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"Get Astronomers Out of the Dome"

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#1 dhawn

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 12:57 PM

Interesting article about the new Zwicky Transient Facility telescope that's being designed to scan large areas of the sky nightly for transient events.  Found the last paragraph particularly interesting, if a little sad. 

 

"If the whole system works, it may herald a new era when astronomers no longer have to spend long nights tending to observations but can simply turn up to work in the morning and have a whole menu of celestial delights waiting for them. Less romantic perhaps but, Kulkarni says: “The most efficient way to do astronomy is to get astronomers out of the dome.”"

 

I know that most astronomy is done on computers (and actually BY computers), and that trend will continue as the incredible amount of data that's being gathered can no longer be sifted quickly enough by human brains, but what are we missing by having fewer and fewer astronomers looking up instead of down? (edited thanks to Astrojensen)


Edited by dhawn, 14 November 2017 - 01:41 PM.

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#2 viewer

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:01 PM

Those are pros, we are amateurs.


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#3 Astrojensen

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:07 PM

 

but what are we missing by having fewer and fewer astronomers looking down instead of up?

I think you mean "but what are we missing, by having more and more astronomers looking down, instead of up?"

 

Alternatively, "but what are we missing, by having fewer and fewer astronomers looking up?" 

 

But I don't think we're missing much more than what we already do. The great majority of professional astronomers haven't been looking up at night for the last several decades. That part is all left to us amateurs now. I think we're missing a GREAT much more by not having more of the general public looking up any more, because they can't see the stars. 

 

How often are the starry sky mentioned in modern poetry or depicted in contemporary art? 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#4 Gary Z

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:36 PM

Interesting topic.  but there's always something for astronomers, both pro and amateur to observe, capture, sift thru, process, and then, if fortunate, discover. The technology today allows us to go through more data and then make sense of it. 

 

Have a great week!

 

Gary



#5 Astrojensen

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:56 PM

Interesting topic.  but there's always something for astronomers, both pro and amateur to observe, capture, sift thru, process, and then, if fortunate, discover. The technology today allows us to go through more data and then make sense of it. 

 

Have a great week!

 

Gary

That's not the point. The point is that professional astronomers don't look at the stars with their own eyes any more and the OP was wondering what effects that might have.  

 

Myself, I'm wondering what effects it'll have on poetry, art and litterature, when most people can't really see the stars any more on a regular basis.   

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#6 jgraham

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 02:13 PM

Astronomers looking at stars with their own eyes are just like the rest of us; amateur astronomers enjoying the view. I can't imagine any professional research being done at the eyepiece. In their world telescopes are a means of collecting vast amounts of light and delivering it to detectors. I still think that they would want to be in the control room while their data is being taken, but that may depend on the individual and the practicality of being there.


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#7 SonnyE

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 02:33 PM

"...but what are we missing by having fewer and fewer astronomers looking down instead of up?"

 

Progress?

 

Or did you post this by US Mail or Pony Express? laugh.gif grin.gif

 

Look, I get it. I understand your lament... undecided.gif

 

It's all a matter of preference really. While my aim and goal was to do Astro Imaging and digitally electronically on a Go-To mount with my computer(s) controlling things....

I also wax poetically about being Galileo-ian because I prefer a refractor to other forms of telescopes. As archaic as that may be....

 

But in reality, a smaller highly refined triplet extra low dispersion refractor is exactly the right telescope for my goals. My aim was and remains to image Deep Space Objects, and particularly, Nebulae.

I'm just fascinated by those exploded areas of cosmic destruction and annihilation viewable in my time. woot.gif I blame Orion for it. It was the first thing I ever successfully resolved in the night sky, as tiny as it was in my spotting scope from my back yard.

It took me an entire month of deciding if I even wanted to enter into the expense and steep learning curve of Astrophotography. Why? When there are no end to images available with a mouse click. But ultimately, I wanted to gather my own images, even if mediocre, even if it frustrated me to tears, I took on the challenge.

And I'm succeeding. But it's taken years, and there have been countless mistakes and adjustments, tempered with some failures of equipment due to relying on the lack of integrity of some manufacturers and venders.

Lots learned on the way.

 

And tell me, if you used a diagonal on your telescope, are you not looking down instead of up? biggrin.png

 

It's really a matter of preference, don't you think?


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#8 bobzeq25

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 02:50 PM

Astronomers have been out of the dome for quite some time, usually hundreds of miles away.  They email the desired data collection specifications to the technical staff at the observatory, the staff gathers the data and emails it back.

 

Some amateur imagers do the same thing, with "remote imaging", to get dark skies.  The servant at the other end is not staff, but a computer.


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#9 SonnyE

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 02:51 PM

 

Interesting topic.  but there's always something for astronomers, both pro and amateur to observe, capture, sift thru, process, and then, if fortunate, discover. The technology today allows us to go through more data and then make sense of it. 

 

Have a great week!

 

Gary

That's not the point. The point is that professional astronomers don't look at the stars with their own eyes any more and the OP was wondering what effects that might have.  

 

Myself, I'm wondering what effects it'll have on poetry, art and litterature, when most people can't really see the stars any more on a regular basis.   

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

 

Be careful what you wish for,

Thomas my Dear friend,

For deep in my being from my heart,

There runs a Poetic Vein,

 

And my wonder of the night skies,

And the wonder there within,

Like a tiny micro organism,

My curiosity began,

 

I looked up through my looking glass,

Trying for my eyes to reach,

And finally like a hunting shark,

My prey came into reach,

 

From that exciting moment,

To where I trek today,

My fascination has not waned,

In the Universe my mind's at play,

 

So be careful what you wish for,

Thomas my Dear Friend,

For from the distant cosmos,

Such baloney may streak in.


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#10 havasman

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:07 PM

A manager at the McDonald Observatory has, as part of his regular job description, responsibility for taking experienced and accomplished professional astronomers out for their 1st experience with visual astronomy. Those poor guys are stuck behind a computer screen while we get to have all the fun.

 

We need them more than they need us.


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#11 Diana N

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 04:36 PM

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.


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#12 Astroman007

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 05:13 PM

 

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.

 

Correct. And what about all the NEOs that they have been missing lately? Also remember David Levy. Maybe there is hope for us "amateurs," after all! Who said we can't make discoveries even these days?

As a lover of traditional astronomy, it hurts me deeply whenever I see the beautiful old observatories closing or falling derelict while the "astronomers" turn their backs to the heavens, stare at computer screens, and "get out of the [stuffy, backwards, old-fashioned] dome."

What would they do if their computers were to be suddenly taken away from them? They, or at least a lot of them, would be useless. To me, "the astronomer is getting out of his dome" totally negates what the very field of astronomy is: direct, first-hand, real-time observation of the heavens above. Not virtual reality on a liquid-crystal screen, hours after the fact.

Just my point of view...no, the absolute truth. Just think about it, even if only to humor me. Astronomy is no longer astronomy when it is removed from the direct presence of the infinite cosmos and confined to a finite, windowless room filled with pathetic, blinking man-made lights.

 

All the best,

 

Martin (the contrarian astro-guy from the North)



#13 havasman

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 05:36 PM

Well it's never going back to those days. We're well into the first phases of big data astronomy. There's no going back to the days of pouring over photographic plates (the precursor of data astronomy) to discover new phenomena. Just the LSST will produce 15 terabytes of information a night. That raw data will be available to any url, utilizing the public and amateur astronomers who wish to participate as they see fit. The realm of exploration now reaches nearly back to the dawn of the space-time we inhabit and becomes more conscious of the composition and construction of the our universe with every completed project. That ain't happenin' through any eyepiece.

 

HST images are constructed at computers from data produced by a modern telescope. Those are likely more responsible for what consciousness of astronomical phenomena there is among the broad population than anything else.

 

Most supernovae are discovered by robotic surveys.

 

Amateur discoveries do take place and it makes big news for its rarity. They are usually, almost always, discovered in review of astrophotos taken by those amateurs.

 

The first radio interferometer observation was in 1946, very shortly before my birth. How far back would you take astronomy? How much present and future knowledge would you sacrifice to an aesthetic? How many modern telescopes would you abandon or cripple by limiting professional astronomy to eyepiece gazing?

http://www.shorpy.com/node/15525

http://tiggdigg.com/...ig-bang-theory/

 

None of those modern professional astronomical techniques diminishes any part of my intense satisfaction with my practice of visual astronomy. Nor does it concern me that scientific techniques evolve. To the contrary, scientific advance remains something I passionately support.


Edited by havasman, 14 November 2017 - 06:03 PM.

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#14 graffias79

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 05:37 PM

It seems there are a lot more facets to astronomy than just observational. I mean, to glean the kind of information that moves our knowledge of the cosmos forward requires more than just seeing objects in the sky visually.  Our eyes are quite limited.  We can now look in parts of the spectrum that are completely invisible to our eye to see violent events or to peek through dust that obscures normal vision.

 

As for the discovery of new objects we have nightly surveys that detect new objects all the time (PANSTARRS for comets, etc..)  Chances are that when an object buzzes Earth and we are surprised by it is because it came from an area where we couldn't see.  Think of the Chelyabinsk meteor event.  That wasn't seen because it came from a direction near the sun.

 

In my opinion amateur astronomy is a hobby that may lead to a lifelong enjoyment never doing more than enjoying the hobby, and there isn't a single thing wrong with that. It could also lead to a career as a research astronomer that sits behind a computer processing detected light from places that could never be seen otherwise, or any countless other professions.

 

If we stop now we'll never further our understanding of our place in the universe. That to me would be incredibly tragic!  I am a big believer in doing astronomy outreach.  The more we show, the more will be exposed and perhaps have their interests sparked to become an amateur themselves, or perhaps discover something incredible down the line.


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#15 Astroman007

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 06:20 PM

Well it's never going back to those days. We're well into the first phases of big data astronomy. There's no going back to the days of pouring over photographic plates (the precursor of data astronomy) to discover new phenomena. Just the LSST will produce 15 terabytes of information a night. That raw data will be available to any url, utilizing the public and amateur astronomers who wish to participate as they see fit. The realm of exploration now reaches nearly back to the dawn of the space-time we inhabit and becomes more conscious of the composition and construction of the our universe with every completed project. That ain't happenin' through any eyepiece.

 

HST images are constructed at computers from data produced by a modern telescope.

 

The first radio interferometer observation was in 1946, very shortly before my birth. How far back would you take astronomy? How much present and future knowledge would you sacrifice to an aesthetic? How many modern telescopes would you abandon or cripple by limiting professional astronomy to eyepiece gazing?

 

None of those modern professional astronomical techniques diminishes any part of my intense satisfaction with my practice of visual astronomy. Nor does it concern me that scientific techniques evolve. To the contrary, scientific advance remains something I passionately support.

I have the most brilliant, up-to-date, modern idea! Let's scrap the 100-inch Hooker telescope, because it was built in 1917! Or the great refracting telescopes of Lick, Yerkes, or Lowell! They are even older! bangbang.gif  We don't need all that sentimental old trash today, do we? We are so much more advanced! bangbang.gif

No, seriously, I do not have a merely banal attachment to the aesthetics of a bygone era; that would be superficial fluff that I am far above. Rather, I am attached to a level of hand-crafted precision and quality of construction that we will never see again. Of course we may have "better" telescopes today, and I would not be against having many more than we do now, far from it. But in today's world of computer-controlled engineering, less direct, personal, hands-on work goes into creating our modern instruments than into the ones of the past, where all the grinding and polishing was done painstakingly by hand or by the simple machines of the era. I highly doubt that we will ever have another "Alvin Clark and sons" family, for example, with their level of skill. Or anyone who would ever attempt such a project again. Such knowledge is almost lost, and a loss of knowledge is no advancement.

We are indeed more advanced when it comes to cameras and image-processing techniques, as well as our understanding of the scale and structure of the cosmos. But not in everything, as I laid out above. Plus, we have much more to learn, and in the process of that learning many of our modern "understandings" will have to be dropped, if you look at past history. To disrespect the past that brought us to where we are now or where we will be in the future is not okay, not now, not ever. Without the great telescopes of the past, we could never be where we are now. And, a bonus: those old telescopes are still fully serviceable today and still being used, after over a century! Pretty amazing, eh? I doubt the modern computerized equipment will last that long.

I have here respectfully and humbly defended my position. No sentimental, childish attachment to an old aesthetic, just cold, hard facts. Let all differences now be dropped, and let peace and harmony come back to this thread. As per the TOS, we can "agree to disagree," as gentlemen do.

 

All the best to you,

 

Martin (still the contrarian astro-guy from the North.)


Edited by Astroman007, 14 November 2017 - 06:24 PM.


#16 havasman

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 06:44 PM

 


 

facts.

 

??

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."  - D.P. Moynihan

 

​No one but you proposes abandoning the past. Progress doesn't require, encourage or benefit from that.

Clark will recur if the market will support it, a shaky proposition. Same with high button shoes and hand formed fenders and bois d'arc singletree harnesses.


Edited by havasman, 14 November 2017 - 06:47 PM.


#17 Phil Cowell

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:08 PM

Interesting article about the new Zwicky Transient Facility telescope that's being designed to scan large areas of the sky nightly for transient events.  Found the last paragraph particularly interesting, if a little sad. 

 

"If the whole system works, it may herald a new era when astronomers no longer have to spend long nights tending to observations but can simply turn up to work in the morning and have a whole menu of celestial delights waiting for them. Less romantic perhaps but, Kulkarni says: “The most efficient way to do astronomy is to get astronomers out of the dome.”"

 

I know that most astronomy is done on computers (and actually BY computers), and that trend will continue as the incredible amount of data that's being gathered can no longer be sifted quickly enough by human brains, but what are we missing by having fewer and fewer astronomers looking up instead of down? (edited thanks to Astrojensen)

Data analytics will make a huge difference. Petabytes of data and data scientists running searches against the data. More software engineers than traditional astronomers.


Edited by Phil Cowell, 14 November 2017 - 07:08 PM.

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#18 Phil Cowell

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:15 PM

 

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.

 

Using an imaging system. It’s how supernova hunting is done.


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#19 Astroman007

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:25 PM

 

 

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.

 

Using an imaging system. It’s how supernova hunting is done.

 

Same for comet hunting, as well.

 

Martin.



#20 Phil Cowell

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:25 PM

Professional Astronomers tend to now be Mathematicians, Physicists, or Computer Scientists. Times change, the next generation of amateur telescopes will probably be EAA based. $1.7million in Kickstart funding for a scope without a conventional eyepiece helps to validate that market.



#21 sg6

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 04:57 AM

The "Zwicky Transient Facility Telescope".

Please tell me it is in keeping with Fritz Zwicky and insults you as you approach the facility and asks what you think you are doing as you enter the building.


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#22 Astroman007

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 01:54 PM

lol.gif  funnypost.gif

 

Martin.



#23 WalterC

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 02:16 PM

 

 

Data analytics will make a huge difference. Petabytes of data and data scientists running searches against the data. More software engineers than traditional astronomers.

I spent much of my career as a mathematician/computer scientist working in microscopy. Microscopy with sensitive high speed digital cameras has a similar data deluge. But the biologists that use our microscopes remain biologists. They depend on software engineers, mathematicians, physicists, engineers and data scientists to develop new microscopes and handle and analyze the data. Still they remain biologists. The better our software, the more time they spend on the biology and the less they spend being amateur programmers. 

 

I think that astronomy will go in a similar direction:  other disciplines will develop and sometimes run the hardware and software, but astronomers will decide on the experiments. 


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#24 bobzeq25

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 03:12 PM

 

 

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.

 


Just my point of view...no, the absolute truth. Just think about it, even if only to humor me. Astronomy is no longer astronomy when it is removed from the direct presence of the infinite cosmos and confined to a finite, windowless room filled with pathetic, blinking man-made lights.

 

All the best,

 

Martin (the contrarian astro-guy from the North)

 

The absolute truth is that one can collect better data with a camera and computer processing than one can with eyes.

 

That's true for large observatory telescopes.

 

That's true for the Hubble.

 

That's true for the system in my backyard.

 

There may yet be some niches where eyes work better.  They did with the total solar eclipse.  But they're the exception, the rule is use a camera.  Has been the case for quite some time.

 

There are some things that computers just do better.  When antilock brakes/traction control are legal in racing, no racing driver would ever not use them.


Edited by bobzeq25, 15 November 2017 - 03:13 PM.

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#25 Astroman007

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 03:51 PM

 

 

 

 

We need them more than they need us.

I wouldn't be so sure of that.  Precisely because professional astronomers rarely look up, it's likely the next supernova, major comet, impact event, etc. will be first spotted by an amateur.

 


Just my point of view...no, the absolute truth. Just think about it, even if only to humor me. Astronomy is no longer astronomy when it is removed from the direct presence of the infinite cosmos and confined to a finite, windowless room filled with pathetic, blinking man-made lights.

 

All the best,

 

Martin (the contrarian astro-guy from the North)

 

The absolute truth is that one can collect better data with a camera and computer processing than one can with eyes.

 

That's true for large observatory telescopes.

 

That's true for the Hubble.

 

That's true for the system in my backyard.

 

There may yet be some niches where eyes work better.  They did with the total solar eclipse.  But they're the exception, the rule is use a camera.  Has been the case for quite some time.

 

There are some things that computers just do better.  When antilock brakes/traction control are legal in racing, no racing driver would ever not use them.

 

Excuse me sir, but allow me to point you in the direction of my second post in this thread, where I said exactly the same thing. I very clearly stated that we have much better cameras and image processing equipment than we ever have before, and we need them. I was taking issue with, and comparing, the level of quality and craftsmanship of the telescopes of the past and those of today. Please read my second post (yesterday, 6:20 PM Eastern Time, to Havasman) before you contemptuously dismiss my statements. If you actually read it and think about what I am really saying, not what you think I am saying, you will realize that what I am saying is objectively correct, reasonable, and nothing to take issue with.

I wish you many beautiful, clear nights, for both visual astronomy and astrophotography.

 

Respectfully,

 

Martin (still the contrarian astro-guy from the North)


Edited by Astroman007, 15 November 2017 - 03:59 PM.



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