reflector.
I will admit that the waning capabilities of visual amateurs to directly contribute to astronomy is a little distressing, but it is like anything, driven by the technology at hand. I've actually struggled with this myself lately. A webcam image of a planet will nearly always show more detail than any of my sketches. CCD photometry will always be more accurate than my visual estimates. Of course, it isn't that amateurs can't contribute in highly meaningful ways, but that it necessarily involves highly accurate (expensive) mounts, large scopes, and image processing.
My paradox is that while I do enjoy doing the electronic stuff, it breaks the "serenity of the night" for me and find myself longing for the days in which I could submit a sketch to ALPO and feel useful.
For me, the only real negative is the worsening of my skies. I have to drive twice as far to get skies I had 15 years ago. And it is more expensive to drive that distance today than it was years ago. Still, I don't perceive a sharp drop-off of visual observers. Televue seems to selling quite a bit of eyepieces. And sometimes two at a time for these binoviewers that seem to be cropping up everywhere.