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Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present

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#1 SleepyAstronomer

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:19 PM

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.

#2 JimK

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:34 PM

1) far more equipment choices, and better equipment
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).

#3 jgraham

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:37 PM

A tad over 50 years here. You know what is neat about amateur astronomy today... the wonderful breadth of choices that we have. Even after all these years, there is just so much to try and so much to learn.

What a wonderful hobby!

#4 MikeBOKC

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:43 PM

The 8 inch Meade 826 reflector I started with was big aperture for that period. Today you can go to any star party and see scopes up to 30 inches, with many in the 16-24 inch range. Back then those were rare professional instruments.

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.

#5 StarmanDan

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 08:59 PM

The technological advances do it for me. I once printed out two photographs of Saturn, one from Voyager and one I took with a modified Quickcam webcam and asked folks to tell me which one was which. Everyone got it wrong thinking the webcam shot was from Voyager. I also love that technology has advanced to the point where advanced amateurs can compete and collaborate with the pros.

#6 core

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:00 PM

A series of tubes ... the internets! ;)

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.

#7 bumm

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:18 PM

I'm sort of astronomically isolated and do things pretty much as I always have, but I'd say two things have made a big difference for me...
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.
Marty

#8 EJN

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:50 PM

I started in 1967.

Back then, A Huygens was a widefield eyepiece.
AND WE LIKED IT.

Back then, we didn't have computerized star charts, or even color
printed star charts. The charts then were chiseled into stone tablets.
AND WE LIKED IT.

Back then, a grab-&-go scope was an 8" f/8 Newtonian on on a massive
equatorial mount which weighed 200 lbs.
AND WE LIKED IT.

Back then, if you were into astrophotography, you used film. There
were no autoguiders. You manually guided, and if you had to go
to the bathroom you went in your pants.
AND WE LIKED IT.


Technology has taken the fun out of everything.

#9 Feidb

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 09:56 PM

I've been at it 47 years and I'd say the huge aperture jump, the Dobsonian mount, green laser pointers and better wide angle eyepieces for equipment. As for atlases? The Tirion and Megastar.

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.

#10 Qwickdraw

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:41 AM


I once spent 2 hours trying to site in Pluto. Today, 2 minutes.

#11 amicus sidera

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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:

Pro:

1. Good optics are more easily obtainable, and generally less expensive than was the case in years past.

Con:

Everything else.

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.

Fred

#12 t.r.

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:52 AM

I enjoy the abundance of equipment options and lower relative prices. I miss the feeling of being awed in my youth by my first views of many objects and having the energy to go out at any hour to catch the most trivial of events...but I remember it well. My equipment is lightyears better, but I don't have the time available like I did in my youth. When I do get the time again (retirement) my eyes will have aged and I'll have to struggle to see things that were easier in my youth...the great amateur astronomer's paradox! :gramps: 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. :grin:

#13 Cotts

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 10:04 AM

Appropriate, relevant and FUNNY!

Dave

original skit by Monty Python

#14 buddyjesus

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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. :grin:


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

#15 bunyon

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 12:26 PM

I think the idea that the cerebral nature is gone from astronomy is a load of...unreliable data. If you like the quiet, cerebral pursuit of amateur astronomy, no one is stopping you. In fact, many do, it's just that the very nature of that act is...quiet. So you don't hear about it.

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.

#16 rdandrea

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 12:45 PM

1. Price/Performance ratio

2. GoTo

3. Stellarium

#17 gunfighter48

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:23 PM

I started in the mid 70's with a Cave 8" newt. It's was a great scope but weighted a lot. So it wasn't really portable.

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).

#18 JRiggs

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:43 PM

I would say one of the things that is most noticeable is the decline in amateur telescope making. That's not to say it has disappeared, but far fewer people are making their own telescopes now. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point of view. New technology has come to the rescue for many, but at the same time it has reduced some of the originality that you found when people came up with their own designs. John Dobson is a good example.

#19 kfiscus

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:56 PM

I enjoy the advances in weather forecasting that makes stargazing somewhat more plan-able.
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).

#20 bunyon

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:05 PM

Good point about forecasting. In the 80s I didn't even bother checking them. Just go out and cross your fingers.

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).

#21 SleepyAstronomer

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:13 PM

What about star parties of today, versus those of the past decades? Aside from the obviously better equipment, have the people changed in terms of enthusiasm and helpfulness, or has that been a pretty steady thing within the community?

#22 bunyon

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:17 PM

The community has changed in that it is much more connected than it used to be. 30 years ago I knew exactly no one else who owned their own scope.

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.

#23 Geo31

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:46 PM

I've just returned to participating in this hobby (instead of just reading about things now and then) after a 35 year hiatus. On my birthday this year (in November), I'll mark 40 years in this hobby.

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).

#24 BrooksObs

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 10:08 PM

I've been a serious observer since the mid 1950's. In my view things have certainly gotten far better for the dabblers and weekend amateur astronomers. However, in many respects those more involved in the hobby and interested in pursuing serious amateur programs have largely lost out.

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.

BrooksObs

#25 Geo31

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 05:46 AM

I've never lost the wonder. Every time I look at a DSO I think of how far away I am seeing (and of course, how long ago). That's always an amazing wonder to me. Even looking at the planets still gives me pause. It's an immense distance we're looking across, and the things we are looking at is a secret mystery only available to those with a scope.






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