I've written some of this previously on C-N, both privately and publicly.
My first "real" scope, which I bought in 1956, when I was twelve, was an unpainted aluminum-tubed 4.25" Newtonian. It had a 6x30 finder, and a cast-aluminum equatorial mount on an aluminum 3-legged pier. The EQ mount had no internal bearings on either of its shafts, and no drive-motors, slow-motion controls or setting circles. For the next eighteen years, that Newtonian was the only scope I owned.
But long before I got that scope, I'd bought a cardboard Planisphere, and used it to learn my way around the sky. And thanks to that Planisphere and a hardback copy of Norton's Star Atlas... within a year after getting the Newtonian -- even though it had no setting circles -- I could star-hop my way to anything that that scope was capable of seeing.
The local college's physics department had a 7.5-inch Clark refractor, and their astro-club was permitted to use it. Just walking up to it and looking at it, was like being in the presence of an alien spaceship. A real "professional" instrument.
A field trip with that club to visit another one in a city fifty miles away, allowed me my first look at -- and through -- an EQ-mounted, clock-driven reflector that had an absolutely enormous eight-inch mirror, that had been ground and polished by the club's own members. That a completely amateur-based organization could own such a thing was mind boggling. My dreams of the possibility of someday owning an equally "gigantic" instrument suddenly expanded by many orders of magnitude.
I grew up in a northeastern town that had a population of ~15,000, complete with two glass factories, a steel mill, and a brick yard... and which was surrounded by corn fields, dairy farms, and unending miles of woodland. Streetlights in those days were shielded, so their light never went upward. From my parents' back yard, the dark rifts in the Milky Way were black.
Peering through the eyepiece of a telescope back then, imagination and awe held sway. Sputnik hadn't yet been launched... and Wells and Verne and Van Vogt ruled our musings. The craters on the Moon and the polar caps of Mars brought forth visions of extraterrestrial life that, if only we could communicate, would astound us with their intelligence and knowledge.
Do I love my current instruments, and what they're capable of? You bet I do. But can I still star-hop... and do I? Absolutely. My shiny plastic Planisphere and laminated field edition of Sky Atlas 2000 are always on the table next to my scopes. Do I hate that we've become so populous that I'd have to drive for three hours to get to a site that's as dark as my home town was back in the '50s and '60s? Yes. Do I sometimes long for those "better" aspects of the "good old days"? Of course I do.
But do I still step outside every night -- even if it's only partially clear -- just to get some of those billion-year-old photons into my eyes and my consciousness?
Do I really need to answer that?
Edited by B 26354, 19 October 2018 - 04:39 PM.