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What was it like observing in the 60’s?

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#101 rcwolpert

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:28 PM

In 1960, when I was 11, "astronomy" was going out at night and all I had in my hands was H. A. Rey's book, "The Stars". With the dark skies on Long Island in those days, I had no problem seeing all the stars in the book and more.  It was then that the constellations became my lifelong friends. By 1965 I was writing to observatories to get their pamphlet on what it takes to be a professional astronomer, and how much they make. At that time I think it said a typical salary was "$8000 - $12,000, but that seemed like a fortune.  In college I realized that I was completely ruining a perfectly good hobby, so I switched to physics. lol.gif


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#102 jcruse64

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:42 PM

Man, Viewing in the 60's was really cool, man.

It was mint, dad.


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#103 Geo31

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:48 PM

Perhaps it is only me, but something I remember about the 60s is how slow time passed.  Whether it was waiting for something to come in the mail or for the sun to set, it seemed to take forever.

 

Now that I am an aged citizen, I'll notice that it is getting dark and wonder where the day went and how come I didn't get anything accomplished!

 

John Rogers

Oh God yeah, THAT is how I knew I was "getting old."


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#104 Geo31

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 01:55 PM

In 1960, when I was 11, "astronomy" was going out at night and all I had in my hands was H. A. Rey's book, "The Stars". With the dark skies on Long Island in those days, I had no problem seeing all the stars in the book and more.  It was then that the constellations became my lifelong friends. By 1965 I was writing to observatories to get their pamphlet on what it takes to be a professional astronomer, and how much they make. At that time I think it said a typical salary was "$8000 - $12,000, but that seemed like a fortune.  In college I realized that I was completely ruining a perfectly good hobby, so I switched to physics. lol.gif

Oh my.  Excellent choice. 

 

When I was in my early teens and kinda sorta thinking about astronomy as a career, Dr. Bill Gutsch (see link below) was the Staff Astronomer for the Strasenburgh Planetarioum in Rochester.  He made a presentation to our Jr. Astronomy section of our local club and pointed out more than once that for 360 some-odd PhD grads in astronomy each year, there were 2 (count 'em, TWO) permanent openings.  Even at my age at the time, I realized the numbers were working against me.

 

https://www.prweb.co...prweb126065.htm


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#105 Chuck Hards

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 03:30 PM

The universe was smaller.  Things were closer to us before 50 years of expansion.  Of course, they were smaller too so it looked the same.  ;)

 

I remember that it hadn't been that long since galaxies stopped being called "nebulae".   "M31, the Great Nebula in Andromeda" was still seen in print once in a while.   The term "Island Universe" was still pretty popular.

 

The Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City had the most incredible library.  Housed in a Victorian mansion that at one time housed the city library, it just oozed serious academics.  Row upon row of astronomy texts, atlases, photographic records from observatories and a few space missions such as Ranger.  I would ride the bus into town on Saturday, and sit in that library for hours reading old Sky & Telescope issues.

 

I remember that a friend in the club got a job there, and one Saturday we set up our 8mm movie cameras on an easel in the basement, and made our own Ranger movies using all the individual photos of the approach.  I got my 8mm camera, projector, and screen from my grandpa, and that was one of the coolest things I ever did with it.  I still have the footage in storage, somewhere.  Another thing to digitize one day.

 

I wonder what happened to that amazing collection?  It didn't make the transfer to the new planetarium in Salt Lake City, which is more of an arcade and movie theater, than anything.  I miss the ambiance and grandeur of the old place.  


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#106 Joe1950

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 05:06 PM

I skipped 'getting old.'

 

I went from middle aged right to old.


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#107 EJN

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 05:18 PM

It didn't make the transfer to the new planetarium in Salt Lake City, which is more of an arcade and movie theater, than anything.  I miss the ambiance and grandeur of the old place.

 

That reminds me of something else. The Adler Planetarium in Chicago used to have a Zeiss Mark V projector

and have real "sky shows" which showed what the night sky was like without light pollution.

 

It was replaced years ago with digital stuff which, as you say, is more like an arcade and movie theater. Instead

of showing real astrophotos, it is all CGI generated crap.


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#108 stomias

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 06:17 PM

Zeiss cover
Album: zeiss catalog cover
1 images
0 comments

From the aforementioned 1967 Zeiss catalog.....    :O
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Scan

Edited by stomias, 22 October 2018 - 06:54 PM.

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#109 stomias

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 06:41 PM

Since we are in the 60's time machine......
 
 
celestron
Album: 60's paper
4 images
0 comments

 

 


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#110 Phil Young

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 06:43 PM

In 1962, my Dad took me to a pawn shop in Davenport, IA where I spent my hard-earned (have you ever detasseled seed corn?) summer money on a 60 mm f/15 Tasco telescope.  I spent many warm and cold nights observing the moon, planets and double stars.  I distinctly remember a cold February evening in the snow watching a lunar eclipse.  I read every astronomy book in the high school library, multiple times and subscribed to Popular Astronomy and Sky and Telescope.  Did anyone else pour over the photography catalogs from Yerkes and Palomar?  I knew that I was the only amateur astronomer in town (1200 people) because people would ask my parents what I was doing in the yard all night.  In 1965, I saw a classified ad for an 8-inch reflector.  An 80-year old man in the city had ground the mirror, mounted it in a modified stove pipe tube and built a pipe thread equatorial mount.  He was losing his sight and was happy to sell it to a youngster interested in astronomy.  I dismantled an old shed and used the wood to build a wood deck in the field south of the house.  I placed the telescope mount on concrete slabs below the deck and built a roll-off shelter to house the scope.  To this day, neighbors ask my 92-year old mother what was on that deck behind the house.  The dark skies and old telescopes are gone now.  The last time I visited my old hometown, I could not find the summer milky-way.

 

I renewed my interest in astronomy about 35 years ago after I decided that I had gone too long without a telescope and built an 8-inch equatorial-mounted reflector with parts from University Optics and other sources.  Now that I find I have the money for excellent optics and the time to observe, I live in the western suburbs of Chicago with a small hole in the trees and 3rd magnitude skies.


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#111 clamchip

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 08:31 PM

Something that really took the wind from my sails was finding out there is no life on

Mars, ouch that hurt.

About that time I shifted from being a planetary observer to outside our solar system.

My favorite now are globular clusters, they are so cool.

 

Robert


Edited by clamchip, 22 October 2018 - 08:33 PM.

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#112 Geo31

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 10:21 PM

Something that really took the wind from my sails was finding out there is no life on

Mars...

Uh, that is NOT settled science yet.  I still hold out hope.


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#113 roscoe

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Posted 22 October 2018 - 11:31 PM

I posted a short reply above, but reading folks' posts, I wanted to amplify it.....

 

While I didn't get my first real scope till I was in my early 40's, since I was a kid I usually had a cheap 50mm or 60mm around, that I used to drag out once in a while to attempt Jupiter or Saturn, , but that was it for telescopic Astro stuff - my first scope was a Gilbert reflector, anything beyond the moon was near impossible for that thing, so while I knew how to find the major constellations and could identify the visible planets, my teenage hobby was shortwave and ham radio, so my interest and hard-earned dollar bills went there.

 

But the thing I remember was always being able to see the milky way, and never was good at finding the less-obvious constellations, because there were so many stars.  Now, this wasn't unusual, except that I grew up on a market-vegetable farm that was less than 5 miles from the center of a fairly large city. 

 

Back then, the first half of the 60's, the city still got dark at night.  Malls hadn't started to happen yet, the closest thing around were a couple of 'plazas' - with a grocery store on one side of a parking lot, and a few small stores on the other, but everything, the stores, the auto dealerships, the restaurants, the gas stations, mostly closed by 9 PM, and they turned most all the outside lights off at closing, many of the neons, most of the parking lot lights, etc, so by 10:00, when most folks had done the last dog walk or whatever, and turned off their porch lights, mostly the only lights still on were indoor home lighting, and streetlights, but they all had reflector-hoods, so the light went down and sideways, but not up.  And they were incandescents, not the much brighter sodiums or halides..... So that meant that a city of about 175,000, still produced little skyglow, certainly as compared to even 10 or 15 years later, when the era of all-night parking lot lights and all-night advertising signs, and brightly-lit highways, was in full force.  My own home town also transitioned - from dairy farms to suburbs, with all the more major roadways filling with storefronts, nowadays the area is just another white zone amidst many others covering most of the southeastern third of New England.
 


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#114 Mike Spooner

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 01:41 AM

1960s. I was living in northern Maine. We had 2 seasons - snow and mosquitos. For $9.95 I bought a 40mm (introduction to the metric system, BTW) refractor at the Western Auto store. Immensely disappointed by what I couldn't see so tried building a reflector with flat mirrors and cardboard tube. Hey I was just a kid! Our "local" library was 32 miles away but had the 3 Ingall's books which I checked out as often as they'd let me. Mechanics Illustrated had Edmund Scientific ads and eventually I bought a 4 1/4" F/10 mirror and rectangular diagonal and built my fist real scope! I still have the mirror although it is now an f/3.5 with a much better figure (the original had a wide (1/2" or more) rolled edge). When I was 15 (?) I got an 8" Pyrex mirror kit Christmas present and eventually ground an f/9 giant scope. May have been the largest in the northern part of the state but can't say for sure. The moon was unbelievable and I could see 2!! belts on Jupiter. Cars, college, marriage and myriad of other interests used up some life before moving to Arizona to meet with God and get real exposure to astronomy in skies that were actually clear! This was late 70s and up to this point I'd been a lone wolf in the Astro world. Recall freezing up my 1st SLR taking moon photos at -20 F and generally being cold when observing. At 45 degrees latitude and DST summer observing was just too late for someone working heavy physical labor so not much else I recall from the 60's decade (and most of the 70s). Moving to Flagstaff opened a whole different experience and acquaintances with amateur and professional astronomers and opticians. We formed a club (Brian Skiff was one of the first members also) and we held club meetings in the Lowell Observatory library. Clyde Tombaugh came to one of the meetings I was able to attend - I feel blessed to have a personal history enriched by so many well respected people. Being in the right place at the right time has been quite the theme as I look back through the years I've been involved in optics and astronomy and for that I'm grateful. It's certainly been inspiring to associate with the wonderful folks (many of whom are here on CN) who share a common ( through a somewhat uncommonsmile.gif hobby) interest that reaches beyond our everyday world. Observing in the early 80s was still somewhat solitary but I remember well one night when Jim (don't recall his last name at the moment but he had a new C8), Brian and I (with the 8" now reground to f/5 and stopped down to 7.5" due to TDE) were observing on a cold, clear night at Anderson Mesa. Brian found Pluto for my 1st ever view and Jim and I both saw the Horsehead Nebula in our scopes at low power looking exactly like a black and white photo in an astronomy text! That view is etched in memory and I haven't seen it since. What a lesson in precious sky conditions. My first RTMC was 1985 and a few years later I attended the GCSP. Many lifetime friendships developed from these and similar events and with the advent of the Internet the community has taken on a whole different aspect as astronomy is weaved into a common fabric without the physical barriers of the past. We may squabble over the decimal points of a Strehl rating but I don't really want to return to the days of debating with the guy in the mirror. I do miss that night at Anderson Mesa though.

 

This seems to have turned into a partial bio but as most of you could also likely claim, there is a lot left out. It occurred to me as I was writing this post that most of this I've never shared with my children or their families. Perhaps it's time to add some detail to bring life to a stranger they grew up calling Dad. 

 

Thanks, Daniel, for some thought provocation!

 

Mike Spooner


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#115 AllanDystrup

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 02:12 AM

Bits and pieces of 60'ies memory surfacing…
 

Building my first kaleido-chromatic refractor out of an eyeglass lens, cardboard tubes and a loupe.

Colorful images of moon craters…

 

     Having a crush on the girl with the nutbrown hair in 5.grade, while that girl had a crush on the guy next door;

While a girl in the next upper grade had a crush on me and suddenly developed an interest in astronomy.

Total Bermuda Triangle...

 

     Taking that 6.grade blonde out to the astronomy observatory at the top of Tycho Brahes Round Tower in Copenhagen,
Explaining to her the Ole Römer planetary machinery and the views in the 4" Unitron in the observatory

Walking her home in starry summer nights, and she wanted more and me being too inexperienced and stupid to comply. Doh.

 

     RA-DEC tables of double stars and NGCs in Menzels "Field Guide"; calculating the local hour angles from Greenwich Sidereal Time (GMT+ the autumn equinox offset) + the local longitude difference. That was before the pocket calculator. Mostly moved from setting circles to basic star hopping after that. The characteristic smell of the Menzel book with those wonderful month-by-month constellation maps. Love it.

 

     Clipping the newspapers for articles on the Gemini and Apollo missions. The A11 moon landing, a small step...The A13 slingshot, fitting a square peg into a round hole. The Hasselblad and Video Cameras. The first computer assisted control of take off, orbit calculation and landing.

 

     Chubby Checker twist & shout, Coke & Pepsi, Elvis Presley are you lonely tonight, Wranglers and sneakers, Roy Orbison only the lonely, Hot Dogs, Petula Clark down town,Kuroshava movies,  Brenda Lee I'm sorry, typewriters and overhead projectors, Supremes baby love, Milk Shakes, Peter & Gordon world without love, Beatles saw her standing there, Lucy in the sky with diamonds, record players and tape recorders, … pretty woman, my boy lollipop, je t'aime, what do you get when you fall in love, light my fire, honey honey, turn turn turn, good vibrations -- so many memories, Oh happy days --  Today? Much the sound of silence…

 

     OK, went off a tangent there,

 

Allan

 

 

 

 


 


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#116 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 05:45 AM

In the 60's I started with a Ballscope 10, which showed some cratering on the moon. Then a 60mm refractor and later a Tasco 9te 60 mm with the crappy finder scope. I lived about 1 mile north of Worcester, a major industrial city, but could easily see the Teapot over the city lights. Now I live about 70 miles north of Stuttgart, and can rarely see it. The skies were DARK back then, and you could actually see things in a 60mm scope. NASA was a big deal, the space race was on and everyone was looking forward to a bright and prosperous Space Age. My father had a friend at NASA, and on one visit he brought me an official NASA star chart, that I still have. With it I was able to find some of the brighter objects. Books were limited to The Golden Book of Stars and The Sky Observers Guide (both of which I still own) and some general astronomy books. I still have one by Hoyle! There were no clubs in the area, so I was mostly alone. So I slugged it out, night after night, with a scope that had a useless finder and a wobbly mount, and I was thrilled with it just the same because I actually showed me things I would otherwise never have seen "live".


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#117 roscoe

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 08:56 AM

Paul,

 

The city I was talking about above is Worcester..... I grew up in Auburn.  For you to be able to see the 'teapot' right over an industrial city of 175,000 shows how dark it still was.....


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#118 Mike Spooner

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 11:37 AM

 

 
From the aforementioned 1967 Zeiss catalog.....    :O

 

Don't recall ever observing in a suit - not on my bucket list! lol.gif

 

Mike Spooner



#119 David Gray

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 12:09 PM

Being very much an observing loner most of my conversing was via letter and many friendly and informative exchanges over the years.  Firstly with BAA Section Directors – Saturn: A.W. Heath (we still exchange Christmas cards), Jupiter: W.E. Fox; and soon several more of their pleasant persuasion. Some, more stand-offish – snooty even – were encountered along the way, and had that sort been my first contacts I wonder where I would be with the hobby these >57-yrs. 

 

To add: Sir Moore never figured in that either way – those good persons aforementioned and books such as Sidgwick’s, “Norton’s Star Atlas”, Peek & Alexander’s Jupiter & Saturn books and not forgetting “Sky & Tel” were my early mentors.

 

I’ve often said I wished I could forget it all and go through the experiences of those 1960s years all over again; (and not just Astronomy……grin.gif).

 

Only a reconditioned 1950s typewriter back then and when getting a fairly basic calculator in the 70s I thought I was spoiling myself!!  No computers/internet etc.…..undeniably so useful to me now – but the IT is a love/hate thing just the same.  Now with such as MS Excel that ‘guilt’ has long faded……..

 

Take the tech-enablement away and the spirit of my observing sessions is pretty much unchanged other than more laced with nostalgia these recent years.

 

Attached is the observer/scope list (BAA Saturn Report 1967-68); is what I posted on a thread where a number of guys – some perhaps too young for the 60s – sagely informing us that scopes larger than 6” were, or probably-were, a rarity/almost unknown………lol.gif

 

SAT 67 68 RPT.jpg

 

My mothballed 10” is on that observer list: no photos from the 60s but the ‘71 photo portrays the identical setup carried on from those years.  The montage shows the general progression: back then standing on a stepladder for sketching on a custom-built drawing board; to (since 1978) standing (preferred) on the concrete floor sketching…….same steps/’easel’ same drawing board……….different location/home.

 

Obs Drw Brd etc.jpg


Edited by David Gray, 23 October 2018 - 12:10 PM.

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#120 B 26354

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 02:04 PM

Only a reconditioned 1950s typewriter back then....

More forgotten memories: in 1957 -- its being open to the public for participation and membership -- I joined the "local college's astro club", which I referenced in post #13... and a year later, mostly due to my ability to star-hop that Clark refractor really well, they elected me president of the club. Among my other responsibilities was writing, printing, and mailing the club's monthly newsletter... which I did in the office of one of the physics professors, on his "mimeograph" machine. Those of you my age will well remember the mesmerizingly-hypnotic smell of mimeograph paper... an iconic representation of a '50s mode of intra-scholastic communication.

 

Somewhere, buried deep within a long-forgotten box here in my house, my copies of those newsletters lie. Perhaps one day I'll find the energy to dig them out, and allow the scent of them to take me back... more powerfully than this pleasantly-rekindled memory has already done.


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#121 Bonco2

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 03:17 PM

Good post Allan. Sounds like in the 60's you were in Kansas City, not Denmark! LOL
Bill

#122 Chuck Hards

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 04:30 PM

The Tonight Show was 90 minutes long, so sometimes on Friday nights I wouldn't get the scope set up in the back alley until midnight.


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#123 roscoe

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 05:15 PM

PS for those of you puzzled by the pronunciation of Paul's and my nearby childhood big city...Worcester, it's locally pronounced  'wuss-tuh'.  We butchered all the local town names.....  Worcester, by the way, was the birthplace and home of Robert Goddard, and liquid fuel rockets.


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#124 jklein

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 07:04 PM

My Dad convinced me to grind a 6"/f8 mirror at the at the Fort Worth Children's museum (as it was known then) when I was 12. I mounted it in an Edmund Scientific tube on an equatorial mount with less than outstanding setting circles. 1963 - no street light in the front yard, Andromeda visible naked eye, and pretty cool in the scope. Norton Sky Atlas was the guide to the heavens. I wish I had been disciplined enough to keep observing logs back then, might have been fun to read when I picked up the hobby again last year with the equipment shown in my signature. Now in Bortle 8-9 skies, about two hours from Bortle 3 skies.


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#125 rolo

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Posted 23 October 2018 - 08:17 PM

PS for those of you puzzled by the pronunciation of Paul's and my nearby childhood big city...Worcester, it's locally pronounced  'wuss-tuh'.  We butchered all the local town names.....  Worcester, by the way, was the birthplace and home of Robert Goddard, and liquid fuel rockets.

My childhood friend and lifetime brother lives in Lowell


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