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Why Aren't There More Young Astronomers?

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#326 Araguaia

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 06:24 AM

I think it depends on where you're from. In Singapore, astronomy is quite popular among the younger generation. I started astronomy when I was 14, and I am 25 now. There are lots and lots of people in my age bracket and younger who are interested in astronomy. I think the availability of information on the internet, the affordability of equipment, and the relative ease of getting into something like astrophotography are all contributing factors. 

Where do you go for dark skies out of Singapore?



#327 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 06:37 AM

Where do you go for dark skies out of Singapore?

I usually go to neighbouring Malaysia, but I do trips to the Australian outback as well. Most of the time I do imaging in Singapore with narrowband, though. 


Edited by HydrogenAlpha, 16 December 2019 - 06:37 AM.

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#328 MikeMiller

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 11:44 AM

I usually go to neighbouring Malaysia, but I do trips to the Australian outback as well. Most of the time I do imaging in Singapore with narrowband, though. 

Username appropriate, then. :)


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#329 GOLGO13

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 10:57 PM

I think we can underestimate the boring factor of astronomy. It's something that will appeal to certain individuals. Most kids find it cool to see things, but not for very long.

Visual astronomy is a nuanced activity. Astrophotography take some serious effort and dedication. Maybe even more nuanced to me.

For me, while it's probably my biggest hobby night now, I was getting fairly bored with it until I got my night vision monocular. Just didn't have much opportunity to get to dark skies.

As far as clubs it's tricky. Mostly introverted people into the hobby...makes for tricky interactions. In the past I preferred small groups vice clubs or parties.
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#330 wargrafix

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 07:29 AM

Astronomy is a lonely pursuit at times but like all things in life, the true race is with yourself. Clubs that have a similar interest and definitive ideas are the ones that last the longest.  Its really depends on interest. I have found astronomy not a cure for but a good past time for those who are introverted but still years to be on the outdoors



#331 Space Ant

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 11:12 AM

I don't think just introverted people are into this, at least in my case this isn't entirely true. While I can be introverted at times, I greatly enjoy observing with friends/with a club, or doing outreach. This is a hobby that can be done with others as well, although it is still very much a hobby for the patient. 


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#332 AstroFalcon

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 03:35 PM

Good evening everyone.  I've read through this entire thread and I was intrigued to see the many lines of thought that have been offered. As someone who is in the transitional zone between young amateurs and the more seasoned generation (I'm in my late 30s), I wanted to highlight a couple of observations and expand of them.

 

1.) Starman1 offered the view that outreach events doesn't necessarily drive people to invest in a scope. If someone were to purchase the venerable Orion ST-80 beginner kit with 2 Expanse eyepieces, and never spent another dollar on the hobby, would we be content with that, or is the focus really about driving amateurs to additional (and or continual) purchases? 

 

2.) There was a singular post or two that caught my eye but has been mostly glossed over in this thread: the observation that when a beginner asks a genuine question, most CN responders go directly to advocating for high-end gear, be it scopes or EPs. While I acknowledge that TV EPs are phenomenal, are they right for everyone, and it is always the right answer to an OP's question? I think that we collectively need think about the context of the OP's question and respond accordingly rather than with a "well, for just $xyz more, you can get a ________". 

 

In both of these cases, the tension between the act of observing and procurement is highlighted. I think this thread is truly about the former, yet so many responses have centered on the latter. 

 

I'll pick on myself for a moment, I was gifted an Orion ST-80. I've had it for nearly a decade and its my only scope. I've acquired several ES82s and don't have any current need to purchase anything additional. In the context of this thread, am I good since I'm observing, or part of the problem since I'm not currently buying things?


Edited by AstroFalcon, 17 December 2019 - 03:36 PM.

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#333 Starman1

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 04:03 PM

Good evening everyone.  I've read through this entire thread and I was intrigued to see the many lines of thought that have been offered. As someone who is in the transitional zone between young amateurs and the more seasoned generation (I'm in my late 30s), I wanted to highlight a couple of observations and expand of them.

 

1.) Starman1 offered the view that outreach events doesn't necessarily drive people to invest in a scope. If someone were to purchase the venerable Orion ST-80 beginner kit with 2 Expanse eyepieces, and never spent another dollar on the hobby, would we be content with that, or is the focus really about driving amateurs to additional (and or continual) purchases? 

 

2.) There was a singular post or two that caught my eye but has been mostly glossed over in this thread: the observation that when a beginner asks a genuine question, most CN responders go directly to advocating for high-end gear, be it scopes or EPs. While I acknowledge that TV EPs are phenomenal, are they right for everyone, and it is always the right answer to an OP's question? I think that we collectively need think about the context of the OP's question and respond accordingly rather than with a "well, for just $xyz more, you can get a ________". 

 

In both of these cases, the tension between the act of observing and procurement is highlighted. I think this thread is truly about the former, yet so many responses have centered on the latter. 

 

I'll pick on myself for a moment, I was gifted an Orion ST-80. I've had it for nearly a decade and its my only scope. I've acquired several ES82s and don't have any current need to purchase anything additional. In the context of this thread, am I good since I'm observing, or part of the problem since I'm not currently buying things?

Participating in the hobby doesn't entail constant purchasing; it entails using the scope out in the field.

If you do that, you're a participant in the hobby, even if you make your own scope from surplus parts bought at a flea market.

 

What is of concern is that, for many reasons, many of us older guys are seeing the participation falling--partly from attrition and partly because younger people aren't entering the hobby at all, or at least

in much smaller numbers.  At my public observing site, I've seen a gradual graying of the participants over the last 40 years, with no concomitant increase in the number of young or middle-aged observers.

Since only half of us who participate in the hobby were ever in clubs, if the surveys are honest, a drop in the number of club members could merely mean people are shifting to on-line clubs, so to speak.

But if the actual numbers of people going to the field is dropping, and the people there are getting older and older, simple observation would lead you to pose the question of the OP.


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#334 Space Ant

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 08:24 PM

Participating in the hobby doesn't entail constant purchasing; it entails using the scope out in the field.

If you do that, you're a participant in the hobby, even if you make your own scope from surplus parts bought at a flea market.

I still feel that many also don't realize this. They assume that in order to see galaxies or nebulae, you need some super powerful telescope that has to cost a lot, when all you really need is a pair of binoculars. I feel that a perceived cost of entry is part of the problem here. 


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#335 AstroVPK

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 03:12 PM

The thing about amateur astronomy as a skill is that it gets lumped in with sports, music, and those horrible video games. Young people are in a point of their lives which is mostly about picking up skills. Why choose a telescope out of all skills to learn? If you get really good at video games or sports or music, you could make a lot of money. And you have the additional satisfaction of winning competitions or spectators etc.

 

Greater understanding and seeing something amazing - then I would compare astronomy to going to the zoo or the museum. Seeing a giraffe in person is much more impressive than a photo of one on your screen. I think this is how most people experience astronomy - at an outreach event. And a much smaller number are inspired to become zookeepers and museum curators.

 

Lastly, there is the feeling of connection to nature. Now the comparison is to hiking or camping.  Hikers and campers have seen trees before, but they keep coming back anyway. The same can be said of amateur astronomers and stars. Most cities have a few trees in them, just like they have a few stars above them. But hikers and campers feel the urge to get out to an unspoiled area and be surrounded by nature, again just like amateur astronomers and stars. But I don't know how you sell this to a person. You either love nature, or you don't.

 

I'm not so sure that picking up amateur astronomy & science in general is such a bad thing. You'd have to be incredibly good at video games, sports, or music to make any money off've them. 

 

An interest in science can translate to a career in science, technology, or engineering. Typically, those career pay pretty well, can be incredibly fulfilling and are rarely boring!


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#336 AstroVPK

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 03:29 PM

Participating in the hobby doesn't entail constant purchasing; it entails using the scope out in the field.

If you do that, you're a participant in the hobby, even if you make your own scope from surplus parts bought at a flea market.

 

What is of concern is that, for many reasons, many of us older guys are seeing the participation falling--partly from attrition and partly because younger people aren't entering the hobby at all, or at least

in much smaller numbers.  At my public observing site, I've seen a gradual graying of the participants over the last 40 years, with no concomitant increase in the number of young or middle-aged observers.

Since only half of us who participate in the hobby were ever in clubs, if the surveys are honest, a drop in the number of club members could merely mean people are shifting to on-line clubs, so to speak.

But if the actual numbers of people going to the field is dropping, and the people there are getting older and older, simple observation would lead you to pose the question of the OP.

In the Bay Area it doesn't seem to be the case that the population of astronomers is aging. I see a lot of younger people, many of whom are very seriously into imaging - almost exclusively.

 

I think easy access to dark skies really helps. From where I live, I can get to Bortle 4 skies on one horizon with a 30 minute drive up into the Santa Cruz mountains. Bortle 2 skies are about 3 hours away in the Pinnacles. On the other hand, the poor people living on the East coast have almost 0 access to anything better than green - I know because I used to be one of them. Dark skies are like seeing the Grand Canyon from the rim as opposed to from behind 2" of perspex.


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#337 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 08:06 PM

I think easy access to dark skies really helps. From where I live, I can get to Bortle 4 skies on one horizon with a 30 minute drive up into the Santa Cruz mountains. Bortle 2 skies are about 3 hours away in the Pinnacles. On the other hand, the poor people living on the East coast have almost 0 access to anything better than green - I know because I used to be one of them. Dark skies are like seeing the Grand Canyon from the rim as opposed to from behind 2" of perspex.

Easy access to dark skies is important indeed. For those of us who grew up in the city and never saw the Milky Way growing up, the experience of seeing a starfilled sky at a dark sky site is overwhelming.


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#338 CeeKay

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 02:35 AM

I work as a K-4 school in my area.  Last school year I found out that the Kindergarten classes were learning about the Solar System and I offered to share some of the pics I had taken of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and the Moon.  I also shared with them websites of some of the active missions to the planets so they could see what is happening.  From what I understand, the kids and teachers were really amazed that I had not just taken pictures, but I had done it on their playground (after school hours).

 

Who knows, maybe I may have opened a door for a future astronomer?


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#339 kjkrum

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 12:06 PM

I'm raising two little astronomers. My five year old draws pictures of Orion and Betelgeuse. It wasn't hard to get them interested. Space ranks right up there with dinosaurs in a child's imagination.

 

I haven't tried to get involved with any clubs yet, because of bedtime. But we will.


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#340 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 01:08 PM

I've belonged to five different astronomy clubs over the years and currently am a member of three of them.  Quite a bit of the negative comments I've seen in this thread, some by people who may have never been in a club, do not jive with my experience whatsoever. 

It's true that a being in a club can be a positive or less than positive experience or even both over the course of time depending upon who is in charge but that's true of many things in life.  Certainly very few clubs are being run by people in their eighties.  Some clubs are very active in observing, while others have more armchair astronomers than hard-core observers.  Most clubs do not have observatories and those that do have to spend quite a bit of time and expense "manning" and maintaining them.  The same applies to those that conduct large star parties and by that I don't mean public outreach observing sessions.

Being in a club can enhance one's knowledge of astronomy and observing skills in ways that the Internet simply can't.

While the average age of amateur astronomers has certainly been increasing, many of the current active members of the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg are less than fifty years old.

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