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Exploring the Universe - Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise

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#26 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 15 August 2022 - 01:57 PM

Thank you for your wonderful and personal essay. As a later life retired foray, back into a once frustrated and failed (pre internet rich 1980’s) Astronomy experience, I have been mentally struggling in finding the Goldilocks equipment just right for me.

 

Two years of isolating with home hobbies, while avoiding Covid, left me craving camaraderie, and outdoor activity. This led me to CN, active involvement with my local Astronomy club (Los Angeles Astronomically Society), and a third or more hand 8” Dob. These all have yielded a wealth of knowledge and enjoyment for the past 7 months

 

I have once again found myself “cutting my teeth” while entering this hobby. “NightWatch” by Terence Dickinson, CN deep diving, and my club activities have given me a basic fundamental knowledge of (and success with) Astronomy, which I totally lacked after my first telescopic endeavors in the 80’s. My Dob has given me a whole other skill set and educational experience into what I want and don’t want from my future equipment.

 

Your article and the many insightful following comments seemed to have channeled and put voice to my internal struggle with size, difficulty to transport-maneuver, viewing and aging eyesight. I don’t have all the solid answers yet, but I feel this thread has definitely led me further along the path to selecting that almost “just right” next scope. Let’s just hope that this isn’t the starting tumble into the throngs of the dreaded “GAS.” Yet at this point in life that too could be an enjoyable journey. 

Thank you for the kind comments. I love this hobby, and equally as much...Cloudy Nights, for giving us all a means to hang out "virtually" together. 


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#27 jtomney

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Posted 22 August 2022 - 11:03 AM

Great essay that certainly connected with me on several levels. While not quite the DIY guy I've also created a dolly similar to what's in your photo to allow me to wheel the scope from the garage and easily set up for observing. Your current set-up looks very sweet indeed, hope you have many enjoyable evenings out there, regardless of the light pollution.


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#28 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 22 August 2022 - 12:29 PM

Great essay that certainly connected with me on several levels. While not quite the DIY guy I've also created a dolly similar to what's in your photo to allow me to wheel the scope from the garage and easily set up for observing. Your current set-up looks very sweet indeed, hope you have many enjoyable evenings out there, regardless of the light pollution.

You as well. Thanks. 



#29 Zbig

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Posted 22 August 2022 - 03:19 PM

Very nice essay. 

I also watched landing of Apollo 11 as a live TV transmission. As a 14 years old living in Eastern Block country I realized then that the true scientific and technical progress is on the other side of Atlantic.

The words from the title "... Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise" reminded me words of Klaus Baader when I visited him some 15 years ago: "Each telescope has its own sky". No matter the scope - it is an internal imperative which truly drives this hobby.


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#30 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 22 August 2022 - 03:39 PM

Very nice essay. 

I also watched landing of Apollo 11 as a live TV transmission. As a 14 years old living in Eastern Block country I realized then that the true scientific and technical progress is on the other side of Atlantic.

The words from the title "... Size Matters But it's Always a Compromise" reminded me words of Klaus Baader when I visited him some 15 years ago: "Each telescope has its own sky". No matter the scope - it is an internal imperative which truly drives this hobby.

Thank you. For the perspective from the other side of the world too. smile.gif

This hobby is truly a "universal" one...bigger than any of us, no matter where on Earth we find ourselves. 


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 22 August 2022 - 03:40 PM.


#31 Curacao52

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Posted 24 August 2022 - 07:48 AM

This article is well written and very appealing.  It brings back my own memories as a teenager with my first scope as a 12 year old in Philadelphia.  I too was wowed with my first views of Jupiter and Saturn.  What followed was a life-long interest in Astronomy. I never knew then I would eventually get a Masters Degree in Astronomy.  At 70, I am now involved in several outreach activities with my local astronomy club.  I still love to hear the "wows" when people see Saturn for the first time. 

 

Like the author my journey in Astronomy has been a good one.  After several scopes and living in many locations, some overseas, Astronomy has been a significant part of my life. It has helped define, "who I am"    What a wonderful lifelong hobby we have! 


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#32 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 24 August 2022 - 09:14 AM

This article is well written and very appealing.  It brings back my own memories as a teenager with my first scope as a 12 year old in Philadelphia.  I too was wowed with my first views of Jupiter and Saturn.  What followed was a life-long interest in Astronomy. I never knew then I would eventually get a Masters Degree in Astronomy.  At 70, I am now involved in several outreach activities with my local astronomy club.  I still love to hear the "wows" when people see Saturn for the first time. 

 

Like the author my journey in Astronomy has been a good one.  After several scopes and living in many locations, some overseas, Astronomy has been a significant part of my life. It has helped define, "who I am"    What a wonderful lifelong hobby we have! 

Thank you. 

 

I was fortunate to been given a private tour of the Yerkes and few years ago. I was doing some murals at the Geneva Lake History Museum. Jim Gee (the director of the Yerkes) was also a board member of the museum. He had stopped in one day while I was painting and we struck up a conversation about astronomy. I told him one of the things I wanted to do while I was there working at the museum was taking a break and visiting the Yerkes (not knowing who he was at the time).

 

He gave me a tour of a lifetime, showing me things visitors never get to see. He even gave me a brass bookend from the old library (and I saw many things, archived to the attic...a large, hand made globe of Mars sitting in a brass and wooden stand created by some astronomer in history). The attic alone was like an astronomy history museum. I got to sit at the same desk, in the same chair, in the same office that Carl Sagan, Einstein ( and so many others) used. I just sat there and closed my eyes, imagining the things they might have been working on.

 

I also got to meet the Yerkes engineer working in the basement R&D department. He engineered parts for NASA (the Hubble, automated domes in Antarctica, etc). When I first met him, he was painting a bookshelf in the hallway, which we had a good laugh over because he showed me a cryogenic infrared camera for NASA he was building at the time. So I had the privilege to actually touch a camera NASA hadn't even seen yet. 

 

Later, as we were walking down a hallway, we ran into a lady who was one of the professional astronomers that worked there. She had a PhD in astronomy and her research was in NEO's (Near Earth Objects) and she invited me to do some AP with her that evening as she wanted to test out the newly restored and installed 4 ft. mirror in the reflector in the giant dome opposite end of the famous refractor (that's a whole 'nother story). Of course I said Yes! She had issues connecting her computer to the giant reflector, and needed to also get it online with other observatories around the world (so they all could communicate and share info...imagine the movie "Contact" where they all share data to confirm sightings). I just happened to also be a network admin in IT. I got it all hooked up and running for her. We took many photos that got sent down to the basement computers for analysis. My name is on all the digital photographic plates of everything we photographed and given credit for them. cool.gif

 

Interestingly, the lady I spent doing AP with (I wish I could remember her name) had only one scope she used personally. A Meade ETX125 (of all scopes). I guess when you have access to the 4 ft. Reflector at the Yerkes every night you don't really need much more, huh? grin.gif

 

I don't think I've ever had such an amazing experience as that day and night. I spent the entire day with my jaw wide open in disbelief, eyes as big as a child in a giant toy store. All day, I felt like pinching myself to know for sure the things I got to see and do were real. A dream come true. I am so grateful for everyone there who allowed me to have that Yerkes experience. bow.gif 

I'm envious of those who are actually professional astronomers. Although most I have met said they do more math than actual observing. 


Edited by MarkMittlesteadt, 24 August 2022 - 09:17 AM.


#33 DNA7744

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Posted 24 August 2022 - 10:19 AM

Wow, great read!  This was my exact journey.  My wife purchased a ETX 90 as a birthday gift, and I loved that scope.  Over the years I bought and sold and upgraded to the ETX 105, then the ETX 125...then, like you bought and sold so many scopes over the years I could have stocked a store.  I went up and up in aperture, until my back hurt!  Then started slimming down...to eventually my 2 current scopes...an 8" dobson and a 12" dobson. And thank goodness for the wonderful smart phones.  I can capture fantastic pics of the moon and planets...and some of the brighter nebula's in the night sky.  I couldn't be happier!  Thanks for bringing back those memories of my journey.


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#34 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 24 August 2022 - 10:42 AM

Wow, great read!  This was my exact journey.  My wife purchased a ETX 90 as a birthday gift, and I loved that scope.  Over the years I bought and sold and upgraded to the ETX 105, then the ETX 125...then, like you bought and sold so many scopes over the years I could have stocked a store.  I went up and up in aperture, until my back hurt!  Then started slimming down...to eventually my 2 current scopes...an 8" dobson and a 12" dobson. And thank goodness for the wonderful smart phones.  I can capture fantastic pics of the moon and planets...and some of the brighter nebula's in the night sky.  I couldn't be happier!  Thanks for bringing back those memories of my journey.

Thanks! And you're welcome. It's why I wrote it. I think sometimes we may forget what inspired us to take up this wonderful hobby. 



#35 kbart0791

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Posted 01 September 2022 - 03:02 PM

Very nice piece.   I can completely identify with the passion when I was younger (12-18 yrs old).  I was very fortunate to grow up in an area that had very little light pollution.  I lived in south east Louisiana pretty much on the mouth of the Mississippi river.  Since it was a good bit west of New Orleans  I had very little if any light pollution with the Gulf of Mexico due south of me, and no large cities to my north and east.  I lived about 40 minutes east of New Orleans so there was a little bit of glow from the city but not much.  By the bortle scale I would say it was a 1 with My western view being no more than a 3.  My views of the summer constellations to the east and south of me with the milky way were awe inspiring..  I still remember those quite nights.  I was very lucky to have had the chance to view the wonders of the night sky the way I did back in the 80's and early 90's.  A glance at the bortle scale now shows the area that I grew up in coming in at 4-5.  

 

Thanks goodness I was saved from the cheap apartment store telescope curse.  I owe it to my dad for going to a local camera shop and asking what would be a good beginners scope for me.  The store owner sole my dad a Jason 60 mm refractor on a GEM with slow hand controls.  Words could never express how amazed I was at Jupiters belts, moons, and My first view of Saturn.  I treasured many nights of observing until 3 to 4 in the morning.  That little scope trained me to see details that some people did not ever see when they start out with larger instruments.  However,  I eventually developed aperture fever at 16 years old and upgraded to Coulters 8" inch.  I was blown away by the Orion Nebula and other DSO's.  As I matured in the hobby I realized how important quality optics were for telescopes.  So I ended up using D and G Optical to configure a 8inch F/12 mirror, and I built a wooden frame  and mount.  It was then I realized how much I was missing with the cheaper 8inch mass produced mirror.  I had so many nights being blown away with the planets and DSO's.  I definitely  got my fill and saw just about as much as I could see on those peaceful nights on my sidewalk.

 

Over time life happened and I just did not have the time to enjoy the night sky like I did in my teens.  My homemade 8 inch was put in storage and did not get used again until the famous Mars Opposition  that happened in 2003 and 2005.  I had children by then, and my son to this day still remembers watching the Mars polar cap shrinking and disappearing as the Martian seasons changed.  It was a special time that I will never forget sharing my passion with my oldest son.  Then again, life happened and my 8 inch went into storage. 

 

Fast forward 30 years and moved to another state the old passion I had reignited again.  I still have the 8 inch F12 mirror and diagonal, but I decided I wanted to see more.  To make it worth it, I ended up with a C14.  Again, the views I have had of the planets and globular clusters are just amazing.  The scope with the CGX-L mount takes about as much time to set up as my old 8 inch did.  Like you, as I have gotten older.. in my 50's I tend to tire out and can't pull the all night sessions like when I was younger.  I guess I am lucky that I am still able to lug around the mount and throw the C14 up over my shoulders to move and set up.  I enjoy taking the telescope out in public and listening to the wows when people get to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn's rings for the first time, as well as things like M13.  All of the viewing still brings me back to my youth and the passion I had as a newbie.  I will say that starting small has made me appreciate the capabilities of a larger telescope. For now I seem ok lugging this monster telescope and mount around because the views are worth it to me.  Astronomy for me is like a true and rare friend that has stood by me through life, even when I left it from time to time.


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#36 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 01 September 2022 - 03:40 PM

Very nice piece.   I can completely identify with the passion when I was younger (12-18 yrs old).  I was very fortunate to grow up in an area that had very little light pollution.  I lived in south east Louisiana pretty much on the mouth of the Mississippi river.  Since it was a good bit west of New Orleans  I had very little if any light pollution with the Gulf of Mexico due south of me, and no large cities to my north and east.  I lived about 40 minutes east of New Orleans so there was a little bit of glow from the city but not much.  By the bortle scale I would say it was a 1 with My western view being no more than a 3.  My views of the summer constellations to the east and south of me with the milky way were awe inspiring..  I still remember those quite nights.  I was very lucky to have had the chance to view the wonders of the night sky the way I did back in the 80's and early 90's.  A glance at the bortle scale now shows the area that I grew up in coming in at 4-5.  

 

Thanks goodness I was saved from the cheap apartment store telescope curse.  I owe it to my dad for going to a local camera shop and asking what would be a good beginners scope for me.  The store owner sole my dad a Jason 60 mm refractor on a GEM with slow hand controls.  Words could never express how amazed I was at Jupiters belts, moons, and My first view of Saturn.  I treasured many nights of observing until 3 to 4 in the morning.  That little scope trained me to see details that some people did not ever see when they start out with larger instruments.  However,  I eventually developed aperture fever at 16 years old and upgraded to Coulters 8" inch.  I was blown away by the Orion Nebula and other DSO's.  As I matured in the hobby I realized how important quality optics were for telescopes.  So I ended up using D and G Optical to configure a 8inch F/12 mirror, and I built a wooden frame  and mount.  It was then I realized how much I was missing with the cheaper 8inch mass produced mirror.  I had so many nights being blown away with the planets and DSO's.  I definitely  got my fill and saw just about as much as I could see on those peaceful nights on my sidewalk.

 

Over time life happened and I just did not have the time to enjoy the night sky like I did in my teens.  My homemade 8 inch was put in storage and did not get used again until the famous Mars Opposition  that happened in 2003 and 2005.  I had children by then, and my son to this day still remembers watching the Mars polar cap shrinking and disappearing as the Martian seasons changed.  It was a special time that I will never forget sharing my passion with my oldest son.  Then again, life happened and my 8 inch went into storage. 

 

Fast forward 30 years and moved to another state the old passion I had reignited again.  I still have the 8 inch F12 mirror and diagonal, but I decided I wanted to see more.  To make it worth it, I ended up with a C14.  Again, the views I have had of the planets and globular clusters are just amazing.  The scope with the CGX-L mount takes about as much time to set up as my old 8 inch did.  Like you, as I have gotten older.. in my 50's I tend to tire out and can't pull the all night sessions like when I was younger.  I guess I am lucky that I am still able to lug around the mount and throw the C14 up over my shoulders to move and set up.  I enjoy taking the telescope out in public and listening to the wows when people get to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn's rings for the first time, as well as things like M13.  All of the viewing still brings me back to my youth and the passion I had as a newbie.  I will say that starting small has made me appreciate the capabilities of a larger telescope. For now I seem ok lugging this monster telescope and mount around because the views are worth it to me.  Astronomy for me is like a true and rare friend that has stood by me through life, even when I left it from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your story! Very interesting. Yeah...life happens. :) Glad you can keep it going.


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#37 Suburban_Dad

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Posted 02 September 2022 - 12:16 PM

Thanks


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#38 James1234

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Posted 13 September 2022 - 06:56 AM

Thanks for your sharing.

I am a novice and want to buy an introductory version of a small telescope. It seems that I still have a lot to learn.


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#39 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 13 September 2022 - 08:58 AM

Thanks for your sharing.

I am a novice and want to buy an introductory version of a small telescope. It seems that I still have a lot to learn.

Welcome. Cloudy Nights is THE place to have all your questions answered about all things Astronomics (pun intended). Post your questions in some of the forums for what you are looking for, and check out the classifieds where all the members buy, sell and swap gear on a regular basis. You can find great deals on any kind of gear you might be looking for, once you get some questions answered.



#40 Dbhatta

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Posted 16 September 2022 - 06:15 AM

Thank you for this wonderful account of your fascination with the night sky and your lifetime of exploration with the aid of a variety of instruments, improvised upon and tinkered with.

May your enthusiasm rub off on all those surrounding you.


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#41 GSBass

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Posted 16 September 2022 - 06:49 AM

I don’t think I paid that much attention to light pollution til I got stationed in Newfoundland for a couple of years, literally so many stars that it was difficult to pick out the constellations…. Unfortunately is was also 20 degrees with 50mph winds constantly too :)


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#42 nathanwhitsett

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Posted 19 September 2022 - 09:57 AM

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.


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#43 MarkMittlesteadt

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Posted 19 September 2022 - 10:03 AM

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.

You know I've had pretty much the same experience. Now that I'm much older, I'm now doing more EAA and AP to overcome the light pollution and health concerns (including eyesight) and because it almost requires smaller gear, and I can do it remotely via wirelessly, it's made such a difference in how I can still enjoy this hobby and be able to share it with friends and everyone here!


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#44 GJWS

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Posted 20 September 2022 - 08:44 AM

Nice.

 

I've just got started.  Well that is not quite true.  Pre-GPS and at sea years ago - I used Celestial Navigation.  But observations were limited to quickly finding which of the principal 50 navigation stars were viable at either twilight and snapping sights with the sextant.  If you could get 7 before you lost the horizon at night or lost the stars at dawn you could be pretty sure of a decent fix after discarding your (hopefully obvious) dud sights.

Sun meridian passage for a daytime latitude and magnetic compass check was useful and if you were feeling particularly masochistic - working out Greenwich Mean Time with Lunar Distances.  I still trusted the chronometer more - but it gave you a gross chronometer check.

Watching the moon getting eclipsed at sea with no light pollution was always fun if it happened.

General observation was by 7x50 binoculars which are optimized for the dark-adapted pupillary diameter.

--

Fast forward to today and a chance look at Jupiter with a really nasty Amazon sold "starter" refractor which sat on the porch gathering dust.  I initially thought it was crappy optics full of internal reflections till a check on Stellarium confirmed the tiny pinpricks in the glass were actually Jupiter's moons.  A chase across the sky and I could JUST catch the rings on Saturn.  It was as exciting as the author's first glimpses he relates from his teacher's scope.

And so I'll try a Celestron 8SE which someone was selling off locally and see where it gets me.  Came with a wedge.  I KNOW it is not optimal - but I'll try some astro photography. 

Unfortunately I see $$$$ in the future.  Well LESS $$$$$!


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#45 kbart0791

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Posted 22 September 2022 - 03:47 PM

Thank you so much for a blast to the past. 

 

I recall looking at the moon with my "pirate monocular telescope" in the '60s but it was all the further it went [we had zero $$]. I still recall how dark the sky was back then from my home just east of Cleveland.

 

I fell into serious star gazing in 2003 with my then 6-year-old son when he got a |toy| telescope and we looked at the Orion nebula. It changed both of our lives: he is now a PhD candidate in Cosmology/Physics, and I am now immersed in imaging while working on my Herschel 400 with AL.

 

My Astro gazing was all visual until 2 years ago as my age was catching up with me: poor eyesight, difficulty moving large dobs but mostly light pollution which has destroyed the view from my home making nearly everything a grey blur now even just barely able to see M31 in a Bortle 7 zone with binos.

 

I took to imaging to see what I could no longer see. It has been a real rabbit hole at the expense of sleep and $$ but the challenges make me more determined to keep learning. My biggest obstacle [aside from learning more about optics/ pixel size/ full well/ QE peak numbers] was time since staying up all night was not conducive to my profession the next day.

 

So, I retired. Now I can stay up, sleep in, and not worry that I might be hurting someone.

 

My last shout out concerns the satellites. They are everywhere. I fear in 20 years NO ONE will be able to enjoy the beauty of the quiet night sky anywhere in the world ever again. The thought is a brain smash for all future grandkids.

 

Again, thank you for the stroll down the many years of star gazing. Where does it all go?

 

Time for more coffee.

I completely get the imaging thing.  It really is a whole different animal from visual astronomy.  Dont get me wrong.  I still appreciate visual and seeing what the universe is to our natural eye, however the ability to pluck out detail that the eye can never see is thrilling.  I have a C14 so the Orion nebula actually shows a slight rosette color at low power. Something I never saw in my smaller telescopes.  I have only just begun but after processing images of a couple of galaxies its amazing.  Visually I may only see a moderate glow with no contrast or dust lanes,but after stacking and processing.....WOW.  There they are M81's dust lanes and faint detail in spiral arms.


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