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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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Starman1
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: dcriner]
      #5974695 - 07/16/13 05:40 PM

Though I can't be certain of the intent of the original poster, once again people who love visual observing are being held to task for expressing that love. Every time someone in these forums makes a point to mention how much they love it, one or more astrophotographers chime in to defend their interests, as if expressing a love of visual observing, and its joys, is somehow a put-down of AP.
Then the people who do both chime in to say it's all good. And this pattern repeats and repeats in thread after thread.

Let's be clear about it: visual observing and astrophotography are both about astronomy. Visual observers look through an eyepiece, and APers take photographs. There is an art to both.

But they are as different as apples and oranges.

One is "in the moment" and "intensely personal", while the other has the character of "delayed gratification" and "the attempt to create art". Both are wonderful ways for human beings to spend their times, but they are not the same.

Visual observing:
--requires the best night vision you can develop
--requires techniques of viewing details at the limit of your vision
--can be done fairly quickly
--can always capture the momentary fluctuations in transparency and seeing
--requires much less technology in the field--no cameras, computers, phones, tablets, batteries, guiding equipment
--is a much less expensive pursuit (or CAN be, not necessarily IS)

Astrophotography:
--requires time and patience, and knowledge of exposure time and wavelengths to capture.
--requires knowledge of computers and programs to capture, stack, and process images
--results, usually, in lowest common denominator resolution and seeing, so can be quite frustrating.
--requires a lot of technology in the field and knowledge of how to use it.
--is (often) an expensive pursuit.

Quite often, someone is attracted to both areas of amateur astronomy. In a way, that's like the visual observer who is heavily into astrophysics versus the visual observer who appreciates the art but has no interest in paint (astrophotography as an interest has the same dichotomy) I think we naturally tend to enjoy exercising more than one area of our brains, and amateur astronomy allows us to do it in multiple ways.

This thread, however, was ostensibly about the "Joy of Visual Observing", not the "Joy of Astrophotography". What is it about visual observing, and looking through an eyepiece, that is so satisfying to some and not to others? What does visual observing provide that AP does not for the visual observers who don't even feel tempted to do AP? What is it about looking through the eyepiece that is soul-stirring in a way that the very best astrophotos cannot match? Why does time stand still and seem to pass at a different rate when we are involved in the art of seeing?

These are philosophical questions that can be asked in many different way, but, as visual observers, we would answer in many different ways.

The answers, though, point out some truths about human beings: we are visual-oriented aesthetes and we enjoy pursuits that require a cultivation of skills and knowledge. We seek satori, each in his own way.

As a visual observer, I "recharge my personal battery" with hours under the stars; in a way that AP or even looking at pictures on a screen cannot do. Viewing the Universe through an eyepiece resonates in a way that pictures, no matter how good, cannot. I can't say exactly why that is so. It just is.


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GeneT
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: dcriner]
      #5974762 - 07/16/13 06:23 PM

I'm a visual observer only guy. I love technology and I am amazed with the excellent photographs that many obtain with relatively modest telescopes. For one thing, I don't have enough patience for photography. There is a lot of fiddling around during set up, and time involved in post processing. Our hobby is split in several segments, with some doing it all.

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GeneT
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5974785 - 07/16/13 06:36 PM

Quote:

As a visual observer, I "recharge my personal battery" with hours under the stars; in a way that AP or even looking at pictures on a screen cannot do. Viewing the Universe through an eyepiece resonates in a way that pictures, no matter how good, cannot. I can't say exactly why that is so. It just is.




My views exactly!


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sopticals
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5974789 - 07/16/13 06:37 PM

Quote:



As a visual observer, I "recharge my personal battery" with hours under the stars; in a way that AP or even looking at pictures on a screen cannot do. Viewing the Universe through an eyepiece resonates in a way that pictures, no matter how good, cannot. I can't say exactly why that is so. It just is.




My sentiments exactly. Nicely put Don. Thanks.

Stephen.(45deg.S.)


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GeneT
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5974792 - 07/16/13 06:42 PM

Quote:

The excitement of finding & seeing these beautiful night sky beauties has never faded away for me. Even viewing old favorites, that I've seen many times, is still as thrilling as when I saw them for the first time!




Several months ago, Jupiter peered over the horizon. A few months ago, the same for Saturn. Old favorites such as M13, the Ring, M42 and so on appear and reappear every year. I have been looking at these and other objects every year--for the past 55 years. Not only are these objects as exciting for me now as those many years ago, viewing these old friends keep me connected with the memories of my past, and give me hope for more in the future.


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CelestronDaddy
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5974802 - 07/16/13 06:50 PM

Don - Nice post! I'm in agreement....

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microstar
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: CelestronDaddy]
      #5975354 - 07/17/13 01:08 AM

Our brains like to classify things into categories, but they aren't so good at coming up with the things that connect us. I agree with the posters who say we aren't so different. Even if we focus on differences, there is lots of variation within visual and imager categories, including visual observers who just love to compare equipment in search of the perfect scope/eyepiece combination and who don't really observe in the way Don describes, and within the imager category there are observers of computer screens who are touched by the wonder of what they produce and the mystery of he objects they reveal. No one group has the monopoly on joy. Imagers should not feel the need to apologize for commenting on a visual thread and vice versa. There's lots of room in the inner and outer universe for every perspective.
...Keith


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FJA
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975443 - 07/17/13 04:02 AM

Don, I totally agree with every part of your post.

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brianb11213
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: FJA]
      #5975463 - 07/17/13 05:32 AM

Great post, Don, but:

Quote:


Astrophotography:
...
--results, usually, in lowest common denominator resolution and seeing, so can be quite frustrating.




Actually, high resolution imaging of moon & planets usually outresolves what can be seen in the same scope, by utilising "lucky imaging" or selective snapshotting of the rare instants of steady seeing.

I still greatly prefer the experience of visual observing to the hours of fighting recalcitrant technology which imaging (whether of the high resolution planetary or deep sky variety) entails.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975476 - 07/17/13 05:52 AM

Quote:

But they are as different as apples and oranges.

One is "in the moment" and "intensely personal", while the other has the character of "delayed gratification" and "the attempt to create art". Both are wonderful ways for human beings to spend their times, but they are not the same....

As a visual observer, I "recharge my personal battery" with hours under the stars; in a way that AP or even looking at pictures on a screen cannot do. Viewing the Universe through an eyepiece resonates in a way that pictures, no matter how good, cannot. I can't say exactly why that is so. It just is.






Don:

I think you have perfectly captured the essence of the visual experience...

Thanks so much.

Jon


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Mark Costello
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975584 - 07/17/13 08:56 AM

Hi, Don. That's a good post there. The only remark I would make on your list of visual observing

"Visual observing:
--requires the best night vision you can develop
--requires techniques of viewing details at the limit of your vision
--can be done fairly quickly
--can always capture the momentary fluctuations in transparency and seeing
--requires much less technology in the field--no cameras, computers, phones, tablets, batteries, guiding equipment
--is a much less expensive pursuit (or CAN be, not necessarily IS)"

... is that poking along over one object making notes and drawings seems to improve my night vision and ability to see details at the limit of my vision....

Best regards,


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Starman1
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Mark Costello]
      #5975728 - 07/17/13 10:38 AM

Mark,
Sketching can definitely teach one to see.
As can having a checklist of things to look for on every object so you don't forget to look for particular details.
But, in terms of speed, this is still not the stacking of multiple 30-90 minute shots, which a number of my AP friends seem to do. Several of them typically photograph only 4 or 5 objects over an entire dusk-to-dawn night.
Even taking the time to record my notes, that would take an hour when visual observing.
I did say visual observing CAN be faster.

Brian,
Despite the capturing of lucky "frozen seeing" images, the best planetary photography I've seen still has a "soft" focus compared to the images I've seen with my own eye. I have seen small details on Jupiter, for instance, that appeared sharper than Hubble photos of the planet, albeit less colorful and in not quite so great a detail. The softness of focus is one of the reasons that I mentioned the "LCD" of stacking images. A particular image may be just as sharp, but never, when stacked, as sharp as visual images can get.
The exception to that is the Moon. I have never seen visual views of the Moon as sharp as Wes Higgins lunar photographs. I suspect you'd have to be in orbit to see visual views as detailed as his photos.


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mountain monk
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Loc: Grand Teton National Park
Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975756 - 07/17/13 11:02 AM

What a marvelous set of posts, Don. Thanks. So nice to see people here talk about observing...

Dark skies

Jack


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REC
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5975772 - 07/17/13 11:11 AM

+1

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Tom Polakis
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975782 - 07/17/13 11:17 AM

Quote:

Despite the capturing of lucky "frozen seeing" images, the best planetary photography I've seen still has a "soft" focus compared to the images I've seen with my own eye. I have seen small details on Jupiter, for instance, that appeared sharper than Hubble photos of the planet, albeit less colorful and in not quite so great a detail. The softness of focus is one of the reasons that I mentioned the "LCD" of stacking images. A particular image may be just as sharp, but never, when stacked, as sharp as visual images can get.
The exception to that is the Moon. I have never seen visual views of the Moon as sharp as Wes Higgins lunar photographs. I suspect you'd have to be in orbit to see visual views as detailed as his photos.





Don, as a fellow visual observer, I was agreeing with your posts until I read what you wrote about details on Jupiter. The exception is not only the moon, but any planet. Here is an image of Jupiter by Damian Peach.

Jupiter by Damian Peach

I don't think the most ardent visual planetary observer will claim to be able see the sub-arcsecond detail in that image. You could still maintain that the visual view is more aesthetically pleasing, but I'll remain dubious that you can see more detail than a well-made image provides.

Tom


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Starman1
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Tom Polakis]
      #5975936 - 07/17/13 12:50 PM

Tom,
You're right with that photo. Most photos aren't quite at that level, though.
I've looked a lot at Christopher Go's images and many others. I just find the images somewhat "soft" compared to the visual view in good seeing.
It's hard to say when obviously the photo resolves some small details that are beyond the visual view, but most planetary images display tremendous detail as if the image is just a trace out of focus.

I've seen some views of Jupiter that were crisper and sharper than 99%+ of planetary images I've seen. One night, the GRS had a white swirl within it that was so sharp you could see wind shear tearing it apart in places. Obviously, that level of detail was momentary. But, rather than the somewhat softer focus of most photos, it was crystal clear and sharp. I don't doubt I was seeing my 12.5" resolve to its limit (at 456X, 36X/inch).
And I've see this more than once.

I'll grant you that a high resolution camera, on a night like I described, might have recorded many images that display even more detail even more sharply. Inevitably, though, those images are stacked with those that aren't quite as sharp.
It would be interesting to see Peach's image without the false color that accentuates contrast.


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EJohnson
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5975960 - 07/17/13 01:04 PM

I really enjoyed reading this thread. I am in the visual camp, but have held my camera up to the eyepiece. The images that I snapped were perfect for me and helped excite some family members as to what I was seeing. But real AP is probably more than I can handle right now. The folks who are doing it and sharing their work inspire me to get out there and see it myself, even though it will never look like the image I saw. But the image I see through the eyepiece is the image I want! Thanks for great comments!

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ensign
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: BigC]
      #5975987 - 07/17/13 01:18 PM

Quote:

I certainly wasn't belittling AP.

Perhaps a different analogy:

visual is like running track,whereas AP is like riding motocross!!?





Perhaps "Visual is like sailing, AP is like driving a motorboat. You can get a thrill from either one."

I started with through-the-eyepiece visual but found myself chasing the ads in magazines and the photos on deparment store telescope boxes. I wanted to see those beautiful, colorful objects theough a telescope eyepiece.

It took a short time for me to realize that this was simply not reality. You're not going to see views like that in an amateur scope through an eyepiece.

I adjusted my expectations accordingly and found that although the reality was different, it was still good - in some ways even better. While there was less "wow" factor, there was a deeper, subtler beauty that I began to (and still do very much) appreciate.

Then I stumbled across the Video Astronomy forum and went down the Mallincam rabbit hole, having a great time seeing those detailed, color images using a humble 8" SCT.

Now I am back to through-the-eyepiece, and would gladly sell my whole video astronomy rig to the first person who came along with a reasonable offer. However, knowing myself as I do, at some point in the future I would probably regret that and want to take up video observing again.

Sorry for the rambling post. I guess my point is that it's all good and a matter of personal preferences, time, capabilities, budget, temperament, etc.

Clear Skies


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BoldAxis1967
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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: Starman1]
      #5976040 - 07/17/13 01:50 PM

Quote:


As a visual observer, I "recharge my personal battery" with hours under the stars..




An interesting statement that I believe applies to many of us, but what exactly does this mean?

After I have an interesting session under the stars I feel satiated. I feel that I have experienced something spiritual and I have accomplished something using my equipment and my limited but growing knowledge of the celestial sphere. For several days after such a session I am on a “natural high”. Maybe certain areas of the brain, the pleasure center, have established this emotional and intellectual gratification?

When I invite friends over to observe I notice there are two types of observers. Group A are those that look for 30 seconds or less. Group B will look for several minutes some even as long as 15 minutes. Some even ask for a different eyepiece. Last weekend a couple of people from Group A, who observed with me about a month earlier, showed up as part of a social drop-by to chat with the property owners for a few minutes. They had no interest in observing a globular cluster, they were “good”. One person from Group B was present and was hogging the eyepiece. Several days later the Group B person tells me that it was “too cool” and cannot stop thinking about the objects that she observed. She is now thinking about getting a telescope.

What could be the difference in these two groups? Maybe Group B people have their pleasure centers in the brain (limbic system) more responsive or stimulated. The release of certain neurotransmitter (e.g. serotonin) helps create this fascination and/or satiation.

Of course this “recharge” is much more involved but there is something of a recharge, a gratification and maybe even something similar to an addiction that seems to be a driving force.


LB

Edited by BoldAxis1967 (07/17/13 01:56 PM)


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microstar
Pooh-Bah


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Re: Joy of Visual Observing new [Re: BoldAxis1967]
      #5976086 - 07/17/13 02:13 PM

Don't know about the brain chemistry, but perhaps the difference is between those who look but don't internalize and those who lose themselves when they observe closely. The difference between comparing eyepieces and observing the object; between snapping pictures and creating an image. Probably applies to anything we observe closely and internalize - what some call mindfulness. That's what I like about optics (telescopes or microscopes) - if you are open to the experience you can lose yourself in a universe beyond our everyday experience. Or you might be the type that just looks and moves on with the gratification coming from somewhere else. There's probably something in the psychological literature about this difference in perception.
...Keith


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