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Why Aren't There More Young Astronomers?

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#51 Astroman007

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:10 PM

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.

At least the subject matter of astronomy is real...unlike that of video games.



#52 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:17 PM

At least the subject matter of astronomy is real...unlike that of video games.

Video games are a form of entertainment just like tv and books. There are fans who are only interested in reading their favorite books, watching their favorite movies/shows, or playing their favorite video games. It's all the same thing. Right now with new technology I don't see a problem, because there have always been people who didn't like to go outside, ever since entertainment was made available for which they didn't have to go outside. I will admit, I spend way too much time playing video games, but I greatly enjoy this hobby and would choose a clear night out with the scope or imaging over video games any time. 


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#53 Jond105

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:45 PM

Topic guys.... let’s go back to it. 


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#54 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:47 PM

Video games are a form of entertainment just like tv and books. There are fans who are only interested in reading their favorite books, watching their favorite movies/shows, or playing their favorite video games. It's all the same thing. Right now with new technology I don't see a problem, because there have always been people who didn't like to go outside, ever since entertainment was made available for which they didn't have to go outside. I will admit, I spend way too much time playing video games, but I greatly enjoy this hobby and would choose a clear night out with the scope or imaging over video games any time. 

And that makes you increasingly an exception to the rule.  But the reason most people (young or old) choose differently is twofold:  there are a LOT more entertainment options available today than there were in the past, and light pollution has dulled the natural magnificence of the night sky.  It's hard to get people excited about going outdoors and looking up at a sky so washed-out that the Milky Way is completely invisible; it's even harder when that washed-out sky is competing with thousands of TV channels, streaming services, websites, gaming sites, etc.

 

Some will still find their way into visual observing or astrophotography, but I expect that number to be a smaller percentage in the future.  (In contrast, I can see the interest in space science increasing down the road as more missions both manned and unmanned are sent to distant targets, and as more orbital and very large terrestrial telescopes are deployed.)


Edited by Diana N, 19 November 2019 - 09:17 PM.

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#55 Augustus

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:48 PM

Honestly, this conversation literally exemplifies exactly the kind of stuff I have been pointing out as the problem. For every one of the great folks like many whom have commented on this post, there are several people like Astroman and Chuck who turn countless people off to the hobby. Case and point.

 

Sure, but that's a pretty facile attribute on which to base a hobby. Grass is real too. Should we start a hobby around watching grass grow? And conversely, are you suggesting no one should watch television, movies, or read books because they're not real?

 

That said, and to be fair, I am sympathetic to the idea that a selling point of visual astronomy with a telescope is "real." It is one of the main reasons I do it. However, I am entirely unsympathetic to the idea of attacking other hobbies on that basis.

Well said.


Edited by Augustus, 19 November 2019 - 05:48 PM.

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#56 Jond105

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 05:49 PM

Locked for moderating



#57 Jond105

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 06:39 PM

Going to unlock for now. Please remember to always follow the TOS at all times here on CN
 

 

Be Polite

Be Tolerant

Respect other members


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#58 Diana N

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 06:48 PM

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.

That's a very interesting question.  I'm hoping to encourage the latter two (especially the final one on your list), although I'm also happy if I also inspire a deeper interest in science in general (even if that ends up being in a field other than astronomy) or a feeling of being more powerfully connected to the natural world.


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#59 Astroman007

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 06:52 PM

An interest in science came first for me, then the selection of astronomy as a specialty.

 

I have always felt a powerful connection to the natural world in general.



#60 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 06:58 PM

An interest in science came first for me, then the selection of astronomy as a specialty.

 

I have always felt a powerful connection to the natural world in general.

Same for me, and I believe that a lack of interest in science in general may also be part of the problem here. 


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#61 Astroman007

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 07:02 PM

Same for me, and I believe that a lack of interest in science in general may also be part of the problem here. 

True.

 

And not just a lack of interest in any science, but in true science...what we so sorely lack today, with pseudoscience on the uprise.


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#62 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 07:06 PM

True.

 

And not just a lack of interest in any science, but in true science...what we so sorely lack today, with pseudoscience on the uprise.

Honestly I don't see most of it being too much of a problem. I agree that it needs to be addressed, but there will always be idiots, there will always be those who disagree with anything you say, no matter how obvious it may seem. 


Edited by csa/montana, 20 November 2019 - 11:00 AM.

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#63 jgraham

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 08:41 PM

I remember a time a but over 40 years ago when juniors (under age 18) out numbered the adult members of the local astronomy club. The hobby has changed a lot since then. Indeed, I have seen several epochs come'n go in the 57 years that I have been an active amateur astronomer. The short answer as to why there may be fewer young amateur astronomer is simply that times change. Interests come'n go. Hobbies in general seem to be in decline. A while back I heard an interesting thought; boredom is an important part of the creative process. We have so much filling our time these days that quality boredom is hard to come by. Whether or not that's a 'problem' who can say. Times change. One thing that I can say is that I have yet to attend a slow outreach event. I specialize in engaging young children and families with young children and we always have a great time. We may not 'make' any young astronomers, but if I leave a young child with a sense of wonder at the night time sky, then I feel that it was time well spent.

 

Enjoy!


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#64 Space Ant

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Posted 19 November 2019 - 08:53 PM

I remember a time a but over 40 years ago when juniors (under age 18) out numbered the adult members of the local astronomy club. The hobby has changed a lot since then. Indeed, I have seen several epochs come'n go in the 57 years that I have been an active amateur astronomer. The short answer as to why there may be fewer young amateur astronomer is simply that times change. Interests come'n go. Hobbies in general seem to be in decline. A while back I heard an interesting thought; boredom is an important part of the creative process. We have so much filling our time these days that quality boredom is hard to come by. Whether or not that's a 'problem' who can say. Times change. One thing that I can say is that I have yet to attend a slow outreach event. I specialize in engaging young children and families with young children and we always have a great time. We may not 'make' any young astronomers, but if I leave a young child with a sense of wonder at the night time sky, then I feel that it was time well spent.

 

Enjoy!

And I'm the only junior in my astronomy club. Well I think that there are young astronomers out there, but they may not necessarily be that active in clubs and outreach. 


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#65 treadmarks

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 10:19 AM

That's a very interesting question.  I'm hoping to encourage the latter two (especially the final one on your list), although I'm also happy if I also inspire a deeper interest in science in general (even if that ends up being in a field other than astronomy) or a feeling of being more powerfully connected to the natural world.

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.


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#66 andreww71

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 10:31 AM

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. 

Rocketrat1,

 

You make a very valid point that I have seen first-hand – the emphasis on grades is such a priority in society today that some kids are spending hours each night doing homework. This is exactly the situation my step-daughter was in last year. She would regularly spend 3 – 4 hours a night working on homework, leaving little time for anything else. 

 

I agree that you don’t have to start young either. When I was in the astronomy club I met many people who only had a casual interest in astronomy when they were young but decided much later in life that they wanted to pursue the hobby. It’s never too late…

 

I commend you and the other young people in this thread for engaging in this hobby even with all of the other responsibilities you have to attend to on a day to day basis.


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#67 Astroman007

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 10:42 AM

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.

Very well said, all of it.



#68 andreww71

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 10:42 AM

Honestly, this conversation literally exemplifies exactly the kind of stuff I have been pointing out as the problem. For every one of the great folks like many whom have commented on this post, there are several people like Chuck who turn countless people off to the hobby. Case and point.

Augustus,

 

I understand your frustration with the situation that you describe about the president of your local club not being a great ambassador for the hobby. Obviously in your example if a young person’s introduction to the hobby is interacting with “Chuck” then the chances of them coming back for further discussion was unlikely. My own club experience was different in that I had already cultivated my interested in the hobby well before joining. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another club member or members to keep my interest in the hobby. That being said I really never came across someone like Chuck so I consider myself fortunate.

 

From reading this thread I think that beyond just having an interest Astronomy / Space in general, Time and Money are the two universal factors that most young people have to balance to get into and maintain their interest in the hobby. I think most would agree that having a mentor in the hobby is a huge benefit to anyone starting out.

 

Lastly, I agree with other members who have posted here and think that if someone could walk out their front door and see the night sky in its full grandeur, interest in viewing and exploring the night sky would most certainly increase!


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#69 csa/montana

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 11:13 AM

 

 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.

I do hope that this is not the message our younger members are getting; that the older folks show disdain for them!  I'm probably the oldest here on this forum, and I think the more younger members we get, the better the site, and the membership will be.  There's always the assumption that the older generations can/should teach the younger ones.  However, open our eyes, the younger generations have much to teach us oldsters, if we simply listen! 

 

Judging from this thread, we have several young members here.  Let's encourage & listen to them!


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#70 Forward Scatter

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 11:31 AM

Growing up in the '60s, there was always an oddball 1% of young people interested in astronomy, and science in general. Football ruled where I grew up: junior high, high school, college and AFL/NFL. Didn't really matter as long as it was FOOTBALL. "Sciency" things meant one was a wimp with glasses or a girly-boy. There were more philatelists than amateur astronomers then.

 

I bet the percentage nowadays interested in astro/science is almost identical in light of other popular cultural proclivities, with the astro-inclined young people still considered to be "weird".

 

As there are so few of us, it becomes very tribal and insular. One turn-off of belonging to a club has always been those with fancier scopes sniffing around my modest rig and walking away with their noses in the air, recapitulating real life. Not exactly welcoming. So we find other avenues to enjoy our hobby that are not connected to joining some org.


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#71 Diana N

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 12:04 PM

Lastly, I agree with other members who have posted here and think that if someone could walk out their front door and see the night sky in its full grandeur, interest in viewing and exploring the night sky would most certainly increase!

Darker skies also decrease both the Tme and Money issues.  A person who can see a lot with a small (and therefore inexpensive) telescope right in their back yard can easily fit more observing time in than someone who has to drive a long distance to get to dark skies or who has to buy a large, expensive scope to see even the brightest DSOs from their yard.


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#72 Diana N

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 12:06 PM

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.

You sell it to them by exposing them to it (especially when they are younger).  No, not everyone who gets quality time in unspoiled nature will become a nature lover, but few who don't get that exposure ever will.

 

As a rule, we only come to love what we know.


Edited by Diana N, 20 November 2019 - 12:07 PM.

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#73 EJN

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 12:28 PM

I am transitioning from middle age to grumpy old fart.

Get off my lawn.*







* The above was intended as satire/sarcasm/humor.
If you did not see the satire/sarcasm/humor,
please seek immediate medical attention.
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#74 Ronny aka Jubei69

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 01:11 PM

This is the easy cop out answer, but electronic devices = immediate now satisfaction...



#75 EverlastingSky

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 02:49 PM

Years of reading similar discussion threads as this have taught me that there is no problem. No shortage of younger people interested in astronomy. They just don't show up at astronomy clubs. They learn quietly on their own. (I've never been to any astro clubs or star parties either... I would never dream of it!)

 

Astronomy finds its own disciples. A small number of curious inquisitive persons of all kinds are drawn inexplicably towards the sky for a multitude of reasons. Just because young people are not gathered together in crowds at a club meeting... doesn't mean they are not out there. In fact I suspect there are more of them than ever before. Each busy pursuing the interest in their own way. 


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