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Why Aren't There More Young Astronomers?

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#26 sg6

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 01:02 PM

Attitude is the problem and simply accepting that younger ones will have a different point of view. Less serious I hope. Club where I live tore itself apart, however did manage to survive although a bit dubious for 2 or 3 years.

 

Sometimes what happens is a person, for want of a better phrase, gets in, does the chairman role fairly well but clubs follow what they want. Maybe should adopt the US President approach and limit the time someone can be chairman of a club. 5 years and you HAVE to step down.

 

Where I go the young ones are encouraged, young means 4 and above. Will say 2 years olds are harder to work with, have tried, suspect I failed. Explained to a parent last week: If they the parent didn't see whatever that was their fault, they are grown up. If their children didn't then we have to put in effort so they do. We ask each one what they saw and get them to describe it.

 

Mercury transit I ended up with thumb prints on the 12mm eyepiece lens - not my prints. One or five of the little ones. About 8 months back I asked about optical window for a Panoptic 41mm - we had thumbs inside it as they held on to something, eyepiece eyecup in this case, for support. One hand either side with thumbs inside seemed optimum to them shocked.gif shocked.gif . Got told they shouldn't be allowed near such an eyepiece by many here. We didn't have a choice, tried to explain, I don't think I was understood - No choice, none. If their thumbs went inside then they went inside. After about number 12 or 15 set of prints we gave up. If one had tried to eat the eyepiece we would have had to think carefully about how to stop them. Strongly suspect the answer would have been to go find the other eyepiece, while they ate.

 

One person PM'd me asking me to explain, when I did they suggested I put the same explanation in the thread. I didn't. Simply didn't think it would get through.

 

But the place gets 60-80 kids each time, each week, this is year after year. Will bet that some buy scopes and that some go on to study astronomy.

 

I have been laid on damp grass getting a 7 year olds scope to work. Who else has, bet not many. It was cold grass also. Last I saw of him was running off to find parents yelling "I can see the moon". Gave him a 20mm plossl.

 

One outreach a lad wanted to see Minitak (no idea why) so I gave him the handset and explained how to select Minitak from in the menu tree. Then I had him put the scope back on M45. Look at it this way. They may have learnt that there are Solar System Objects and Deep Sky Objects, then catagories of Stars (named and Numbered) and Messier objects. Also that M45 was The Pleiades. As each target was chosen I had them read the brief data on it to verify correct target. All from using a handset.

 

Would say that unless that is adopted the influx will be minimal.

We get lots of parents, the children drag them along. lol.gif

 

Big impressive scopes - kids don't care. Honestly anything keeps them happy.

Modern technology most can use a touch screen on a smart phone. PC control is for them to be expected.

To them a wire is a bit of a novelty, isn't it all wifi now? grin.gif grin.gif grin.gif

Last week it was cloudy but the dome was open, 3 of the kids took it in turn to move the dome round by the ropes and pulleys and thought that was great.

 

Tried a night of Astronomy for the Kids?

Literally 100% for them.

Answer everything they ask - sensibly and accurately, they are not stupid. Buy lens tissues - you will need them, make sure they do see the objects, no time limits. One young lady was looking then telling me then looking and telling me again and to be sure having another look. She was HAPPY. I don't think anyone had just taken the time with her. Had I tried to move her on I would likely have been the one told off.

 

But that is what you have to do. Throw the "rules" away. Expect questions, expect them to spend 3 times as long, expect fingers and thumbs (maybe worse if really unlucky). Expect 2 to want to look at the same time especially if brothers/sisters.

 

Biggest problem we usually have is that it is dark, they cannot see the eyepiece, so a nice dim red light helps. Otherwise them feel around for the eyepiece and guess where the fingers go grin.gif.


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#27 bridgman

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 01:15 PM

Just speaking from my own experiences and those of my close friends, the most effective support for young people taking interest in something is not clubs & formal organizations but rather neighbors and parents-of-friends. My own parents got me interested in some things, but when you add in neighbors and friends' parents you have a much better chance of matching interests.

 

To me the most powerful thing is how you react when the neighbor's kid wanders by and asks what you are doing.

 

It was obviously easier for dark skies to compete with black-and-white television than it is for light polluted skies to compete with CGI effects, but dark-ish skies are still available with some driving (not an option for many of today's kids) so taking your friends kids out on camping trips with a small scope or viewing planets in your driveway still works today. In some ways the contrast between what you can see on a camping trip or through a scope vs naked eye in the city is even greater today than it was 40 years ago. 

 

I'm not sure if todays kids are actually less curious or whether it is just the massive industries that have sprung up to capture their curiosity and turn it into business opportunity frown.gif


Edited by bridgman, 19 November 2019 - 03:23 PM.

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#28 whizbang

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 01:23 PM

Wealth is strongly correlated with age.  Older folks generally have more disposable income.

 

Any hobby that requires a modest financial investment will be dominated by gray hairs.


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#29 Augustus

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 01:34 PM

Wealth is strongly correlated with age. Older folks generally have more disposable income.

Any hobby that requires a modest financial investment will be dominated by gray hairs.


A good telescope costs about as much as two PS4 games
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#30 Jond105

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:02 PM

A good telescope costs about as much as two PS4 games

Kind of true, but unless the kid or young adult wants a telescope, he’s going to buy his 2 PS4 games. You have to really want a telescope in the end. I’m sure any kid, at least I know mine, when they get birthday money, are looking to buy things they want. 



#31 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:17 PM

Kind of true, but unless the kid or young adult wants a telescope, he’s going to buy his 2 PS4 games. You have to really want a telescope in the end.

That was Augustus's point:  finances are NOT what is keeping young people (teens on up) out of astronomy.  They have plenty of money to spend on smartphones and tablets and video games.  What they lack is not the money, but the desire.  And no amount of additional money will fix that issue.


Edited by Diana N, 19 November 2019 - 02:17 PM.

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#32 Jond105

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:18 PM

That was Augustus's point:  finances are NOT what is keeping young people (teens on up) out of astronomy.  They have plenty of money to spend on smartphones and tablets and video games.  What they lack is not the money, but the desire.  And no amount of additional money will fix that issue.

Ahh... ok. Then yes, it is very true. 


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#33 andreww71

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:25 PM

I’m 48 and have two step-children, the oldest - a boy, and the youngest – a girl. My step-son just started his first year at college this past August and his sister is a senior in high school this year. I’ve been in their lives for ten years now and have watched them grow up with all of the modern conveniences and distractions. I won’t paint everyone in their generation with the same brush (yourself and others posting in this thread are proof that there is interest among young people) but I will tell you that neither one has any interest in a hobby like astronomy.  They are both “dominated” by X-box, iPhone, Instagram and WI-FI TV and whatever else is at their fingertips. If they aren’t holding a device in their hands and watching something, it’s sitting next to them at all times. Being plugged in to social media means that they are constantly checking their phone to see what’s new. This “habit” of constantly having to check their device makes it difficult for them to focus on anything else that requires their attention. For them, a hobby like astronomy cannot possibly offer anything even remotely as close to satisfying as their screen.

 

I think that those in the younger generation that are interested in, and participate in this hobby are those who have found a way to step away from all of these “modern conveniences” from time to time and pursue some aspect of the hobby that appeals to them.

 

I joined a local astronomy club in 1990, the year I graduated from high school. I had already been active in the hobby since the early 80’s but joined to get access to people who knew about telescope making. Like others have said, you meet a lot of different types of people in an astronomy club and my experience was no different. Sure, some people struck me as being “stiff” but they were not the norm. A full time job and part time college routine eventually pulled me away from being an active member in the club in the early 2000’s and my participation in the hobby as a whole went dormant for about a decade. I slowly started easing myself back in about 2012 and have been very active since.

 

I’m not currently a member of a club so I can’t comment on how few young people there are attending astronomy club meetings. As far as the cost of equipment is concerned, the club that I used to be a member of has 3 observatories and six telescopes, the largest a 16” full goto Newtonian. Over the years they have accumulated a number of high quality, donated telescopes that members have access to. Someone with limited funds could pay a small annual fee and have access to really big scopes.

 


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#34 Crow Haven

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:25 PM

My interest in space began in early childhood, but I never found anyone else as I grew up that was interested enough to want a telescope.  My parents had no interest in these things, nor neighbors, and very little was introduced about astronomy in school right through high school except a book chapter on the solar system basics.  This was in Novato, California, and plenty of resources available.  So I didn't see the long-term interest from other kids in the 60's-70's even with the lunar missions highlighted. 

 

I don't know why I just stayed interested even though I had to wait until my early 20's in Sacramento, California, to get a telescope (by then I was married and with a young son of 6 yrs old) and find an astronomy club.  I've been a member of 3 astro clubs in different regions of the US (because of USCG transfers), and at least from what I witnessed at each of those back then, they were mainly people in their 30's-70's.  Lots of public star parties and children brought to them but the club membership stayed about the same age-wise.

 

Now in my 60's, I'm still involved in astronomy and telescopes -- as well as restoring classic telescopes occasionally, and tinkering with all types.  I enjoy finding ways to make "cheap" telescopes become usable and have given away many to people who have expressed an interest in observing.  I've just always had these interests and wasn't going to be swayed from them by other kids or adults lack of interest in them.  I think there still are others like me in this way and I think new tech won't hinder others, most likely helping them.

 

As for the long-running forum "discussions" on best scopes, etc.  Well, it seems like these comparisons can have helpful elements, if you can sort through it all...  I just ignore the braggy dubious stuff. lol.gif


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#35 grif 678

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:43 PM

As some have mentioned, I think the true love for this hobby starts as a kid. The kids of yesterday ( us ) grew up when the science fiction age was upon us, talk of space travel, rockets, flying saucers, many science fiction movies. These things will captivate the imagination of a kid, until all these things have proven to be false in most cases. When we were young, we did not have all the distractions that kids today have, cell phones, video games, the science fiction era was for real to us. Now the kids no better, no flying saucers, no aliens, space travel never developed like we thought it would. Things like these were all we had mainly, our imaginations, and that is something that most of the kids now a days do not care about, they know better. It seems that about all that kids ( and many grown ups ) want to do today is have something in their hands so they can text, talk, check on about anything in the world they want to.

Nothing stays the same, but as far as I am concerned, the excitement of those thrilling years are what started the astronomy hobby to begin thriving as it did. The big Sears Christmas Wish Books, with the ads for telescopes, with the kids eyes wide open in awe, things like that meant something to kids back then.


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#36 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:43 PM

They are both “dominated” by X-box, iPhone, Instagram and WI-FI TV and whatever else is at their fingertips. If they aren’t holding a device in their hands and watching something, it’s sitting next to them at all times. Being plugged in to social media means that they are constantly checking their phone to see what’s new. This “habit” of constantly having to check their device makes it difficult for them to focus on anything else that requires their attention. For them, a hobby like astronomy cannot possibly offer anything even remotely as close to satisfying as their screen.

 

I think that those in the younger generation that are interested in, and participate in this hobby are those who have found a way to step away from all of these “modern conveniences” from time to time and pursue some aspect of the hobby that appeals to them.

I think a growing number of people (both young and old) are literally addicted to screens.  Those of us who grew up before the internet can at least remember what life was like before all these devices existed, which helps us detox from them if we wish to do so.  I make a point of taking at least one vacation a year where I will have little or no access to TV or the internet for exactly that reason - I don't want to lose the ability to amuse myself without these devices.  On those vacations, my cellphone is powered off and it stays off until the vacation is over.  No emails, no texting, no surfing the web, no Candy Crush or other games, nada.  But that's not something many younger people will willingly do (at least not for the very first time).


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#37 B l a k S t a r

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 02:58 PM

I'd bet there are many more kids and youts' interested in astronomy today than there has ever been.  Not just due to population increase, but as a percentage overall. Technology has provided many ways of engaging oneself endlessly. I'm doing it now, although I'm a big kid now. 

 

Youtube videos, talks, presentations, NASA, ESA etc a myriad of web sites all in ones pocket. There's also cloudynights.com providing virtually instant messaging.  There's a lot of competition out there now and that is a good thing. We used to call it progress and I'd say in this light that fits nicely. 

 

And turn urn off those blasted lighted sneakers people are trying to observe here, and don't get peanut butter on the eyepiece or knock over the telescope!  It's all good, even the kid sessions if forewarned...


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#38 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 03:13 PM

I'd bet there are many more kids and youts' interested in astronomy today than there has ever been.  Not just due to population increase, but as a percentage overall. Technology has provided many ways of engaging oneself endlessly. I'm doing it now, although I'm a big kid now. 

 

Youtube videos, talks, presentations, NASA, ESA etc a myriad of web sites all in ones pocket. There's also cloudynights.com providing virtually instant messaging.

But none of that necessarily leads to becoming interested in actually using a telescope to either observe or image things in the sky.  Being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration and being an amateur astronomer are two different things.


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#39 Cotts

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 03:16 PM

I'd bet there are many more kids and youts' interested in astronomy today than there has ever been.  Not just due to population increase, but as a percentage overall. Technology has provided many ways of engaging oneself endlessly. I'm doing it now, although I'm a big kid now. 

 

Youtube videos, talks, presentations, NASA, ESA etc a myriad of web sites all in ones pocket. There's also cloudynights.com providing virtually instant messaging.  There's a lot of competition out there now and that is a good thing. We used to call it progress and I'd say in this light that fits nicely. 

 

And turn urn off those blasted lighted sneakers people are trying to observe here, and don't get peanut butter on the eyepiece or knock over the telescope!  It's all good, even the kid sessions if forewarned...

Thanks for the memory...

 

Dave


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#40 Sketcher

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 03:18 PM

There's much in the 9 paragraphs of the initial posting, so I'll respond to (selected parts of) each of those paragraphs.

 

#1 This hobby can be social in nature, as is evident from Internet forums, starparties, etc; but for those not interested in the social aspects, this hobby can be just as enjoyable without social interactions.  None of us know how many of us exist.  None of us know how many young amateur astronomers are actively enjoying the celestial sights.

 

Some of us have plenty of experience being alone in this hobby.  Some of us were active before there was an Internet.  Some of us lived through and survived those times - alone.  Today I'm sociable on CN, but even now, I'm a lone observer.  I don't think I've met a single amateur astronomer, in person, even once in the past decade -- quite possibly in the past two decades.  This is not a social hobby unless one wants to take it in that direction.  There may be far more young astronomers than any of us are aware of.

 

#2  Each of us is an individual.  We're all different.  Yet, some years after that cub scout trip, look where you ended up. smile.gif

 

#3  Speculation, though of course, your speculation may be wholly or partially accurate.  Isolated individuals say nothing about the whole.

 

#4  You likely have more to offer an astronomy club than they have to offer you.  There's no need to be a part of that social atmosphere.  Many of us have never been club members.   You're intelligent enough to succeed without being a club member -- if you want to go in that direction.

 

#5 & #6:  Ahh, the money, the equipment.  I've tried to promote an inexpensive approach to astronomy.  I've posted (on CN) photos of four different telescopes, none more expensive, nor larger, nor better than an ST-80 f/5 Chinese achromat.  Most of the sketches I've posted to CN have been made while using a meager 1-inch aperture.  But I'm growing tired of the constant chatter (on CN) informing others that small, inexpensive telescopes are "hobby killers", wasted money, etc. that one needs both aperture and quality optics; and of course, the only eyepieces worthy of purchase are TVs.  A telescope's tiniest imperfections are of greater significance than all the celestial wonders one can see with it.  "My telescope is bigger/better than your telescope".  In my opinion, social astronomy doesn't necessarily equate to healthy astronomy.

 

#7  Well, if old people are the problem, it won't take long before today's old people get replaced by today's young people.  Then the cycle will repeat.  We're all individuals -- until we join a club or an Internet forum.  Then we're a part of a group and become associated with whatever generalizations that get attached to that group.

 

#8  It's not necessary to draw in new (young) people.  Those with interest will naturally fall in.  I was not drawn into this hobby by a club, a mentor, etc.  My interest developed without contact with anyone who was already in the hobby.  There's no reason that the same cannot happen with others today.  There are many possible paths for people to follow in order to get here.

 

#9  The hobby is alive and thriving.  I don't know which directions the hobby will go in the future, but I'm confident that it is in no danger of dying.


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#41 bunyon

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 03:28 PM

But none of that necessarily leads to becoming interested in actually using a telescope to either observe or image things in the sky.  Being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration and being an amateur astronomer are two different things.

 

It was not always so. Before the surge in interest in DSOs and "pleasure viewing" most people interested in amateur astronomy used their instruments on variable stars, multiple stars and the planets. Scientific contributions are still made by amateurs in these areas and all are accessible to the urban dweller. 

 

It happens that the old folks when today's old folks were young lamented that no one was interested in those three areas anymore and that everyone wanted light buckets and photos. They were scoffed at. 

 

If your measure is that the hobby look like it did in your heyday and that amateurs engage in the activities you did, yes, you will be disappointed. Your version of the hobby, like your version of culture, will die out as your generation does. But there will always be those interested in the sky and the universe and they will do things you couldn't imagine doing just as they will be wowed that  you did what you could. 

 

 

I think Augustus' main point: the disdain of older folks for the young, has been amply demonstrated in this thread. If you want youngsters to engage, you have to engage them. Prejudgment never attracts anyone.


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#42 treadmarks

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 03:37 PM

But none of that necessarily leads to becoming interested in actually using a telescope to either observe or image things in the sky.  Being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration and being an amateur astronomer are two different things.

Please explain the difference between being an amateur astronomer and being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration.



#43 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 04:06 PM

Please explain the difference between being an amateur astronomer and being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration.

You can either have just an interest or obsession with space, and follow events closely, or you can actually have a scope/binos/camera for visual or astrophotography. There's a difference between being interested and actually having it as a hobby. 


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#44 Rocketrat1

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 04:13 PM

I feel like I should contribute my two cents considering I’m by far the youngest astronomer I’ve met. I’m 15, a sophomore in high school, and precede almost everyone in my astronomy club by 30-40 years. 

 

The problem is not phones and devices. I myself are certainly guilty of device addiction, it is a rare occurrence when I am not at least a room away from my phone. However this doesn’t mean that I cannot focus and peruse a hobby. I spend hours tinkering in the garage with my astronomy gear, and spend any clear night out on my roof imaging. One problem is certainly cost, I work a part time job, which something which very few of my peers do. And all of my income goes to astronomy.  Lately I’ve had to stop upgrading equipment in order to save for a car. 

 

Another concern is time. School is harder than ever, and expectations of young adults keep betting higher. I am expected to keep all A’s in multiple college level courses. This leaves almost no time at night to set up and image and still get a good nights sleep. Not to mention the fact that it drives my parents crazy when I stay up until three to image. 

 

I think that this hobby is certainly not dying, it is just much easier for older people to get into it. You don’t have to start when you are young to be a good astronomer. 


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#45 mich_al

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 04:32 PM

Great posts, I loved reading them.

 

In general there is a fracturing of community over the last decades.

Don't believe me read "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putman.

An Academic book where the author looked into declining participation in the community.

Excellent read.

Another good one on that subject, though much less academic is "Party of one - the loners manifesto'

 

https://www.amazon.c...s/dp/1569245134


Edited by mich_al, 19 November 2019 - 04:39 PM.


#46 treadmarks

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 04:46 PM

You can either have just an interest or obsession with space, and follow events closely, or you can actually have a scope/binos/camera for visual or astrophotography. There's a difference between being interested and actually having it as a hobby. 

I don't mean to derail the thread into defining "amateur astronomer," so let me rephrase the question: what are we trying to sell to a prospective young astronomer? Just owning a telescope? Seeing something pretty through a telescope? The intellectual stimulation of learning and greater understanding of the universe? A feeling of accomplishment in the skill of exploring space by using a telescope? etc.

 

I just find a lot of the criticisms of young people being put here to be ironic and funny. They are criticized for being too shallow for amateur astronomy, and then given a very shallow reason to join: you might see something pretty. They are criticized for using their electronic devices too much, and the criticism is being made by someone using an electronic device.


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#47 B l a k S t a r

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 04:54 PM

But none of that necessarily leads to becoming interested in actually using a telescope to either observe or image things in the sky.  Being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration and being an amateur astronomer are two different things.

 

I take your point but also find it interesting that a professional astronomer need not ever have looked through an eyepiece or taken an astro photo. Photons absorbed into your eye is a special experience that has a completely different wonder to viewing an image of Saturn from its orbit, or the Hubble Ultra deep field. The field of astronomy, amateur or professional is ever expanding. I never looked through a telescope until my late 40's but have always been interested in the science. 

 

A part of outreach I don't quite get is the drive to "keep amateur astronomy alive". As was posted above, it will be if one wants it to be. The wonder of sharing a "wow, look at this" moment can stand on its own. 


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#48 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:05 PM

Please explain the difference between being an amateur astronomer and being interested in the science of astronomy and space exploration.

It's the same as being a sports participant versus a sports fan.  If you watch other people play, you are a sports fan, not an active participant.

 

Someone who is interested in astronomy can read astronomy papers and textbooks and popular science books, watch Youtube channels and PBS NOVA specials, regularly check out the NASA website, etc.  That's not the same as actually going outside and observing.  The two activities are related, but they are not the same.


Edited by Diana N, 19 November 2019 - 05:17 PM.

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#49 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:06 PM

I take your point but also find it interesting that a professional astronomer need not ever have looked through an eyepiece or taken an astro photo. Photons absorbed into your eye is a special experience that has a completely different wonder to viewing an image of Saturn from its orbit, or the Hubble Ultra deep field. The field of astronomy, amateur or professional is ever expanding. I never looked through a telescope until my late 40's but have always been interested in the science. 

 

A part of outreach I don't quite get is the drive to "keep amateur astronomy alive". As was posted above, it will be if one wants it to be. The wonder of sharing a "wow, look at this" moment can stand on its own. 

I never got a scope until I was 15, but was fascinated by astronomy for as long as I could remember before. I feel that there is nothing like imaging or seeing an object yourself. For astrophotography, you can proudly say that it is YOUR image, that YOU took it. The fact that I can take pictures of galaxies millions of light years away with just a DSLR is still astounding to many, and was to myself. For visual, even if you may see more detail in a photo, on a screen, there is just nothing like seeing the objects with your own eyes, or finding it yourself. This hobby will not die for a very long time, and I doubt that it's declining by that much either. 


  • Astrojensen, Augustus, geovermont and 1 other like this

#50 Astroman007

Astroman007

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:09 PM

That was Augustus's point:  finances are NOT what is keeping young people (teens on up) out of astronomy.  They have plenty of money to spend on smartphones and tablets and video games.  What they lack is not the money, but the desire.  And no amount of additional money will fix that issue.

I agree.

 

I have thousands tied up in astro gear and thousands more in guitars, altogether amounting roughly to a very nice motorcycle or ATV, but much less than a sports car or bass boat.

 

It's all a matter of choice as to how one spends one's money.




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