Jump to content

  •  

* * * * *

Exploring the Universe - Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise


Discuss this article in our forums

Exploring the Universe - Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise

by Mark Mittlesteadt


Maybe 50 years ago, back when light pollution didn't rob us of the glorious views we no longer have access to, as a child of the 60's I used to lay on my back out in the yard at night and just look up and wonder what was "out there". I watched with hypnotic interest on our old black and white TV the first humans land and set foot on the Moon. I was hooked. I even had models of the Apollo rockets, orbiter and lunar landing module and of course toys of all kinds that were about pretending to be an astronaut. My imagination was consumed with what was "out there" in the Universe. It was more of an obsession than interest.


My old 7th grade teacher invited a few classmates to look through his telescope and for the first time in my young, developing life I saw Jupiter and its moons and Saturn with its famous rings with my own eyes. Not pictures found in books, but I saw them in real time with quite a bit of detail even though they were 400 and 800 million miles away from us. While we have become quite jaded by the views provided by the Hubble and the Voyagers, this event was life-transforming to me. I have never lost my passion for what's "out there", but life happened and it would be about another ten or fifteen years before I bought my first telescope.


Over the past 30+ years in this hobby I've acquired and used so much gear. I've had reflectors, refractors and CATS mounted in all kinds of ways. My favorite objects to view have always been the Moon, Planets and brighter DSO's (Deep Space Objects like other Galaxies, Nebulae and Star Clusters). While I do enjoy scanning the night sky with fast, wide field scopes, trying to eek out views of those faint, colorless fuzzies (which is about the best they would look to me) they have never been quite as appealing, mostly due to haze and ever-increasing light pollution.


Of all the scopes I've owned I have two favorites that I sold long ago with much regret. One is my beloved Meade 8" LX-50 SCT (a type of telescope called a Schmidt Cassegrain that folds the light path into a shorter telescope). I never enjoyed the view more than when using that scope. Some of the views are still moments burned into my memory. I always dreamed of getting Meade's LX-50 7" Maksutov Cassegrain (a variation of the Catadioptric design, like an SCT, but with a lens in front that gave even sharper views). I saw photos of it in ads in Sky and Telescope and dreamed of owning a Mak (this was pre-internet). I just didn't have the money for one.


Years later I saw the Meade ETX line in person, in Discovery stores that sold all kinds of observing equipment (yes this was when there were actual storefronts for you younger people) and I was so drawn into the "Everybody's Telescope" lineup. This was Meade's entry level telescope supposedly for beginners, but not like the cheap, often horrible scopes and mounts most would find in department stores back then. They offered them in 90mm, 105mm and 125mm sizes (the lens/mirror in diameter), each size increase showing the views with more detail, but also costing more.


Something about them with their built-in electronically controlled mounts were appealing, yet I was also aware of the cheap, worthless scopes found in stores. They not only allowed you to electronically control the scope, but they even offered onboard computers that made the mounts "Go To" any object in the night sky so you didn't have to even look for it first. Seeing the Meade ads in magazines with the back to back pages showing the LX and ETX lineup just pulled me in. Then I had the chance on a great deal on a used ETX 105. Because size does matter to a degree, it was bigger than the 90, but smaller than the 125, and not having the cash for a 125 at the time I couldn't pass on finally acquiring one. This was when they were selling at their highest retail price and the height of their popularity.


I loved that ETX105. The optics were top notch and I used it more than any other scope for most of my 30 years of observation. I frequently went online and read through Mike Weisner's extensive ETX website and made a lot of contributions to it with all my mods and fixes for that scope. Of course anyone familiar with the ETX line knows how cheap and limited the plastic back-end of the scope was and the mounts were designed with a lot of plastic gears, clutches and such and so were quite problematic. If only Meade had designed the ETX mounts the same way as the LX line of mounts, they'd probably still be in business.


So after years of using my ETX 105 (with its excellent optics) and keeping it working, I sold it and began buying, selling and trading for reflectors and refractors on a semi-regular basis. I owned and used all kinds of scope and mounts, far too many to list here. If I kept every scope and mounts I ever owned, I could easily open and stock a store. I don't know if I just wanted to "explore" other objects, or it was just GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) that led me down that path. I'm a big-time DIY and modder, so it was fun to work on different equipment, always seeking to improve on a design somehow. Hey, what can I say? I've always loved to putz around and tinker with things. As a child I would tear apart cameras just to see how they worked, which is probably why I wanted to become a mechanical engineer. I never did become one, but that's a whole 'nother story.


I got into EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy, to aid in overcoming light pollution), and Astrophotography (like the Hubble photos that even an Earth-based hobbyists can take now) and I still did visual observing, and so I acquired all kinds of gear for that as well. For over 30 years I have really enjoyed this hobby. But over the years, I found myself going out and using my gear less and less. The older I got the earlier I went to bed. Not really the ideal situation when the best viewing is past my bedtime. LOL. So I bought, sold and traded a lot of gear, always trying to find a way to make it as easy as possible to at least get some viewing in before bedtime.


The idea of a grab'n'go setup (where I could just go out at a moment's notice with almost no setup time) became very important to me if I was going to keep pursuing this hobby. So I ended up with a lot of small, fast, lightweight, wide-field refractors (the design most people think of when picturing a telescope) that could be put on very simple manual Al-Az mounts (just manually point the scope wherever you want to look) that got me out more, even if it was only for a few minutes rather than hours (or all night when it was easier and I was younger). Of course every scope is designed with mostly a specific range of use, and these scopes were for wide-field viewing of DSO's, not high power, detailed views of the Moon and planets of which has always been my favorite nightly targets. It's always a compromise between what equipment works for what objects, but not a lot of thought typically goes into "what works for the observer". The right tools for the job. You want detail? Size matters. But with increasing size comes more effort, and I wanted to get out with the least effort, so I had to make some compromises.


But in the back of my mind, I still recalled the by-gone memories of watching Jupiter all night long with its short, 8 hour rotation where I could see it rotate, and watch its moon's going around it, casting their shadows on their host planet. Seeing the detailed cloud bands and the Giant Red Spot move across its face as it rotated over the hours passing by. The moon's were tiny little 3D orbs, not merely white dots. The details and color is something I will never forget. So I vividly recall that memory as one that transported me off this crazy ball of rock we live on that we call Earth and out into space where I could dream as I used to when I was a child lying on my back in the yard at night, wondering what was "out there".


Fast forward to today, and I am now the owner of an ETX 125 I always wanted. Of course this one has been heavily modded with the cheap mount and plastic back end replaced with a highly machined aluminum backplate, rotating focuser and mounted onto my 1979 classic Japanese made Vixen GP GEM (German Equatorial Mount) that I turned into the computer controlled "GoTo" mount. Gone is the stock back end and mount that plagued the ETX line. I now have what you'd either call a "poor man's" Maksutov or a rich man's ETX. Either way, I have something I always wanted.


Like my wife is always telling me...I always buy new scopes and mounts but seldom actually use them. Will I now get out more and once again look up and see the detailed views of the Moon and planets as I used to? Time will tell, although my time is running out as I age. I might be older and less inclined, but I still look up and out into the Universe and wonder "What's out there?"


Astronomy is for the most part, a lonely hobby. One person with a telescope, out under the stars, looking out into the Universe in deep contemplation. I've spent my life in deep contemplation, always seeking the meaning of life. Perhaps that's why I don't get out more. For as much as I love it, I want to share it and inspire others as my 7th grade teacher did for me.



A picture containing object, road, outdoor

Description automatically generated
My Meade LX50 8" SCT




  • scottinash, jimegger, Curacao52 and 58 others like this


47 Comments

Great essay that certainly connected with me on several levels. While not quite the DIY guy I've also created a dolly similar to what's in your photo to allow me to wheel the scope from the garage and easily set up for observing. Your current set-up looks very sweet indeed, hope you have many enjoyable evenings out there, regardless of the light pollution.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Aug 22 2022 12:29 PM

Great essay that certainly connected with me on several levels. While not quite the DIY guy I've also created a dolly similar to what's in your photo to allow me to wheel the scope from the garage and easily set up for observing. Your current set-up looks very sweet indeed, hope you have many enjoyable evenings out there, regardless of the light pollution.

You as well. Thanks. 

Very nice essay. 

I also watched landing of Apollo 11 as a live TV transmission. As a 14 years old living in Eastern Block country I realized then that the true scientific and technical progress is on the other side of Atlantic.

The words from the title "... Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise" reminded me words of Klaus Baader when I visited him some 15 years ago: "Each telescope has its own sky". No matter the scope - it is an internal imperative which truly drives this hobby.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Aug 22 2022 03:39 PM

Very nice essay. 

I also watched landing of Apollo 11 as a live TV transmission. As a 14 years old living in Eastern Block country I realized then that the true scientific and technical progress is on the other side of Atlantic.

The words from the title "... Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise" reminded me words of Klaus Baader when I visited him some 15 years ago: "Each telescope has its own sky". No matter the scope - it is an internal imperative which truly drives this hobby.

Thank you. For the perspective from the other side of the world too. smile.gif

This hobby is truly a "universal" one...bigger than any of us, no matter where on Earth we find ourselves. 

This article is well written and very appealing.  It brings back my own memories as a teenager with my first scope as a 12 year old in Philadelphia.  I too was wowed with my first views of Jupiter and Saturn.  What followed was a life-long interest in Astronomy. I never knew then I would eventually get a Masters Degree in Astronomy.  At 70, I am now involved in several outreach activities with my local astronomy club.  I still love to hear the "wows" when people see Saturn for the first time. 

 

Like the author my journey in Astronomy has been a good one.  After several scopes and living in many locations, some overseas, Astronomy has been a significant part of my life. It has helped define, "who I am"    What a wonderful lifelong hobby we have! 

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Aug 24 2022 09:14 AM

This article is well written and very appealing.  It brings back my own memories as a teenager with my first scope as a 12 year old in Philadelphia.  I too was wowed with my first views of Jupiter and Saturn.  What followed was a life-long interest in Astronomy. I never knew then I would eventually get a Masters Degree in Astronomy.  At 70, I am now involved in several outreach activities with my local astronomy club.  I still love to hear the "wows" when people see Saturn for the first time. 

 

Like the author my journey in Astronomy has been a good one.  After several scopes and living in many locations, some overseas, Astronomy has been a significant part of my life. It has helped define, "who I am"    What a wonderful lifelong hobby we have! 

Thank you. 

 

I was fortunate to been given a private tour of the Yerkes and few years ago. I was doing some murals at the Geneva Lake History Museum. Jim Gee (the director of the Yerkes) was also a board member of the museum. He had stopped in one day while I was painting and we struck up a conversation about astronomy. I told him one of the things I wanted to do while I was there working at the museum was taking a break and visiting the Yerkes (not knowing who he was at the time).

 

He gave me a tour of a lifetime, showing me things visitors never get to see. He even gave me a brass bookend from the old library (and I saw many things, archived to the attic...a large, hand made globe of Mars sitting in a brass and wooden stand created by some astronomer in history). The attic alone was like an astronomy history museum. I got to sit at the same desk, in the same chair, in the same office that Carl Sagan, Einstein ( and so many others) used. I just sat there and closed my eyes, imagining the things they might have been working on.

 

I also got to meet the Yerkes engineer working in the basement R&D department. He engineered parts for NASA (the Hubble, automated domes in Antarctica, etc). When I first met him, he was painting a bookshelf in the hallway, which we had a good laugh over because he showed me a cryogenic infrared camera for NASA he was building at the time. So I had the privilege to actually touch a camera NASA hadn't even seen yet. 

 

Later, as we were walking down a hallway, we ran into a lady who was one of the professional astronomers that worked there. She had a PhD in astronomy and her research was in NEO's (Near Earth Objects) and she invited me to do some AP with her that evening as she wanted to test out the newly restored and installed 4 ft. mirror in the reflector in the giant dome opposite end of the famous refractor (that's a whole 'nother story). Of course I said Yes! She had issues connecting her computer to the giant reflector, and needed to also get it online with other observatories around the world (so they all could communicate and share info...imagine the movie "Contact" where they all share data to confirm sightings). I just happened to also be a network admin in IT. I got it all hooked up and running for her. We took many photos that got sent down to the basement computers for analysis. My name is on all the digital photographic plates of everything we photographed and given credit for them. cool.gif

 

Interestingly, the lady I spent doing AP with (I wish I could remember her name) had only one scope she used personally. A Meade ETX125 (of all scopes). I guess when you have access to the 4 ft. Reflector at the Yerkes every night you don't really need much more, huh? grin.gif

 

I don't think I've ever had such an amazing experience as that day and night. I spent the entire day with my jaw wide open in disbelief, eyes as big as a child in a giant toy store. All day, I felt like pinching myself to know for sure the things I got to see and do were real. A dream come true. I am so grateful for everyone there who allowed me to have that Yerkes experience. bow.gif 

I'm envious of those who are actually professional astronomers. Although most I have met said they do more math than actual observing. 

Wow, great read!  This was my exact journey.  My wife purchased a ETX 90 as a birthday gift, and I loved that scope.  Over the years I bought and sold and upgraded to the ETX 105, then the ETX 125...then, like you bought and sold so many scopes over the years I could have stocked a store.  I went up and up in aperture, until my back hurt!  Then started slimming down...to eventually my 2 current scopes...an 8" dobson and a 12" dobson. And thank goodness for the wonderful smart phones.  I can capture fantastic pics of the moon and planets...and some of the brighter nebula's in the night sky.  I couldn't be happier!  Thanks for bringing back those memories of my journey.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Aug 24 2022 10:42 AM

Wow, great read!  This was my exact journey.  My wife purchased a ETX 90 as a birthday gift, and I loved that scope.  Over the years I bought and sold and upgraded to the ETX 105, then the ETX 125...then, like you bought and sold so many scopes over the years I could have stocked a store.  I went up and up in aperture, until my back hurt!  Then started slimming down...to eventually my 2 current scopes...an 8" dobson and a 12" dobson. And thank goodness for the wonderful smart phones.  I can capture fantastic pics of the moon and planets...and some of the brighter nebula's in the night sky.  I couldn't be happier!  Thanks for bringing back those memories of my journey.

Thanks! And you're welcome. It's why I wrote it. I think sometimes we may forget what inspired us to take up this wonderful hobby. 

Very nice piece.   I can completely identify with the passion when I was younger (12-18 yrs old).  I was very fortunate to grow up in an area that had very little light pollution.  I lived in south east Louisiana pretty much on the mouth of the Mississippi river.  Since it was a good bit west of New Orleans  I had very little if any light pollution with the Gulf of Mexico due south of me, and no large cities to my north and east.  I lived about 40 minutes east of New Orleans so there was a little bit of glow from the city but not much.  By the bortle scale I would say it was a 1 with My western view being no more than a 3.  My views of the summer constellations to the east and south of me with the milky way were awe inspiring..  I still remember those quite nights.  I was very lucky to have had the chance to view the wonders of the night sky the way I did back in the 80's and early 90's.  A glance at the bortle scale now shows the area that I grew up in coming in at 4-5.  

 

Thanks goodness I was saved from the cheap apartment store telescope curse.  I owe it to my dad for going to a local camera shop and asking what would be a good beginners scope for me.  The store owner sole my dad a Jason 60 mm refractor on a GEM with slow hand controls.  Words could never express how amazed I was at Jupiters belts, moons, and My first view of Saturn.  I treasured many nights of observing until 3 to 4 in the morning.  That little scope trained me to see details that some people did not ever see when they start out with larger instruments.  However,  I eventually developed aperture fever at 16 years old and upgraded to Coulters 8" inch.  I was blown away by the Orion Nebula and other DSO's.  As I matured in the hobby I realized how important quality optics were for telescopes.  So I ended up using D and G Optical to configure a 8inch F/12 mirror, and I built a wooden frame  and mount.  It was then I realized how much I was missing with the cheaper 8inch mass produced mirror.  I had so many nights being blown away with the planets and DSO's.  I definitely  got my fill and saw just about as much as I could see on those peaceful nights on my sidewalk.

 

Over time life happened and I just did not have the time to enjoy the night sky like I did in my teens.  My homemade 8 inch was put in storage and did not get used again until the famous Mars Opposition  that happened in 2003 and 2005.  I had children by then, and my son to this day still remembers watching the Mars polar cap shrinking and disappearing as the Martian seasons changed.  It was a special time that I will never forget sharing my passion with my oldest son.  Then again, life happened and my 8 inch went into storage. 

 

Fast forward 30 years and moved to another state the old passion I had reignited again.  I still have the 8 inch F12 mirror and diagonal, but I decided I wanted to see more.  To make it worth it, I ended up with a C14.  Again, the views I have had of the planets and globular clusters are just amazing.  The scope with the CGX-L mount takes about as much time to set up as my old 8 inch did.  Like you, as I have gotten older.. in my 50's I tend to tire out and can't pull the all night sessions like when I was younger.  I guess I am lucky that I am still able to lug around the mount and throw the C14 up over my shoulders to move and set up.  I enjoy taking the telescope out in public and listening to the wows when people get to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn's rings for the first time, as well as things like M13.  All of the viewing still brings me back to my youth and the passion I had as a newbie.  I will say that starting small has made me appreciate the capabilities of a larger telescope. For now I seem ok lugging this monster telescope and mount around because the views are worth it to me.  Astronomy for me is like a true and rare friend that has stood by me through life, even when I left it from time to time.

    • MarkMittlesteadt and BJ4232 like this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Sep 01 2022 03:40 PM

Very nice piece.   I can completely identify with the passion when I was younger (12-18 yrs old).  I was very fortunate to grow up in an area that had very little light pollution.  I lived in south east Louisiana pretty much on the mouth of the Mississippi river.  Since it was a good bit west of New Orleans  I had very little if any light pollution with the Gulf of Mexico due south of me, and no large cities to my north and east.  I lived about 40 minutes east of New Orleans so there was a little bit of glow from the city but not much.  By the bortle scale I would say it was a 1 with My western view being no more than a 3.  My views of the summer constellations to the east and south of me with the milky way were awe inspiring..  I still remember those quite nights.  I was very lucky to have had the chance to view the wonders of the night sky the way I did back in the 80's and early 90's.  A glance at the bortle scale now shows the area that I grew up in coming in at 4-5.  

 

Thanks goodness I was saved from the cheap apartment store telescope curse.  I owe it to my dad for going to a local camera shop and asking what would be a good beginners scope for me.  The store owner sole my dad a Jason 60 mm refractor on a GEM with slow hand controls.  Words could never express how amazed I was at Jupiters belts, moons, and My first view of Saturn.  I treasured many nights of observing until 3 to 4 in the morning.  That little scope trained me to see details that some people did not ever see when they start out with larger instruments.  However,  I eventually developed aperture fever at 16 years old and upgraded to Coulters 8" inch.  I was blown away by the Orion Nebula and other DSO's.  As I matured in the hobby I realized how important quality optics were for telescopes.  So I ended up using D and G Optical to configure a 8inch F/12 mirror, and I built a wooden frame  and mount.  It was then I realized how much I was missing with the cheaper 8inch mass produced mirror.  I had so many nights being blown away with the planets and DSO's.  I definitely  got my fill and saw just about as much as I could see on those peaceful nights on my sidewalk.

 

Over time life happened and I just did not have the time to enjoy the night sky like I did in my teens.  My homemade 8 inch was put in storage and did not get used again until the famous Mars Opposition  that happened in 2003 and 2005.  I had children by then, and my son to this day still remembers watching the Mars polar cap shrinking and disappearing as the Martian seasons changed.  It was a special time that I will never forget sharing my passion with my oldest son.  Then again, life happened and my 8 inch went into storage. 

 

Fast forward 30 years and moved to another state the old passion I had reignited again.  I still have the 8 inch F12 mirror and diagonal, but I decided I wanted to see more.  To make it worth it, I ended up with a C14.  Again, the views I have had of the planets and globular clusters are just amazing.  The scope with the CGX-L mount takes about as much time to set up as my old 8 inch did.  Like you, as I have gotten older.. in my 50's I tend to tire out and can't pull the all night sessions like when I was younger.  I guess I am lucky that I am still able to lug around the mount and throw the C14 up over my shoulders to move and set up.  I enjoy taking the telescope out in public and listening to the wows when people get to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn's rings for the first time, as well as things like M13.  All of the viewing still brings me back to my youth and the passion I had as a newbie.  I will say that starting small has made me appreciate the capabilities of a larger telescope. For now I seem ok lugging this monster telescope and mount around because the views are worth it to me.  Astronomy for me is like a true and rare friend that has stood by me through life, even when I left it from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your story! Very interesting. Yeah...life happens. :) Glad you can keep it going.

    • BJ4232 likes this
Photo
Suburban_Dad
Sep 02 2022 12:16 PM

Thanks

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this

Thanks for your sharing.

I am a novice and want to buy an introductory version of a small telescope. It seems that I still have a lot to learn.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Sep 13 2022 08:58 AM

Thanks for your sharing.

I am a novice and want to buy an introductory version of a small telescope. It seems that I still have a lot to learn.

Welcome. Cloudy Nights is THE place to have all your questions answered about all things Astronomics (pun intended). Post your questions in some of the forums for what you are looking for, and check out the classifieds where all the members buy, sell and swap gear on a regular basis. You can find great deals on any kind of gear you might be looking for, once you get some questions answered.

    • jenniferinfinity likes this

Thank you for this wonderful account of your fascination with the night sky and your lifetime of exploration with the aid of a variety of instruments, improvised upon and tinkered with.

May your enthusiasm rub off on all those surrounding you.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this

I don’t think I paid that much attention to light pollution til I got stationed in Newfoundland for a couple of years, literally so many stars that it was difficult to pick out the constellations…. Unfortunately is was also 20 degrees with 50mph winds constantly too :)

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
nathanwhitsett
Sep 19 2022 09:57 AM

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Photo
MarkMittlesteadt
Sep 19 2022 10:03 AM

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.

You know I've had pretty much the same experience. Now that I'm much older, I'm now doing more EAA and AP to overcome the light pollution and health concerns (including eyesight) and because it almost requires smaller gear, and I can do it remotely via wirelessly, it's made such a difference in how I can still enjoy this hobby and be able to share it with friends and everyone here!

    • nathanwhitsett likes this

Nice.

 

I've just got started.  Well that is not quite true.  Pre-GPS and at sea years ago - I used Celestial Navigation.  But observations were limited to quickly finding which of the principal 50 navigation stars were viable at either twilight and snapping sights with the sextant.  If you could get 7 before you lost the horizon at night or lost the stars at dawn you could be pretty sure of a decent fix after discarding your (hopefully obvious) dud sights.

Sun meridian passage for a daytime latitude and magnetic compass check was useful and if you were feeling particularly masochistic - working out Greenwich Mean Time with Lunar Distances.  I still trusted the chronometer more - but it gave you a gross chronometer check.

Watching the moon getting eclipsed at sea with no light pollution was always fun if it happened.

General observation was by 7x50 binoculars which are optimized for the dark-adapted pupillary diameter.

--

Fast forward to today and a chance look at Jupiter with a really nasty Amazon sold "starter" refractor which sat on the porch gathering dust.  I initially thought it was crappy optics full of internal reflections till a check on Stellarium confirmed the tiny pinpricks in the glass were actually Jupiter's moons.  A chase across the sky and I could JUST catch the rings on Saturn.  It was as exciting as the author's first glimpses he relates from his teacher's scope.

And so I'll try a Celestron 8SE which someone was selling off locally and see where it gets me.  Came with a wedge.  I KNOW it is not optimal - but I'll try some astro photography. 

Unfortunately I see $$$$ in the future.  Well LESS $$$$$!

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.

I completely get the imaging thing.  It really is a whole different animal from visual astronomy.  Dont get me wrong.  I still appreciate visual and seeing what the universe is to our natural eye, however the ability to pluck out detail that the eye can never see is thrilling.  I have a C14 so the Orion nebula actually shows a slight rosette color at low power. Something I never saw in my smaller telescopes.  I have only just begun but after processing images of a couple of galaxies its amazing.  Visually I may only see a moderate glow with no contrast or dust lanes,but after stacking and processing.....WOW.  There they are M81's dust lanes and faint detail in spiral arms.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this
Love it! Depending on where you are, there are outreach programs. If there isn't one, create it! I'd have to say, the outreach we do in Seattle is amazing. The star parties net 40 to 60 people, a lot of kids. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing someone look at a sharp crisp view of Jupiter for the first time, then pulling back from the scope and point up to that bright dot and saying, "That's Jupiter?". The realization in their eyes of the shear wonder of even our lonely solar system. It doesn't have to be lonely, there are others out there like you, just have to do some work to network a bit.

Thanks for sharing your heartfelt views that resonant with so many of us as we age and reflect.  Regardless of life's journey, astronomy is always our companion in some way.

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this

I started off with a 4 inch mayflower newtonian in 1969.  i would stay at late as a kid looking at the stars, which in Tempe Az in 1969 where abundant.  Those clear winter desert nights where special, I still remember the views of saturn and Jupiter I saw with that. 

 

Great piece,  it took me back. 

    • MarkMittlesteadt likes this


Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics