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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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Michael Rapp
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Which kind of observer are you?
      #6178344 - 11/05/13 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?


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GlennLeDrew
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178409 - 11/05/13 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.


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Astrodj
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: GlennLeDrew]
      #6178459 - 11/06/13 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.

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Megabusa
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178477 - 11/06/13 12:28 AM

Quote:



"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

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esd726
scholastic sledgehammer
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Megabusa]
      #6178573 - 11/06/13 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.

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Louietheflyisme
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Loc: Australia
Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: esd726]
      #6178585 - 11/06/13 02:45 AM

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

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obin robinson
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178664 - 11/06/13 06:09 AM

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

obin


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Kraus
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: obin robinson]
      #6178670 - 11/06/13 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.


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macpurity
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Reged: 10/24/04

Loc: Quad Cities, Iowa, USA
Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Kraus]
      #6178684 - 11/06/13 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?


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: macpurity]
      #6178712 - 11/06/13 07:43 AM

Quote:

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?






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


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Megabusa
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: esd726]
      #6178734 - 11/06/13 08:10 AM

Quote:

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 ,

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RAKing
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178743 - 11/06/13 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.

Cheers,

Ron


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Michael Rapp
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: macpurity]
      #6178817 - 11/06/13 09:12 AM

Quote:

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.


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csa/montana
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178837 - 11/06/13 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.

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Feidb
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: csa/montana]
      #6178855 - 11/06/13 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.


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Edward E
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6178929 - 11/06/13 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!


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Usquebae
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Feidb]
      #6178977 - 11/06/13 10:54 AM

Finding objects, particularly for the first time, is a tremendous thrill for me. (I'm a newb ) 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!


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tigerroach
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/13/08

Loc: Houston, TX USA
Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Edward E]
      #6178980 - 11/06/13 10:55 AM

I'm definitely the lust n' leisure type.

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


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Gvs
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Loc: Texas
Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: tigerroach]
      #6179204 - 11/06/13 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.


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WesC
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Gvs]
      #6179230 - 11/06/13 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.


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mountain monk
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6179418 - 11/06/13 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


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bangbangexplode
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6179439 - 11/06/13 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.


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Carol L

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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: bangbangexplode]
      #6179528 - 11/06/13 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.


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Perigny270
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Reged: 10/23/11

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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Carol L]
      #6180116 - 11/06/13 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!

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buddyjesus
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6180267 - 11/07/13 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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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: buddyjesus]
      #6180419 - 11/07/13 07:03 AM

Quote:

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.




Sketching is definitely a different Paradigm. I think it is the best way to really observe an object, one is forced to really look and pay attention. I have tried it, some people are not very good at drawing things and I am one of those people..

Jon


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Greyhaven
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6180577 - 11/07/13 09:17 AM

Michael
I guess I would consider myself a life long observer. I just finished an on line writing course and as a final assignment we were asked to write about something that has interested you for years and why. This was my submission:


My first love affair started on May 10,1963, Mother's Day weekend, in the tiny hamlet of Greenwood City, Maine. A green pasture spread out before my eyes, rolling hillocks dividing the pasture into tiny bivouacs for the army of rapidly arriving groups of Boy Scouts. I was about to meet my first love, although I did not know it at the time. I was the newest member of the Hooting Owl patrol and about to embark on my first intimate embrace under the night sky. The Hooting Owls had met earlier and determined that we would use this spring time camping trip to seize the opportunity to claim the Holy Grail of scout camping. We would spend the weekend out under the open stars, with no tents or lean-to shelters, just sleeping in the open. It was our stern resolve to brave the Maine wilderness. We surveyed the pasture surrounding our troops camping area and the patrol leader chose an area suitably distant from the troops main camp to enforce our claim of independence. Still, we would stay within easy running distance should we be forced to flee any black bears or rampaging bull moose and warn the troop of the danger it was in. The intrepid Hooting Owls were settling in for the night, silently, one by one, each scout disappeared into his sleeping bag, feet, legs, chest and finally head and pillow were drawn into the safety and warmth of the bag. The not too distant campfires slowly died giving up their battle against the night. I would have to greet the lovely lady of the evening alone. Ah! She did not make me wait for long, slowly like a dancer, she unveiled herself to me. The Milky Way was there as promised, complete with her rich star fields and dark patches of dust and shed cool light on the slumbering campers. Silently, I toured the star studded vistas of my mistress. Mars, the warrior planet, nestled snugly between the constellations Leo and Cancer, was slowly sinking in the western sky and its dim red glow assured me of its correct identification. The Little Dipper was hanging by the North Star and Cassiopeia rotated overhead keeping time more surely than the finest clock. The dew settled in the pasture coating the sleeping scouts, grass and spider webs with beads of water. The waning gibbous Moon cleared the tree tops and each precious drop of dew caught the moonlight and reflected its brilliance a thousand fold. The pasture mirrored the glow of the universe as far as I could see. Thus began my lifelong affair with the night sky. Now, as an old man, I sometimes sit in my small observatory, look up and have to wipe the tears from my eyes as I gaze upon her young unchanging face knowing she has watched me from my childhood to near my end, patiently waiting until we can finally be joined.

I guess this describes "Which kind of observer I am"
Be Well
Grey


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Michael Rapp
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Greyhaven]
      #6180661 - 11/07/13 10:01 AM

Nicely written Grey. You brought back a memory for me, which curiously, also deals with Scouts. I remember being on a campout and like yours, for some reason, we forwent the tents.

I've always been a light sleeper and cots just aren't the most comfortable things. I distinctly remember waking up essentially each hour and watching the Big Dipper make its way around the pole. I was only 8-10 years old at the time, but -- other that it being exceptionally beautiful -- I felt as if I had been let into a secret that few people truly grasped: I had experienced almost kinesthetically that the earth rotates under the stars. It was very powerful.


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jrbarnett
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: mountain monk]
      #6181018 - 11/07/13 01:00 PM

Rarely do we sailors of the real sea set out without "lists" (itineraries, plots, plans, etc.). Doing otherwise gets you dead as often as not.

http://i812.photobucket.com/albums/zz44/healeygreen/photo.jpg

Of course, I've never once feared drowning whilst at the eyepiece.

- Jim


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jrbarnett
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6181038 - 11/07/13 01:11 PM

Well, I think each piracy analogy is silly and in-apposite to be honest. Unlike plunder which is tangible and singular, and therefore can have only unique ownership, your "hoarding" of an experience such as observing the Horsehead, in no way affects the ability of others to do the same. Experiences in astronomy are not subject to diminishment through plurality of users.

Also, the primary function of the Barbaries was not plunder, but rather slaving. They captured Christian European slaves for the slave markets of North Africa. From the 16th to 19th century, corsairs captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million people as slaves. That's a very significant minority percentage of the European population at that time. Entire swaths of the northern Mediterranean coast were uninhabited out of fear of Barbary slaving raids. So I'd say his characterization of Barbary pirates and their motivation is historically inaccurate as well.

I think that in astronomy there are many more than two types of observers, as well as many more than two types of motivation. His analogy makes me say "Pffffffffffffffft!"



- Jim


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PeterR280
Pooh-Bah
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6181113 - 11/07/13 01:49 PM

Nothing wrong with lust and leisure.

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hfjacinto
I think he's got it!
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6181161 - 11/07/13 02:12 PM

If I image one object for 4 hours I guess I'm a luster

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The Mighty Mo
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: hfjacinto]
      #6181189 - 11/07/13 02:28 PM

I find myself to be both kinds of visual observer. I like finding and logging as many objects as I can, while evaluating them in my notes. Those that really capture my attention, get saved in my "Favorites" lists, which are then categorized by Asterism, Cluster, Galaxies, Nebula, and Stars. That way, for nights like tonight, where the objects in my Working List of unobserved items aren't up until later, I'll spend some quality time with many of the accessible items in my favorites.

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GeneT
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6181446 - 11/07/13 04:50 PM

I don't fit either broad category. I plan for a half dozen objects to spend about half my viewing time allocation, then free-wheel the rest.

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mountain monk
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: GeneT]
      #6181733 - 11/07/13 07:53 PM

Jim,

Hah! Great photo!

Dark skies,

Jack


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star drop
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: mountain monk]
      #6181900 - 11/07/13 09:49 PM

The second kind of observer. Long deep looks searching out the faint structure and sometimes detecting some color.

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tomcody
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: jrbarnett]
      #6182615 - 11/08/13 10:09 AM

Quote:


I think that in astronomy there are many more than two types of observers, as well as many more than two types of motivation. His analogy makes me say "Pffffffffffffffft!"



- Jim



+1
As to the photo, If you ever start AP imaging, I hope you don't photoshop your AP photos like that.
Rex


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Starman1
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6182672 - 11/08/13 10:36 AM

Quote:

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?



I saw all the Messiers my first summer under the stars at age 12. It was about learning how to use my mount. Plus, I observed nearly every clear night.

About 2 decades later I decided to start recording my observations. By now, I had seen a lot of objects with NGC prefixes, and many of them were so uninteresting, I wanted to record my notes so I wouldn't go back to them and waste my time.

A decade later, when I got my first computerized telescope, my "log" was up to about 3000-3500 objects (viewed with 6" and smaller). My approach to observing was always leisurely, with not more than 10 to 20 new objects each session (I view all night when I observe, so that IS a leisurely pace).

Things looked so different in the 8" LX200 that i wanted to not only re-view all the objects I'd seen before (something not worth revisiting in a smaller aperture becomes a "favorite" in a larger one). I took the time to put together a list of about 15000 objects I though might be visible in an 8", and I decided that I would spend all my time on discovery, i.e. new objects I'd never seen before. Of course, along the way, I found a lot of new favorites.

Not surprisingly, my log grew to ~9300 objects by the time I got rid of that 8" eleven years later.

I quickly realized that the number of objects visible in my 12.5" would exceed the time left I had on Earth, so instead of trying to see everything visible in the aperture, I decided to spend more time on the "favorites" from my log and confine the new objects to maybe 10 or 20 per session (my pattern with the smaller scopes). Plus. discovery has its edge taken away when every new object is really tiny and really faint.

Now, a decade later, I'm only up to 11,000 objects in my log, and I really don't feel pressed to add appreciably to that. I estimate that, lifetime, I have 10,000 hours under the stars, so obviously, though I make and use lists, I have done a lot of "social" observing through the years or I'd have a lot more objects in my log. And I've varied from 75 new objects in a night to none. It just depends where I am and my mood.

I would say that, for a couple decades, I was "systematic" about observing. I did view each object long enough for notes about size, shape, brightness, and other features, so I wouldn't say I rushed. How many minutes does it take to see all you can see of an object on that night in that scope? Sometimes it only takes a minute. Other times it takes 15. But unless you're sketching, spending more than 15 minutes on an object means you've fallen asleep leaning on the eyepiece (guilty!).
Even at 15 minutes per object, though, that's 32 objects over 8 hours.
These days, moving leisurely and chatting with neighbors, I still seem to average 50 or so each night I go out.

What I don't do is what I read a lot of others do: observe for 2 hours then call it a night. When I do that, I'm looking at the Moon or planets or double stars from my patio, and I'm using a 4-5" scope. I haven't kept track of all the hours I've spent observing those objects through scopes, but it's extensive.

So I like the discovery of going where I've not been before and I like visiting old friends. Does the fact I keep track and use lists mean I'm only in the first group? Frankly, I think his dichotomy is artificial and there are more kinds of observers than he suggests. It varies from the person who wades only and just gets his feet wet to the ocean swimmer.
And trust me, you can't drink the ocean.


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karstenkoch
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Starman1]
      #6187654 - 11/10/13 10:04 PM

I'm mostly a beachcomber.

I walk slowly looking for seashells to pick up and take a longer look at. Sometimes I'll hit the beach with a picture of a particular seashell that I'm looking for. Sometime's even a short list to find. Right now, I don't have enough observing time in my schedule to work through longer lists. I usually start by finding a few familiar things, then if time permits, I'll use SeaShellSafari to identify a few more targets of interest.


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kt4hx
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: karstenkoch]
      #6190070 - 11/12/13 07:15 AM

Thanks for the thread Michael. I was thinking on this just a few days ago, trying to remember exactly what it was that Steve said about observers in that book. Anyway, I would definitely fit the "accumlator" category. I rarely work from lists. Most times I don't even know where I am going to observe when I set my gear up. I often just sit in my observing chair for a little bit and look around the sky, and finally focus on one area. Then I pull the atlas and start the process. It is not unusual for me to run through 15 to 20 or more objects in an evening (say 3 to 5 hours +/-). Once I identified 50 galaxies in the Coma-Virgo field in about 2 to 3 hours. Of course in that case I was galaxy hopping rather than star hopping. I have also traditionally been very poor at documenting my observing. In recent years I have gotten much better at keeping notes as I observe, then transferring those to a more permanent record later. I have on occasion worked from a personally generated list, but I rarely work from an established list (Messier, Caldwell, H-400, etc). I just find that too confining, too inside the box for me personally.

There are some objects I consider special to me. First would be M6 and M7, the first objects I have a recollection of observing as a younster in the early to mid 1960s. My first scope was a shakey little reflector (2.5 or 3 inches), and though I didn't know what the two clusters were, they were the most beautiful things I could ever imagine. Every time I went out that summer I spent a long time looking at them. Another specific object I think of fondly is M51. It was one of the first objects I saw with my newly acquired (early 1980s) Coulter 17.5 dob, and the first time I ever saw spiral structure in a galaxy. Those two moments have been etched in my mind forever. I do understand about having friends in the sky. I look upon the stars and the constellations that way. Though I may have strayed away from the hobby for long stretches of time, my old friends remained exactly where I had left them, as if they were just passing the years knowing full well that I would return one day. There is a certain comfort in that.


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BoldAxis1967
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6194711 - 11/14/13 02:27 PM

Place me in Group II: Pirates of the Caribbean and North American waters. I'm definitely into "lust and leisure."

I do not have go-to or even motors. My typical viewing sessions are 2-4 hrs. I will usually take in two to four objects for 10-15 minutes, but there is usually one main object of interest that I will spent an hour or more on.

There are nights when I will spend a couple of hrs just looking at Jupiter or the moon or the Great Nebula in Orion.

If I view too many objects within a short time frame then the session tends to become too blurry the next day. I like to think back and daydream a little and recall specific details. That way the high lasts for a few days.

LB

Edited by BoldAxis1967 (11/14/13 02:33 PM)


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karstenkoch
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: BoldAxis1967]
      #6195986 - 11/15/13 06:19 AM

Quote:

If I view too many objects within a short time frame then the session tends to become too blurry the next day. I like to think back and daydream a little and recall specific details.




LB,
Wow, this really hits the nail on the head regarding my observing sessions. Funny how it takes someone else to describe something that should be obvious, but which isn't until you hear someone else describe it. You know, I think I'm going to make an intentional concerted effort to view FEWER objects for LONGER from now on. Just like you I like to replay the views in my head as I go to sleep and during the next day.


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FirstSight
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: karstenkoch]
      #6196339 - 11/15/13 11:06 AM

Not a very hardy one, at least not until I re-adjust to the chill of the wintery half of the year and get re-accustomed to putting on a few layers before going out to stay comfortable, instead of just wandering out when the sky and mood strikes in shorts and a t-shirt. I finally went out in 28 degree F temps night before last with a 3/4 moon in low in the sky for an hour or so with my NP-101 and enjoyed it. Nothing too ambitious with luna lighting up the sky, but got my first seasonal view of M44 peeking over the treeline to my east, among other things. Seeing was a bit dodgy to get much of a good detailed view of Jupiter or to split the trapezium into more than just the obvious quartet.

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csrlice12
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: FirstSight]
      #6196415 - 11/15/13 11:46 AM

I see the clouds as pirates....and I'm the ship that's been boarded.......

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jrbarnett
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: tomcody]
      #6196416 - 11/15/13 11:46 AM

I love your marbles quote, but (of course) "have a bag of marbles" story...

When I was a wee one, my father was one of the principle architects of the LCD wrist watch. He worked for a company called "Ness Time" at the time. The family was shipped off to live in Austria for a year so that my father could collaborate with materials specialists at crystal maker Swarovski. We lived in a little town called Wattens near Innsbruck in the Tyrol. When we arrived, one of the Swarovski execs presented me, a strapping lad of 9 or 10, with a suede bag of beautiful, Swarovski-made marbles. They were incredible - more like gems than any crummy old glass American marbles.

So, my marbles really are better than your marbles, and if I showed them to you, you'd probably agree. Of course, I've since lost...er...my marbles.

- Jim


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ensign
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: GeneT]
      #6196709 - 11/15/13 03:14 PM

Quote:

I don't fit either broad category. I plan for a half dozen objects to spend about half my viewing time allocation, then free-wheel the rest.




+1


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azure1961p
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: WesC]
      #6197807 - 11/16/13 09:24 AM

I'm more into lust and leisure but there are times the succession of objects provided by GOTO actually is beneficial in comparisons between them. At anyrate messier marathons or marathons and lust completions if any type are completely not for me. If I don't see all the Messiers in my lifetime ill consider it a credit to the fact I found more interesting things off the beaten path.

Pete

Edited by azure1961p (11/16/13 09:25 AM)


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Michael Rapp
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: azure1961p]
      #6198014 - 11/16/13 11:44 AM

I sometimes wonder if my early fix on the Messiers caused me to wane in interest in astronomy a few times. I got it in my head that one was supposed to do all the Messiers before embarking on the Herschels.

The Messiers were the training ground for the harder stuff, and if you tried to do any of the Herschels before "you were ready" you just wouldn't be able to observe them as well. (Yeah, I know...but I was 15 at the time and the Astronomical League was HUGE in the club to which I belonged and I clearly misperceived some things.)

Now, I do a constellation-focused approach rather than a list/catalog approach and it is much more satisfying. I'm no longer a prisoner of any one list.


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tao of how
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Michael Rapp]
      #6199952 - 11/17/13 01:29 PM

Caribbean pirate here by nature. I just re-visited my childhood interest in astronomy over the summer and have spent most of my observing time finding Messier Objects or on Saturn and now on Jupiter. That said come this spring I'll be shifting to Barbary pirate mode when I try my first Messier Marathon.

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carlcat
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: tao of how]
      #6200329 - 11/17/13 05:12 PM

Are there any lazy pirates because that's the kind of pirate I'd be? I tend to stick with the moon and planets because I can see them more often from my back yard and not have to drive out to a dark site, set up, observe, take down, drive home, get to bed at 2:30 AM and then unpack the car the next morning. Plus, I started observing the moon at the young age of ll in 1958 and it still blows my mind observing it. There's just so much detail to observe that I never tire of that feeling I'm right above the surface, especially with those 80 degree eyepieces.

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Chuck Hards
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: carlcat]
      #6201905 - 11/18/13 03:25 PM

In the old days, we called the two types "Scientists" and "Nature lovers". Typically there was quite a bit of cross-over between the two.

I doubt anyone who's been looking at the sky for 30, 40, 50+ years does it the same now as when they began. Once you've seen every object you can find with the largest aperture at your disposal, studied them until you can't pull anything else out (most of the time, but you never know!), then it's time to just get re-acquainted with old friends. The pressure is off.


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karstenkoch
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Chuck Hards]
      #6202032 - 11/18/13 04:24 PM

Quote:

Once you've seen every object you can find with the largest aperture at your disposal, studied them until you can't pull anything else out (most of the time, but you never know!)...




Let's take a quick poll: raise your hand if you're in this category.


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Starman1
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: karstenkoch]
      #6202126 - 11/18/13 05:13 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Once you've seen every object you can find with the largest aperture at your disposal, studied them until you can't pull anything else out (most of the time, but you never know!)...




Let's take a quick vote: raise your hand if you're in this category.



Impossible, because under a dark sky, you have in reach:
8"--15000 objects
12.5"--30000+ objects
20"-->100000 objects.
You won't live long enough to see ALL the objects you can see.
That doesn't mean you can't go back and look at old friends, and since transparency varies from night to night, it pays to do so.


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Chuck Hards
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Re: Which kind of observer are you? new [Re: Starman1]
      #6202185 - 11/18/13 05:51 PM

OK, I'll refine that.

I've seen everything I can see with the telescopes at my disposal, at my latitude. Many of those dimmest objects supposedly visible with a given aperture just aren't there on most nights due to seeing. After I've pointed the scope there a few dozen times, I don't tend to go back for a few years, or until I have access to a bigger scope, or on nights with excellent seeing, which are rare. But I'm asking you to accept that in 45 years of observing, I've seen just about all there is to see that's worth seeing, without a major jump in aperture. These days, as I said, I revisit old friends. I still look for the really dim, obscure stuff once in a while, but not often since I'm not visiting dark sites much these days. That will come again in retirement. I've spent most observing time the last ten years on solar system objects. Lots of action there and I don't need to take a lot of time or buy a lot of gas to get to a dark sky site to view.

So think of it as a generally true statement, not a literal, down-to-the-very-last-object, pronouncement. I'm not trying to sound high and mighty, but to let you know that not all observers fall into two neat categories, and many will change their habits at the eyepiece as the years roll on.

I used to keep meticulous observing records for years, until an apartment flood in the early 80s destroyed them and much of my library. That really took the wind out of my dot-the-i's and cross-the-tees sails, sigh. I never started a new logbook after that.

Hope this helps clarify what I was trying to say..


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