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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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SleepyAstronomer
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Reged: 09/08/13

Loc: Deep South
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: bunyon]
      #6072218 - 09/09/13 10:13 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?

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bunyon
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Reged: 10/23/10

Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6072224 - 09/09/13 10:17 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.


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Geo31
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 01/28/13

Loc: Kingwood, TX
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: bunyon]
      #6072277 - 09/09/13 10:46 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).


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BrooksObs
professor emeritus


Reged: 12/08/12

Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: bunyon]
      #6072321 - 09/09/13 11:08 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

Edited by BrooksObs (09/09/13 11:15 PM)


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Geo31
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Reged: 01/28/13

Loc: Kingwood, TX
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: BrooksObs]
      #6072685 - 09/10/13 06:46 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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Michael Rapp
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Reged: 04/27/04

Loc: Dickinson, TX
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: Geo31]
      #6073066 - 09/10/13 11:42 AM

I've only been in the hobby twenty years, but I perceive the changes over the past two decades as being mostly positives, with a few negatives depending on your point of view.

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.


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Seldom
professor emeritus


Reged: 08/05/12

Loc: N of Cedar City Light Dome
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: Geo31]
      #6073079 - 09/10/13 11:49 AM

Newly back at this after a 25 year hiatus. I ground and figured a 6" mirror for Halley. Kept the scope as an optics example, but didn't start viewing again until I retired to a place with quality skies. I don't expect to do new science with my gear, but I do expect to VERIFY stuff I've read. For me its all about not accepting received wisdom. I've retaught myself enough calculus to figure out that the shadow of my 3" diagonal on itself is 1/2" across. If I teach myself more, maybe I'll be able to do a little orbital mechanics. Trying not to be just a celestial voyeur.

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Mark9473
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Reged: 07/21/05

Loc: 51N 4E
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6075514 - 09/11/13 04:46 PM

Quote:

what do you enjoy about today's amateur astronomy



Being able to afford nice equipment.
Communities such as CN.
Instant information on anything you want to know about.
Still just simply enjoy being out under the stars, just looking up, occasionally pointing binoculars at something.


Quote:

Anything you miss?



Energy to go out at any time of night.
Better eyesight.
Much better skies; at times there'd be so many stars you couldn't recognize the constellations.


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Kraus
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 03/10/12

Loc: Georgia.
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: EJN]
      #6075591 - 09/11/13 05:43 PM

Quote:

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.




Look everyone. It's the Grumpy Old Man. Where have you been friend. Haven't heard from you since the nineties.

I'm strictly an observer. Optics have improved since yesteryear. I wish I'd gotten Naglers when they first hit the market.


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Bakes
member


Reged: 01/06/09

Loc: Stratford, CT
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6075674 - 09/11/13 06:47 PM

Quote:

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.




After 50 years, I am thrilled with the availability of cheap, large dobs and high quality eyepieces...

And I'd trade that all away for my old RV-6 and kellners if I could have my old dark suburban skies back!


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GeneT
Ely Kid
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Reged: 11/07/08

Loc: South Texas
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6077870 - 09/12/13 10:23 PM

Better equipment and good prices. I miss the simpler joy of viewing the night skies of yesteryear. I miss the darker skies of yesteryear.

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bunyon
Post Laureate
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Reged: 10/23/10

Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: GeneT]
      #6078475 - 09/13/13 10:23 AM

I get missing darker skies. We all do.

But how is it the simple joy of viewing the night sky is gone, assuming one gets to a dark site? (It reads like these are two different complaints, not one).

I read this sentiment a lot: astronomy is too gadgety and technical and electronic now. I agree it can be, but no one is stopping anyone from taking an unpowered telescope or binoculars out to a nice site and simply looking around. If that is what you want to do, do it.

I've gotten into imaging, mainly as a way to do more from my relatively light polluted home. But every couple of months, I leave the wiring at home and take the Dob out just for a visual turn. I find the peace, quiet and serenity of the universe is still the same.

Quote:

Better equipment and good prices. I miss the simpler joy of viewing the night skies of yesteryear. I miss the darker skies of yesteryear.




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Feidb
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 10/09/09

Loc: Nevada
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: bunyon]
      #6079718 - 09/14/13 01:32 AM

Darker skies may be a bit harder to find, but I can sure find a lot more up there than I used to, so I guess I traded one for the tuther.

And... things for me aren't any more complicated than they were back in the day 47 years ago. In fact, they're actually easier than that old Sears 60mm refractor on that wobbly mount with the 30mm finder that could barely find the moon, let alone anything else. Then there was the scope itself with the (at least) metal eyepieces with massive 40 degree (at most) fields and at worst, about 25 degree fields, a dim view full of eyelashes, dust and who knows what. Add to that, not knowing a thing about the sky, having crummy charts with objects not where they were supposed to be in constellations that didn't really match the shapes up in the sky. I think things have come a long way. Oh yeah, also knowing nothing about magnitude, surface brightness, or even the difference between a galaxy, a nebula or a cluster then trying to spot one in my "soda straw" which I almost never did.

I may be a bit jaded about the mystery up there, but I don't enjoy the view any less.


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Michael Rapp
Post Laureate
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Reged: 04/27/04

Loc: Dickinson, TX
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: bunyon]
      #6080343 - 09/14/13 12:47 PM

Quote:

I read this sentiment a lot: astronomy is too gadgety and technical and electronic now. I agree it can be, but no one is stopping anyone from taking an unpowered telescope or binoculars out to a nice site and simply looking around. If that is what you want to do, do it.




Sometimes I wonder if my forays into the more technical/equipment-oriented side of amateur astronomy have made me better appreciate the simpler, visual-oriented side.


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azure1961p
Postmaster
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Reged: 01/17/09

Loc: USA
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6081200 - 09/14/13 10:16 PM

I like that a lot of the nonsense "phenomenon" has been isolated and recognized due to the power of ccd maging and processing. I also like that we have gotten away from the 60s era preoccupation with "useful astronomy". Back then Apollo missions and the like had layed a lot of lunar cartographers to rest as irrelevant when photo moon mapping really took off with unprecedented detail. It left a lot of astronomers looking for a new meaning of usefulness where science could be had in their backyard. Mars missions shut down a lot of "usefulness" by these people too once Mariner ushered in the definitive imaging that too would lay to rest Martian cartography by the backyard observer.

The truth is, and particularly with the advanced tools at hand, "useful" astronomy is still to be had though the landscape has changed to a great degree. But the golden age of discovering new craters at the eyepiece or vegetation growth on another world is slammed shut forever.

What we have these days in great numbers are naturalists. They don't need to write the symphony in order to enjoy listening to it with deep reward. The pursuit of visually witnessing the heavens firsthand has a fulfilling quality that is independent of wether or not discovery or science has been made. It is enough to behold and admire, and with a deep sense of pride often as well.

I would say it is the rise of the naturalist in a amateur astronomy that has given it a maturity that it hasn't had as much in earlier decades.


Pete

Edited by azure1961p (09/14/13 10:18 PM)


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BrooksObs
professor emeritus


Reged: 12/08/12

Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: azure1961p]
      #6081755 - 09/15/13 09:48 AM

Naturalists, Pete? Yes, a very tiny percentage of us has made marvelous advances through technologically. However, what I've observed in recent years has been much more of a disturbing shift by a far, far larger segment of today's hobbyists from being actual participants in some fashion to more of just a group of gawkers. Many don't know, or even care to know, the sky at all and are helpless without their GoTo scopes to show them things. Neither are they versed in observing methods, instead more interested in telling others about the latest high-end eyepiece purchase they used last night, or maybe an addition to the list of scopes they own (and don't use). Admittedly, Cloudy Nights discussions are usually pretty good, but have you visited most other astronomy-related sites? They often give the impression of dealing with a room full of uniformed juveniles.

When someone whose only involvement in a pursuit is simply as a hapless witness, that isn't much of a "hobbyist" in my book and definitely not any sort of a naturalist's approach that I'm aware of.

BrooksObs

Edited by BrooksObs (09/15/13 09:50 AM)


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Sarkikos
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Reged: 12/18/07

Loc: Suburban Maryland, USA
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: SleepyAstronomer]
      #6081827 - 09/15/13 10:44 AM

Quote:

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.




What is better today:

- Dob mounts instead of GEMs

- Sky Safari Pro on tablet instead of clunky star atlases. I don't miss flipping back and forth among the pages.

- Much wider variety of scopes at reasonable prices

- Much wider variety of eyepieces (in the sense of FOV, eye relief and optical designs)

- Cloudy Nights

- My own knowledge of the sky and how to navigate around it increasing due to the use of telescopes WITHOUT Goto or DSCs

- No longer much opportunity to make a contribution to science, so now we can relax and enjoy the hobby instead of playing junior scientist


What I miss about the past:

- Darker skies

- Better eyes

- No noisy coffee-grinder Goto mounts (at least where I observed)

- No APers with little regard for dark site protocol

- Amateurs seemed to be much more interested in actually observing those objects in the sky rather than talking about and comparing the latest gizmos all night

Mike


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Tony Flanders
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Reged: 05/18/06

Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: Sarkikos]
      #6081904 - 09/15/13 11:39 AM

Quote:

No longer much opportunity to make a contribution to science, so now we can relax and enjoy the hobby instead of playing junior scientist.




Actually, I would say that the opportunities for amateurs to contribute to astronomical science are greater today than they have been since the mid- to late 19th century.

Ever since the pros started hooking up cameras and spectrographs up to telescopes in the late 19th century, it's been apparent that visual observing has only niche value with respect to astronomical science.

Mind you, niche value isn't no value. Even today the odd comet is discovered visually -- though that has essentially no scientific value, since it would have been discovered photographically by the time it was of scientific interest. More significantly, visual observing played a very important role in variable-star observing up until a couple of decades ago. And some important new variables have been discovered visually quite recently.

But the fact remains that cameras and spectrographs are where the real action is. And now, for the first time, amateurs have access to professional-quality equipment, capable of measuring star brightness to a thousandth of a magnitude, and even doing serious spectroscopic monitoring of variable stars.


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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #6082019 - 09/15/13 12:52 PM

I just wish I had the knowledge and widom of my old age....with the body of my youth....

There's some stupid things that I'd not redo.....When you're young, you think picking up that heavy object won't hurt you...and it won't...for about 20- 30 years.....but then, we didn't listen either....


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Sarkikos
Postmaster
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Reged: 12/18/07

Loc: Suburban Maryland, USA
Re: Veteran Amateurs: Past vs Present new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #6082057 - 09/15/13 01:20 PM

Tony,

Quote:

But the fact remains that cameras and spectrographs are where the real action is. And now, for the first time, amateurs have access to professional-quality equipment, capable of measuring star brightness to a thousandth of a magnitude, and even doing serious spectroscopic monitoring of variable stars.




So I can still earn that Junior Scientist Badge!


Mike


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