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Were you a loner in your astronomy interest as a youth

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#1 grif 678

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 02:46 PM

Hi

When I was a kid back in the 50's and early 60's, I had so much enthusiasm and interest in astronomy. Being on a farm in NC, neighbors were far between, and neighbors with kids was farther between. About the only time I saw other kids was during school, so real close friendships were not what a person who lived in town would have. In a small town with a small school, there were only around 25 students in a class. I was kind of by myself in my interests, and I wonder sometimes what the hobby would have become if I had been around others who shared the same hobby.

I never knew another kid who had a telescope, or anyone who seemed to be interested in astronomy. I do remember that our class went to the Morehead Planetarium back in the 60's, and it seemed that I was the only one who was very excited about all the stuff I saw.

Several years later when I reached high school, I took my Gilbert refractor to school to use in our Science Club picture for our year book. I do remember a few of the guys making fun, because they thought my interest was kind of childish in ways, but I still enjoyed it.

I do remember once I was invited to a stay over at one of my class mate's house for his birthday. He never said anything about having a telescope, but they did play a trick on me, because they knew how I was so excited with anything to do with space etc.

That day before I got there ( he lived in town and all the other boys were close by ) they made a UFO out of a ping pong ball with aluminum foil around it, Then they took a small paper plate, and put aluminum foil around that, and shaped it just like a flying saucer. Then they had taken it about a block away into someone else's yard, hung it up in a tree by sewing thread, and had it to where a street light would shine on it. So that night, he got out a telescope ( do not know what kind ) probably a Tasco or something and was looking around. Then he hollered that he had found a flying saucer. Of course I broke my neck getting over there, and I looked at that thing for a while, it looked so real, I thought it was the real thing ( when you are about 9 years old you believe things like this )

To make a long story short, They got a big laugh off of me, and I got ribbed quite a while at school.

So it is kind of remarkable that I kept my interest in astronomy when I was by myself in this hobby.

 

 


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#2 Stellar1

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 02:57 PM

Same here but, it never bothered me at all because my daddy said the other kids joked about it because they can't understand, dad was wise.

 

R.I.P Dad 


Edited by Stellar1, 20 January 2021 - 03:06 PM.

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#3 Binofrac

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:12 PM

Apart from the usual universal male interests I've been on my with most of my hobbies, including astronomy. I grew up in a farm environment and so had to spend a lot of weekend time cleaning out the pigs, herding the sheep, etc. At the time I resented a lot of it. All my school friends on a Monday were excitedly talking about the weekend morning tv and I was pretty much a social outcast through not being allowed to see it. Now of course I really appreciate having had a far better outdoor life than just watching tv. 

 

Even now I still can't persuade my friends to come out on a cold night for some astronomy (they still like the tv). They get as far as liking the idea and really like the shiny technical things but are not keen on the practicality.


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#4 Dynan

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:13 PM

Ummm... Loving things like astronomy, model rocketry, and other scientific interests was WHY I was a loner... lol.gif

 

But who's laughing now that we're all codgers? gramps.gif


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#5 rob1986

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:00 PM

Same her, grew up in the ninties, probably influenced my decision not to major in astronomy, which is a pity because otherwise I would have had breezed through college with something I loved studying
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#6 Sam Danigelis

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:10 PM

Not really, because my older brother and I shared the hobby together.  He was the real astronomer, with a  genuine interest in and knowledge of the constellations, etc.  I was the telescope geek.  Between the two of us, we made it work pretty well.

 

Also, our parents were pretty solidly against most of what TV had to offer in those days, so they encouraged us to have hobbies.  We learned alot thanks to the encouragement of our parents.


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#7 photoracer18

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:41 PM

I lived on a lot of USAF bases as a kid and surprisingly few of my fellow dependents had any kind of optics except binoculars. My dad, in addition to his penchants for the outdoors, had read sci-fi from when it started pretty much so he bought be an Edmund 3" reflector one Christmas when I was in grade school. I did not see another telescope until JHS and The science teacher was an amateur astronomer and got the school to buy an RV-6 and a lot of parts.  Then the HS I went to they actually had an astronomy club. The science teacher was an ATM and had a custom 6" refractor with a Unitron lens assembly and a custom GEM. I had my own RV-6 in those days.


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#8 25585

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:49 PM

Usually. It was only with binoculars and a pocket telescope for viewing but my parents had Observers books & bought me a Planisphere.

 

Hard for the blasé young of today to imagine, but the very first spacecraft from Sputnik on & especially after Yuri Gagarin, baby boomer kids were wowed by any rocket flights.


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#9 bumm

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 08:22 PM

I was never much of a socialite, and none of the friends I had were interested in astronomy.  I probably would've gotten off to a good start earlier if I'd had a mentor, but after my rare but wonderful trips to the planetarium at the University of Nebraska, I'd go out and was never quite sure I was seeing what I was supposed to.  My big break came mainly BECAUSE I was something of a loner...  Sometime in my teens I got into the habit of taking late night walks, maybe sort of disappearing from the world.  It wasn't too long before I began to recognize the recurring patterns in the stars, along with one tiny "puff of smoke" I thought of as Nebraska.  It was then I realized I could learn the real constellations, and I pulled out my old 1957 planisphere I'd had since I was 7, bought a copy of Menzel's Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, and had one of the best times of my life as the constellations fell into place!  And my little puff of smoke "Nebraska" turned out to be the Pleiades!  I've been hopelessly hooked ever since, and it's made my life better!

     I wonder if that revelation and all that I've seen since would ever have taken place without those solitary late night walks?

                                                                                                                                                Marty


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#10 Dynan

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 09:24 PM

In Chicago, we had the great fortune to have the Adler Planetarium, at the end of Acsah Bond Dr.(later renamed Solidarity Dr, for Lech Walesa's efforts in Eastern Europe), a wee bit out into Lake Michigan. 

 

Some of the first images by Edwin Hubble were displayed there as backlit transparent prints. 

 

An amazing array of meteorites were on display...a 600+ pound iron behemoth that was touched by visitors so much that all the edges were shiny.

 

The star shows were beyond description. The Zeiss Star Projector created a wonderland of night skies.

 

They had a mesmerizing telescope mirror grinding shop you could watch through picture windows. The grinding machines were hypnotic. I fell in love with astronomy there, obviously. So I signed up for a place in the mirror shop to make my own telescope.

 

But it was a couple years until they called. By then I had no transportation, and couldn't accept the spot. Many times I cursed that decision, but I was a young lad with no financial resources, and going downtown as often as needed wasn't an option.

 

I had only one friend with the least bit of interest in going there. No one but he knew or could relate to my plight. (He eventually got a Dob and rekindled my astronomy bug decades later.)

 

And the rest is...Cloudy Nights.


Edited by Dynan, 20 January 2021 - 09:53 PM.

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#11 VeraZwicky

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 09:25 PM

It should be said that the hobby of Astronomy attracts introverts. I've been going to astronomy club meetings for decades and I find everyone in the hobby is generally socially awkward or very reserved (however, often quite charming!). 


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#12 VeraZwicky

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 09:34 PM

In Chicago, we had the great fortune to have the Adler Planetarium, at the end of Aksa Bond Dr., a wee bit out into Lake Michigan. 

 

Some of the first images by Edwin Hubble were displayed there as backlit transparent prints. 

 

An amazing array of meteorites were on display...a 600+ pound iron behemoth that was touched by visitors that all the edges were shiny.

 

The star shows were beyond description. The Zeiss Star Projector created a wonderland of night skies.

 

They had a mesmerizing telescope mirror grinding shop you could watch through picture windows. The grinding machines were hypnotic. I fell in love with astronomy there, obviously. So I signed up for a place in the mirror shop to make my own telescope.

 

But it was a couple years until they called. By then I had no transportation, and couldn't accept the spot. Many times I cursed that decision, but I was a young lad with no financial resources, and going downtown as often as needed wasn't an option.

 

I had only one friend with the least bit of interest in going there. No one but he knew or could relate to my plight. (He eventually got a Dob and rekindled my astronomy bug decades later.)

 

And the rest is...Cloudy Nights.

I love this. I grew up in Chicago; the Adler is a treasure. To be honest, I thought they didn't invest in the displays as much as they should. The permanent exhibits seemed to always be a little dusty and dated. But that whole building has a really special vibe to it. 


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#13 Dynan

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 09:51 PM

I love this. I grew up in Chicago; the Adler is a treasure. To be honest, I thought they didn't invest in the displays as much as they should. The permanent exhibits seemed to always be a little dusty and dated. But that whole building has a really special vibe to it. 

Do you remember the name of the 'isthmus' drive before they dedicated it to Lech Walesa's 'Solidarity Movement'?

I can't find it anywhere...looking for the correct spelling...such memories.

 

The dust and patina just added to the mystery and attraction of the place to me...

 

EDIT: Found it: ACSAH BOND DRIVE (Corrected it above)

 

(Wow, am I old... gramps.gif )


Edited by Dynan, 20 January 2021 - 09:54 PM.

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#14 VeraZwicky

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 09:59 PM

Do you remember the name of the 'isthmus' drive before they dedicated it to Lech Walesa's 'Solidarity Movement'?

I can't find it anywhere...looking for the correct spelling...such memories.

 

The dust and patina just added to the mystery and attraction of the place to me...

 

EDIT: Found it: ACSAH BOND DRIVE (Corrected it above)

 

(Wow, am I old... gramps.gif )

I didn't know about that dedication. Very interesting. My family is Polish and I spent a lot of time in the community on Milwaukee ave. That isthmus is such a grand view of the city. 


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#15 brentknight

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 10:17 PM

Astronomy seems like the perfect hobby for a loner.  My 12 year old daughter has the right stuff (she stays up all hours of the night), but she's not much interested in astronomy...yet.

 

In my early college years I had a couple friends who liked to observer with me.  Those memories are some of my favorites.  When we occasionally get together these days (40 years later) we joke and kid about them.  One of my old observing buddies actually works on the same Navy base as I do (but he's retiring this year).  I feel like I was lucky for those good times.

 

I'm actually more of a loner astronomer these days, but everyone I work with or who really knows me knows that I'm a astronomy nut...


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#16 Voyager 3

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 12:42 AM

Whenever I see new eye-candy DSOs , I call up my dad he shows much enthusiasm! And sometimes this drives away my feelings of loneliness but sure there's not much to feel about it ... And stellar 1 , dad's are wise ! Live long dad flowerred.gif .


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#17 epee

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 08:27 AM

I'm a bit of a loner by nature. That was more true in my youth than it is now.


Edited by epee, 21 January 2021 - 08:28 AM.

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#18 erick86

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:44 AM

Hiking, running, & observing -- I definitely don't count on having partners for as often as I like to get out.  Otherwise I would get out maybe once a month instead of 3x a week. 

 

As a kid, I didn't know anyone else that was interested in astronomy.  I started going to the local astronomy club when I was a mid teenager and was probably the youngest member by 30 or 40 years.  

 

Now though we see a definite growing interest in astronomy among youth.  It is important to foster that interest and make space for them to become an integral part of the community.  


Edited by erick86, 21 January 2021 - 10:45 AM.

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#19 Augustus

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:22 AM

I was for a while, but now I have a few friends who are into it (albeit not all as obsessed as I am, and most rather far away). One has interned at JPL and works on satellite software in addition to observing with a 4" Dob and the scopes at her university. Another is presently building a 17.5" Dob, works on satellite hardware at her university, and shoots a lot of astrophotos. Another hunts for supernovae and made his own 6" f/2.9 primary mirror and astrograph

 

Along with that, I'm in touch with a lot of folks my age who take beautiful astrophotos and post them on Instagram, though I don't know them nearly as well as the three friends I've mentioned.


Edited by Augustus, 21 January 2021 - 11:29 AM.

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#20 alphatripleplus

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 01:29 PM

I used to go to a monthly club meeting when I was a youth, but everyone was much older. The first time I was around youngsters interested in astronomy was at college. We had a surprisingly large astronomical society, access to guest speakers, and telescopes to observe - great times.


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#21 Arcticpaddler

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 02:43 PM

I have no idea why I got hooked on astronomy at such an early age (age 8, late 1960s), but it must have had something to do with the Apollo Space Program.

 

Astronomy has always been a solitary endeavor for me, and I have never met anyone with a similar interest or observing skill level as myself--although here online there many.  No such thing back in the day.  Sky and Telescope magazine was my connection to the world of astronomy, and a source of info on meteor showers, comets, and DSOs currently visible.  HA Rey's "The Stars: a new way to see them", Menzel's "Field Guide to the Stars and Planets", and the Skalnate Pleso "Atlas of the Heavens" were my tutors.  Early on, I didn't fully understand a lot of it, but as I grew older and observed more, starting with a cheap 60mm refractor and a pair of 10x50 binoculars, I greatly improved lol.

 

My peers and family members had little interest in astronomy, so becoming a solo observer was the only way.  No problem for me, because I never minded observing alone--whether it be from my parents' backyard in Minneapolis, on Boy Scout camping trips to remote areas, or the very rural places I've lived for most of my adult life.

 

I like sharing views at the telescope--you know, bright, easy objects like the moon, planets, brighter clusters--but few casual observers really know HOW to view dimmer DSOs through a scope, as this is a skill that requires time, practice and patience.

 

Sitting alone at the telescope late at night, hunting down dim galaxies, while listening to the radio is something I really enjoy.  And I'm lucky to have a dark sky right out my door.


Edited by Arcticpaddler, 21 January 2021 - 02:52 PM.

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#22 grif 678

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 03:15 PM

I really like the responses to this thread. Hope more of you will share.


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#23 russell23

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 07:25 PM

Yes.  None of my friends were interested - although I did get them to look through my 10” Coulter dob one time.  


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#24 Vesper818

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 08:10 PM

I was a loner, lived in a rural subdivision far from school, and interested in astronomy, archeology, plants and ecosystems. Funds were too dear in a large family for a telescope and microscope.
Years sleeping out on the back lawn and scouring the Sky observers Guide taught me the seasons, constellations, phases of the moon, and to love the music of the spheres.
The girls at parochial school just thought I was quiet, weird but probably smart. The boys left me alone, except a couple nerdy types posing enough questions to satisfy them I knew something about chosen fields of interest.
Later years produced a young stargazing companion in my son,and together we built a small copyscope refractor and saw deeper. We have shared occasional observing sessions over the phone sometimes after he grew up and moved away, but he lives 1000 miles away. My husband, though encouraging my vices, has no interest in the natural sky. So a star-loner most of my life.

The internet is a gift to the likes of us. We can meet those with identical cherished persuits, and exchange ideas without getting tonguetied in person.
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#25 paul

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:04 PM

It is not surprising how similar most of these posts are.

My story is not much different. I was alone in my astro interests as a kid until middle school. I had 2 teachers that were   astronomers and took an interest in my hobby. Unfortunately I had science class with one of them in 9th grade along with the 2 hottest girls in my school. He would always call on me for the answers in class .. The girls were not impressed...

I am still mostly a solitary observer. but I have found I really enjoy being with people at star parties. 


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