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Doing Astronomy as a Job

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#1 rhcrooks

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Posted 28 July 2021 - 11:51 PM

Around 2016 I made a lateral move within my company and started doing work directly related to astronomy (writing mount/ground station control software, building mount models). My recreational interest sagged, as I was devoting so much time (relating to astronomy) to the job. I'm looking to hear from people with similar experiences.

 

How do you maintain your interest recreationally?

 

How do you deal with co-workers that denigrate or minimize your amature experience?

 

 



#2 Sleep Deprived

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 01:13 AM

I cannot respond to an amateur/professional astronomy discussion, but...

 

Growing up, I was a stamp collector.  I went to college, got my degree, went on to grad school, and one day found a help-wanted ad in the stamp-collecting press.  I applied and got the job.  I moved across the country (Seattle to Washington DC) and started a career in a field that I had enjoyed so much as a hobby previously.  My boss told me I would probably end up no longer collecting.  One just cannot do the same thing professionally AND amateur-ly.  In the end, for me, he was right - too much of a good thing can make Sleep Deprived (me) a grumpy person.  I ended up setting aside my collecting while I was in that biz.  A few years later, after working for a couple of small operations that went out of business, I concluded that the stamp biz was not stable enough for me, so I pursued other careers.  I got a good job as a programmer for an aerospace manufacturer (making more money than before) and immediately jumped back into stamp collecting.  And I've never looked back.  I am much happier COLLECTING stamps than buying/selling stamps for a living.  I suspect that if I was in that biz for decades, I would have reverted back to pursuing it as a hobby after I retired.

 

Keep your toe in the hobby's water.  Dabble here and there when it moves you.  Don't force yourself to pursue it - you will end up resenting it if you are at it too much.  Someday, your gig will end, or you will be re-assigned to another, non-astronomy, assignment.  At that time, you may very well miss it and go back to the hobby.  And maybe 'keeping your toe in the water' means that you will have a very robust hobby - the degree to which you pursue the hobby it up to you and your needs/desires.

 

I never ran into anyone in the stamp biz who denigrated my collecting.  I think it is odd that some people can't imagine someone having a personal interest in the field in which they also work.  You might let them know that because you follow the hobby that you have gained skills and insights into the field and made yourself a better worker because of it.  It sounds like they are either jealous, or they REALLY need to get into another field.


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#3 Katharine

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 08:25 AM

Around 2016 I made a lateral move within my company and started doing work directly related to astronomy (writing mount/ground station control software, building mount models). My recreational interest sagged, as I was devoting so much time (relating to astronomy) to the job. I'm looking to hear from people with similar experiences.

 

How do you maintain your interest recreationally?

 

How do you deal with co-workers that denigrate or minimize your amature experience?

Honestly, this was part of the reason my answer back in high school to the question of "are you going to major in music?" was always "No."  I always said I wanted to keep it as something I liked doing, not something I had to do.  Usually it was something like "I don't want to wake up every morning going, 'ugh, I have to do music today.'" 

 

Now, there are people who have a job doing something they love, and they love going to work.  In some cases, maybe they don't mind not doing their interest recreationally because they do it for work and it's practically the same thing; some think of it as getting paid to do a thing they love to do anyway.  I envy them.

 

But for others (I would be one of them), doing the same thing day in and day out, all day every day, for decades, with no choice in the matter, is going to feel like drudgery and I don't want to turn one of my hobbies into drudgery (it sounds counterintuitive I guess to choose something I don't really care about to do all the time and turn into drudgery, but there you go; I guess it's the idea of "ruining" something I formerly enjoyed?  If I'm going to dread going to work, I don't want to have to dread something I used to look forward to, I guess, and it might as well be something I hate anyway). 

 

(And, of course, at work you likely have little choice of what you work on, so if you really want to be observing X and Y, or researching Z, but at work you have to observe A and research B and C, or if you want to be playing this music but have to play that music at work, then it'll be a drag to be too burned out when you get home to want to do any more of whatever-the-thing-is for your actual interest.)


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#4 jcj380

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 08:36 AM

Difficult situation.  I've been a ballroom dancer for quite awhile, but I'd not want to teach it.

 

I'd suggest that if coworkers give you grief, you not discuss your personal activities with them.


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#5 csa/montana

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 09:27 AM

 

I'd suggest that if coworkers give you grief, you not discuss your personal activities with them.

waytogo.gif


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#6 csrlice12

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 10:01 AM

Brian May....Astronomer and musician....which is the job and which is the hobby?   How many here both play and look at the stars?  I just wish I was as good at just one or the other as Brian is...."Hard day at the observatory today, think I'll go play some music with a few thousands of people.


Edited by csrlice12, 29 July 2021 - 10:02 AM.

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#7 rajilina

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 10:24 AM

Graphic designer here. 

 

Designing for a living has completely killed my interest in doing drawing, painting, or design as a hobby. It's just too much. After a 9 hour day of having to be creative, it's the last thing I want to do in my downtime. I don't do any freelance graphic design on the side, either. My brain needs space to recharge and recoup, so I can be effective at my job. Creative jobs can be very intense... clients don't understand that you can't just pump the stuff out, and that you need time to work out design problems and consider how your piece will be understood by the customer. It's not always easy and there's a fair amount of pressure to design the next big thing, and on deadline.

 

I will say, that I do have a very strong natural creative drive and because of this I have several "artistic" hobbies, dressmaking, embroidery, and pysanky, that aren't exactly design focused, but allow me the fun creative side without it correlating too closely to my job. I like to make things with my hands, and there is very little of that in my job. This major difference seems to help these hobbies work for me.

 

Astronomy is so completely different from what I am used to doing that it's fresh, stimulating and fun and a nice way for my brain to switch gears. I absolutely love looking at the stars. I would not want this to ever become job-like; I believe that it would kill it for me as well. I'm even wary of doing too much volunteering at star parties or outreach... I do some, but try to not overdo... because I don't ever want obligation to destroy the magic I feel when I'm alone outside with the universe.


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#8 LDW47

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 11:02 AM

As wiith any 'job', your personal interests, your hobbies, in most cases, should be completely away from your daily routines, your work life  It only makes sense



#9 AstroVPK

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 11:41 AM

I dropped my amateur interest in astronomy while I was doing it professionally. No real reason other than that I was on the East Coast and the closest dark sky was at Cherry Springs SP. I went out there a few times but it was too much of a trip to make with any frequency. Also, as a grad student doing astronomy, one isn't rolling in cash to buy equipment and spend on travel.
My interest in AA has been rekindled by our wonderful dark northern California skies.

During all my time in professional astronomy, no one ever looked down upon my experiences as an amateur. On the contrary, we always joked about some of the people who had never looked (with their own eyes) at the objects that they are experts on...
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#10 AstroVPK

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Posted 29 July 2021 - 11:42 AM

I dropped my amateur interest in astronomy while I was doing it professionally. No real reason other than that I was on the East Coast and the closest dark sky was at Cherry Springs SP. I went out there a few times but it was too much of a trip to make with any frequency. Also, as a grad student doing astronomy, one isn't rolling in cash to buy equipment and spend on travel.
My interest in AA has been rekindled by our wonderful dark northern California skies.

During all my time in professional astronomy, no one ever looked down upon my experiences as an amateur. On the contrary, we always joked about some of the people who had never looked (with their own eyes) at the objects that they are experts on...

#11 Codbear

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Posted 30 July 2021 - 12:50 AM

I had been heavily into observing and learning about astronomy since I was 9, taking a Cosmology course from John Dobson when I was 15, then an Astronomy course at the JC at 16, all pointing towards my desire to major in Astrophysics and become a professional astronomer.

 

My first quarter at UC Berkeley I took Astronomy, Physics and Calculus, acing all three classes...but then out of nowhere it hit me: what if one day I had to do astronomy instead of wanting to? I couldn't bear the thought of that situation coming to fruition. Over winter break I changed my major to Business Administration, but always wondered, "what if..."

 

I think your experience answered my question quite thoroughly, and I feel for you. 

 

As for the denigration you received from coworkers, the joke I heard at Cal was that most Astrophysicists/Astronomy majors had never looked through a telescope and wouldn't even know which end of the scope to look through if they tried!

 

Game, set, match to you!

 

Sam


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#12 Headshot

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Posted 01 August 2021 - 07:57 PM

"How do you deal with co-workers that denigrate or minimize your amateur experience?"

 

I do not deal with them, but I do pity them. Looking at the night sky because you WANT to is a helluva lot different than looking at it because you HAVE to. Of course these days most professionals do not even do that. They stare at computer screens. Usually they are too focused on getting the data they need. Then, of course, their minds are already moving ahead to reducing the data, and then to working up the nice equations that are so necessary to publishing their findings. They miss the grandeur that is up there.

 

Not for me, it got to a point where I did not even want to be inside a dome any longer. Too restrictive. I want to be able to see the moon, stars, planets, the odd meteor, the occasional Northern Lights, in whatever direction I look.

 

I guess one must decide what is important, a sterile scientific paper (that will eventually be forgotten), or remembering a night so clear and crisp that you could almost feel the starlight raining down on you.


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