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Which kind of observer are you?

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 10:39 PM

In Stephen O'Meara's 2007 book, Deep Sky Companions: Hidden Treasures, he makes (in keeping with the theme of the book) an analogy between pirates and visual deep sky observers.

He describes two tendencies, one he likens to the Barbary pirates in which observers "are primarily interesting in finding and accumulating as many deep-sky objects as possible. They enjoy the challenge of the hunt and are satisfied when their plan of attack succeeds. They are not interested in spending time 'on board' each target, examining it carefully and diligently. After the capture, they figuratively toss the treasure on deck, kick it aside, and sail right on to the next." He adds, "The more treasures they collect, the bigger their bounty, and the happier they become."

The other tendency, he likens to "the pirates who sailed the Caribbean and North American waters during the golden age of piracy, whose essence of attack was a mix of lust and leisure." For observers of this persuasion, "the hunt is part of a larger adventure. When we 'capture' a deep-sky object, we do spend time 'on board.' We feel the need to sift deeper, to plumb the depths of each 'hold,' knowing that if we do, if we remain patient, we will be rewarded by the sight of even more riches."

Stephen is very clear that both approaches are perfectly fine, after all, this hobby is about having fun. Stephen, of course, counts himself among the latter group. Indeed, when writing his first book in the Deep Sky Companion series, he relates that he often spent as many as three nights on a single object!

These two observing patterns are probably best thought as a continuum rather than an either/or demarkation.

For myself, I've spent the majority of my first twenty years in astronomy squarely on the extreme of the first group. It was all about the lists and getting those pesky "beginners" Messiers out of the way so I could work on the "real" astronomy held in the Herschel 400.

It has only been in the last two years that I've gotten myself to slow down and observe objects. Still, it's hard for me to do. No matter how I try to approach it, the more objects I see a night, the more accomplishment I feel.

Much of this is undoubtably due to my personality type. If you're familiar with the Meyers-Briggs, I'm an INTJ and the relevant metric here is the J. J (Judgmental) types love lists. We live by our todo lists. I bring this up to highlight that neither of O'Meara's two approaches are right or wrong, they are just different and where you fit on the continuum may simply reflect your personality and preferences.

Where do you reside? Have you drifted from one camp to another over time (and perhaps forcefully) as I have? Are you right in the middle?

#2 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 11:38 PM

By 'limiting' myself to binoculars up to about 100mm, of necessity I delve more deeply into the fare on offer. (And there is no shortage of stuff to study with small instruments!) My aim is to derive a fuller understanding of the nature of and relationships between objects and structures, compiling in my mind's eye as full a picture as I can of the geography of our corner of the galaxy.

Star-forming regions, associations, cloud complexes, the Gould Belt and the delineation of the nearby spiral arms comprise the larger framework, with the individual nebulae, clusters and stars fleshing things out. The ages and space motions give a sense of the history and dynamics.

#3 Astrodj

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 12:17 AM

Count me in the "lust and leisure" Caribbean Pirates group. I like to enjoy the spoils for awhile before the next conquest.

#4 Megabusa

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 12:28 AM


"are primarily interesting in finding and accumulating as many deep-sky objects as possible. They enjoy the challenge of the hunt and are satisfied when their plan of attack succeeds.

This could be Me , I will expand though , When I get the $$$ , But so far I'm happy with the hunt , But I would like to learn how to do Astrophotography :jump:

#5 esd726

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:27 AM

MOST of the time I am of the "Barbary type". If I am looking at something that shows up well I might turn into the "Caribbean type". I rarely get to go out and observe (work 1930-0730) so when I get to I tend to look at everything I can, for as long as I can.

#6 Louietheflyisme

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:45 AM

I'm probably in the second group, though only just...

#7 obin robinson

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:09 AM

Apparently I am neither. Both of those classifications assume I am primarily interested in deep sky objects.

obin ;)

#8 Kraus

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:27 AM


My evenings entail two or three objects. They keep me busy from sunset to midnight. The veil takes me a whole two hours for me to to appreciate it. So I guess I'm in the second group.

#9 macpurity

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:59 AM

I find the two "tendencies" to be a bit limiting in the sense that one is "gathering treasure." To me, the sky is my friend, it's not a collection of jewels. Lists are guideposts, they inform of what's out there; catalogues of loving and dedicated observing.

Given these two polarities, I'd say say I lean toward the Caribbean style. But I'm more of a nomadic wanderer, stumbling across vistas that I have no clue about, until the next day, when I take time to read what the catalogue authors had to say about that part of the sky.

Another way to say this is, where does the list come into play? If you're more about checking items off, then you're following someone else's discoveries. If you're more about consulting the lists, after the fact, then you are, inherently, a discoverer.

For me, it's always been about the exploration and discovery; to move from the unknown to the known - growing via familiarity. Although I've stared at M31 and M42 hundreds of times, I never tire of welcoming their friendly appearance through an eyepiece. Wondering who, on the other end, might be looking back? If there is a "who"...

Bottom line: is one's observing a collection or is it a relationship?

#10 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 07:43 AM

I find the two "tendencies" to be a bit limiting in the sense that one is "gathering treasure." To me, the sky is my friend, it's not a collection of jewels. Lists are guideposts, they inform of what's out there; catalogues of loving and dedicated observing.

Given these two polarities, I'd say say I lean toward the Caribbean style. But I'm more of a nomadic wanderer, stumbling across vistas that I have no clue about, until the next day, when I take time to read what the catalogue authors had to say about that part of the sky.

Another way to say this is, where does the list come into play? If you're more about checking items off, then you're following someone else's discoveries. If you're more about consulting the lists, after the fact, then you are, inherently, a discoverer.

For me, it's always been about the exploration and discovery; to move from the unknown to the known - growing via familiarity. Although I've stared at M31 and M42 hundreds of times, I never tire of welcoming their friendly appearance through an eyepiece. Wondering who, on the other end, might be looking back? If there is a "who"...

Bottom line: is one's observing a collection or is it a relationship?


:bow::bow::bow:

There is not really much I can add. A telescope can be an instrument of discovery, see something interesting, explore it, magnify it, try to see what the heck it is.

It's a different paradigm than starting with a list of objects that have been discovered and locating them via starhopping, GOTO etc. It's the other side of the coin, it's exploring, it's observing...

Nomadic wanderer.. I don't count the number of objects I have seen, I just enjoy seeing them. I don't "bag objects", I find friends, friends that I get to know more with each visit. M7, it's not a one time encounter, it's a lifelong friend, I see more each time we meet.

When I first began looking through a telescope at the night sky, I just wanted to look around and see what I could see, no real agenda, just look around. My intrinsic interests, the curiosity about the unseen, the patience to just look and see, these have not changed..

When my wife and I head out on a vacation, we have some vague plans but we may end up in Death Valley instead of Canyonlands or Monument Valley. It's a vacation, not a job... A beautiful spot accidentally discovered, that may become the entire vacation.

I am not a pirate, I am a solitary sailor who simply loves being out on the ocean.

Jon

#11 Megabusa

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:10 AM

I rarely get to go out and observe (work 1930-0730) so when I get to I tend to look at everything I can, for as long as I can.

Maybe you need some Solar Filters for your Scope , :lol:

#12 RAKing

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:16 AM

You could probably put me in the middle. I have lists to help me organize my thoughts, but they are mostly reminders of which "friends" are visible that night. I have also done some lists as a challenge to shake myself out of lethargy or learn about something new.

But there are still some of those 'beginner" Messiers (and others objects) that I go out of my way to look at every chance I get. We are old friends and have more than a 50-year acquaintance in many cases. They are part of my family and I would no more want to ignore them than I would ignore my human family.

Stephan (and other authors) sometimes have to come up with novel ways to sell their books. He makes a good analogy, but we humans are a very complex group and two categories aren't enough to cover us. :cool:

Cheers,

Ron

#13 Michael Rapp

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 09:12 AM

Bottom line: is one's observing a collection or is it a relationship?


I like this! That captures the two approaches well.

Over on the shelf is my logbook from the late 1990s. It's quite thick...countless objects I've collected; but I couldn't really tell you what any of them look like. Contrast that with a single night I spent 3-4 hours observing M42 through a 9" refractor (the University's, not mine, alas!). Sixteen years later that view is still burned into my mind.

Here's the paradox you've brought up for me. The collecting approach gives me an enjoyable sense of accomplishment and I naturally gravitate towards it; however, as the years pass, the times I've engaged in the relationship approach have proved more satisfying.

#14 csa/montana

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 09:27 AM

Of course, I always like to add a target to my list; but that's only a very small part of my observing. I am thrilled when I find something new, or one that I've observed many times. I spent a lot of time looking at it, as I sketch it, & making notes describing it. I've never been interested in seeing how many I can quickly find during an observing session. :)

#15 Feidb

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 09:39 AM

I lean more toward the first but could be in the center, depending on how much detail the object has to begin with. I tend to get a lot of migraines so I will never spend more than a few minutes at most on any one object. Usually, I garner everything I will ever need in 30 seconds to a minute. The idea of spending hours on a single object gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I love to accomplish lists, part of my OCD. But a big part of it is the adventure and the thrill of discovery. That plays a huge role in it all, especially when I run across something that reveals more than just a vague smudge I can barely detect with averted vision and having to jiggle the scope just to be sure it's there. Then again, that in itself is also a thrill.

I also revisit objects that strike my fancy, as well as do detailed drawings and observations as part of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observer's Challenge.

#16 Edward E

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 10:22 AM

I'm a hybrid of the two listed types. I make and keep a list of objects to view each observing session with full knowledge that I will not view all of them. Partly because I star-hope so it takes time to pin down the subject; which is where I find part of the fun, the thrill of the hunt if you will. Once the subject is found I like to spend time studying it; mentally comparing it to other, similar type of objects I have viewed in the past, some I will make a sketch of before moving on to the next "treasure".

I like the pirate analogy here. Some objects are just "Dingys" not worth wasting time with, while others are grand, opulent, "Galleons" worth spending time to plan an attach, taking it intact and savoring the spoils of the plunder. Arrr matey, hoist the black banner and make sail for more booty!

#17 Usquebae

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 10:54 AM

Finding objects, particularly for the first time, is a tremendous thrill for me. (I'm a newb :rainbow:) In practice, I behave very much like a member of the first group. However, I do not observe with a plan or a score sheet. I often bounce through a half dozen DSOs, then cycle through them a second and third time. The pleasure is in gaining familiarity with their location & context, learning the areas around them. I like to practice finding objects with different star-hop methods, finders, and scope sizes. I even enjoy not finding them - e.g., two nights ago I spent an hour trying to see NGC 772 for the first time with a 4" scope through a sky of mediocre transparency and roving clouds. I never did pick it out, but when I return to that area on a good night with my 8" scope I expect to recognize the region and feel at home. (I also expect to see that galaxy at some point!)

I don't think I fit squarely into group one, but I'm decidedly not in group two at this early stage in my stargazing path. I think the main reason for this is that I enjoy the bigger picture so much. I enjoy finding a faint, small object in the telescope, then jumping out of my chair to locate its position with bino and naked eye. The fact that I cannot see the object through these latter seems unimportant. I like to fix its position in the bigger picture and identify that little patch of sky as the domain of NGC ###. Teasing out minute details at high mags is definitely not my game. The nights are so lovely in my rural green zone I feel I'm missing the real show when I get glued to the eyepiece. (Except when Luna is out, which is another matter entirely!)

On the occasion that I do spend hours on one object (beyond planets & moon), it is usually a broad open cluster, or a faint (for my scope) galaxy. The former I find quite relaxing; the latter... I sympathize with Feidb. My first night with NGC 6217 gave me the worst migraine I've had in years.


Great thread! :waytogo:

#18 tigerroach

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 10:55 AM

I'm definitely the lust n' leisure type.

That applies to my whole life too, not just astronomy. ;)

#19 Gvs

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 12:53 PM

Observe, take stills, videos. Annotate every detail visually. Coming back to all objects on a regular time frame.

Then on rainy days, reference and study the results applying math physics and chemistry.

Whenever possible compare results to literature found at arxiv. Finally discuss these with others.

#20 WesC

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 01:06 PM

I guess since my skies are very light polluted, I don't use lists or catalogs to track down objects... beyond identifying something I CAN actually see.

So since I have so few objects I can see, I spend a long time on them. There have been nights where I set up and look just at Saturn or Jupiter for hours, just staring intently hoping to see changes or find that perfect moment of seeing when I can get maximum detail.

Last night I took out my binoculars for an hour just to look at the sword of Orion.

#21 mountain monk

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:44 PM

I detest lists, always have. Like Jon, I am a sailor on the cosmic sea, most often a solo sailor.

Dark skies.

Jack

#22 bangbangexplode

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:57 PM

I feel like I don't fit into either category. I haven't been approaching the hobby systematically (at least not yet) at all. I normally go out with a planisphere and atlas and find out what's available to see and just go from there. Every time I observe I'm usually looking at a lot of things that I have seen before. I like going back to objects I've sen before to take a quick peek. After I exhaust my "friends" I go on to finding some new stuff, such as objects I've read about in S&T, Astronomy magazine or the internet.

When I do find something new I write it down and later on I go back inside and push a map tack through the object's location on my sky map. That's really the only way I've been keeping track and I do enjoy watching the number of "found" objects grow.

#23 Carol L

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 03:53 PM

Now, I stroll around the sky and take my time.

But as a Newbie, I worked through lists and flew from object to object.
Like a kid at Toys R Us - grabbing everything in sight. :lol:

#24 Perigny270

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 10:31 PM

Jon Isaac put it very well. I,too, enjoy visiting old friends. And I enjoy finding new ones. I bumped into M67 the other night - what a beautiful sight. Like finding an unexpected waterfall while hiking. Just stop and gaze for awhile. A log-book brings back memories of good times. Like looking at photo album when a friend comes around. I guess this makes me more like the Caribean type!

#25 buddyjesus

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 12:50 AM

I take my time at the eyepiece now that I picked up sketching. Been a peeker for years though. I always try to hit one new object at least a night still, but often they aren't on a checklist(though I do have a few that I am working on at a leisurely, non-competitive rate.






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