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As a beginner, how are you learning about the sky?

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#26 mountain monk

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Posted 07 January 2024 - 05:44 PM

I started out with my telescope by reading Sky and Telescope. That led to what I think of as the classics—NightWatch, Burnham’s volumes, Walter Scott Houston’s columns collected by O’Meara, Sue French’s Deep-Sky Wonders, my favorite, and O’Meara’s books on the Messier and Caldwell objects. I love Sky Safari but don’t use it while observing. I have a collection of star atlases but my favorite remains the SkyAtlas 2000.0., which I use on a music stand. The classics offered considerable historical depth and, often, eloquence. And I learned much from people here on CN. The tendency now is toward gear, intense data—e.g. the fourth edition of the Observer’s Sky Atlas—and life lists. I miss the history and eloquence.

 

Dark skies.

 

Jack


Edited by mountain monk, 07 January 2024 - 05:56 PM.

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#27 Paul Murphy

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Posted 07 January 2024 - 06:33 PM

  1. I've been interested in Astronomy for several years, but at 56, my journey started Christmas 2022, when I received a 10 inch Dob, and a month later a 102mm omni az  Celestron refractor for my grab and go. The last year I've done 100% visual astronomy. I bought Turn Left at Orion along with several other books, star charts, and downloaded Stellarium and Sky Safari. But my best tool is definitely a book by John Read, 110 things to see with a telescope. It is an absolutely excellent and indispensable guide for the 110 Messier objects. I'm 59 items in so far, taking my time, not rushing. I use that book's charts, and Stellarium in the field. I've joined my local star gazing club, and been to the  2023 Texas Star Party. Went to Mathis Texas, just North of Corpus Cristi to see last October's Annular Eclipse,  and I'm going to this April's Texas Star Party,  Total Eclipse event. I have received lots of help, and advice from fellow Astronomers, and am thoroughly enjoying this new hobby! Clear skies yall!!  Edit: I left out parts about spending over an hour looking for one item, many times that happened. So learning patience, hunting targets in the sky took a bit. Also, getting a height adjustable astronomers chair, so I could sit comfortably and study what was in the eyepiece was a game changer!! 

Edited by Paul Murphy, 07 January 2024 - 06:54 PM.

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#28 largefather

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 07:32 AM

i started 05/22. I already knew the constellations and my way around the sky generally, my issue was finding the things in the sky that i never knew where there. I live in the country, b3/4 approximately. i use the free stellarium on my phone to get me in the ballpark and then pan and scan with my 25mm to find what i'm looking for. i didn't end up reading any books. it honestly didn't feel necessary. i did read/watch a bunch to figure out how best to spend my limited budget but past that i've just spent as much time as possible out under the stars looking at things. with good skies and a light bucket i don't think most of the objects i'm looking for on the messier list or planetary have been difficult targets but they have let my skills as an observer grow to meet them. 


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#29 woodswalker88

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 11:34 AM

My stargazing journey started in October. I had a good time observing for a few weeks before Winter set in.
I feel I am hampered in learning by several factors--it is so hard to see things up there because of the Light Domes on the horizons. Never actually saw the Big/little dippers & Polaris. Mostly I just look at the zenith, where I quickly get a crick in my neck. Also, as I've mentioned, the phone app requires that I take off my glasses and the binocs require I put them on. 
I see a bunch of random stars, and I don't know if parts of the constellations are being blotted out by light pollution & bad viewing conditions. The other night I saw Orion's belt, but where was Orion's bow? So far I can identify: Orion, Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, Jupiter, maybe Sirius, Casseopia ("oh no, all the stars have changed position!!") and maybe Lyra & Vega (not sure). 
There is a bit of mental pattern memorization. "Gemini is at the left of Orion and Canis is a bit lower down." "The W of Cassy leads to Andromeda". So my brain has a few of the patterns. Finding them in the real sky is a bit more difficult, because of conditions as I've mentioned.
If I could just spend a few nights camping at a perfect Dark Sky park, maybe I could get this fixed in my mind. Other hand, there were so many stars at Cherry Springs last september, I probably would have gotten way confused.

So I'm doing a lot of complaining, but the bottom line is that when I get outside & see stars, it doesn't matter what their names are. The sight of the beautiful Night Sky just makes me feel HAPPY & peaceful & forget all my troubles.

I use 'Sky Tonight' app. Celestron 8x56 binocs. DwarfLab II camera scope. And the club loaned me a 6" Dobson Orion Starblast. I'd love some clear dry weather to try it out...


Edited by woodswalker88, 08 January 2024 - 11:35 AM.

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#30 Galaxy Gazer

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 12:38 PM

For Christmas, a friend gifted me "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide," a superbly illustrated and written textbook. It is a quite handy and helpful resource for understanding what the sky has to offer.

 

I enjoy the monthly night sky summaries found on space.com. Naturally in this day and age, much of the information I find comes from online.

 

As a beginner, I do like learning and navigating hands on. With that in mind, I intentionally bought a manual mount for my telescope. Sometimes finding a target is a lot of extra work. However, I enjoy going about it this way. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Happening upon other bright or interesting stars along the way is icing on the cake, and cause for further exploration. 

 

Eery time I want to find another star or planet in the telescope, it opens up an opportunity to learn more about what surrounds it. 


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#31 Tony Flanders

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 03:50 PM

I feel I am hampered in learning by several factors--it is so hard to see things up there because of the Light Domes on the horizons. Never actually saw the Big/little dippers & Polaris.


Actually, the Big Dipper is nearly overhead at midnorthern latitudes in the spring and early summer. And Polaris is roughly the same height above the horizon as the Orion Nebula at its highest.
 

The other night I saw Orion's belt, but where was Orion's bow?


The stars of Orion's Belt are overwhelmingly bright -- brighter even than the Big Dipper, which is saying a lot. Mintaka, the faintest of the lot is magnitude 2.2. By contrast, the very brightest star of the bow (or shield, or animal hide, or whatever) is magnitude 3.2, just 40% as bright as Mintaka. And all the others are fourth magnitude, making them pretty hard to see in severely light-polluted skies. It should be possible from a typical suburban location as long as no lights are directly visible above you, but don't expect Orion's bow to jump out unless you're at a dark location.


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#32 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 09:46 PM

I post links to articles on weekly astronomical events at https://www.cloudyni...this-weeks-sky/


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#33 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 09:48 PM

I do the same for monthly events.

 

https://www.cloudyni...sky-this-month/


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#34 moefuzz

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Posted 09 January 2024 - 04:31 AM

For newcomers to Astronomy you would do well to go to your local Goodwill or Value Village stores and search the book department. 

There are many Excellent used astronomy books for pennies on the dollar.

Its not uncommon to find 3 or 4 used Astronomy books for under $20 any one of which could have originally been a $60 book new.

-Some of the Very Best used Astronomy books are the textbooks aimed at University and College students so don't leave those behind when they pop up.

 

 

On another note,

I just picked up this set of original Meade eyepieces for $9 (minus 30% seniors discount = $6!) which is what would have been available when my Meade DS-10 was new.

..The $6 set complimented my DS-10 in that it is period correct and I had no such eyepieces from when I bought the scope.

 

 

Meade DS-10 CASE .JPG

 

 

 

MEADE DS-10 EYEPIECE SET.jpg

 

 

I'm not sure why but the local Value Village in the tiny city I live near always has a great selection of both Astronomy and Physics books (amongst others).

It's a great way to grow your book collection while simultaneously bringing yourself up to speed on the subjects of interest.

 

 

cheers,

moe of the north


Edited by moefuzz, 09 January 2024 - 01:08 PM.

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#35 truckerfromaustin

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Posted 14 January 2024 - 02:04 PM

I have a goto mount for my bigger refractors and a push to system on my 8 inch dob, but I rarely use them. I have been using the Stellarium app and a finder scope instead. I want to learn to find the showcase object by memory. I learned early on that electronics are subject to Murphy's Law. A bad cable connection, a battery that loses its charge, or a faulty component can ruin your night.

Clear Skies
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#36 tcifani

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Posted 14 January 2024 - 06:45 PM

I still consider myself a beginner (beginner's forum is my favorite sub forum here after all), after almost eight years into this hobby and after a very long hiatus since the 1980's when I was a kid.

 

I'm all visual and no Go-To. In my opinion, nothing beats a good star chart, like this one:

 

https://www.deepskyw...nter-atlas.html

 

....and like you mentioned, a good pair of binoculars.

 

I also like apps such as Stellarium (for mobile and pc).

 

Clear skies!


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#37 daveb2022

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 02:27 AM

I started with full go-to/push-to and still use it today. I had nobody to guide me when I first started in the hobby and other than knowing where Polaris (the north star) was, I knew nothing of the night sky. Early on, I purchased a few books that put me on the right path. I let the scope send me to object after object and after a while, I eventually learned where a few objects lived in the night sky. Soon I learned how to read star charts and learned how the majority of constellation moved. I also learned how to star hop although I'm not a fan of it.

My site I observe from is very limited and only a small section of sky is visible. I had to "plot" what was coming into my slots view. I still have old lists that I made from a star chart which puts objects in order as they come into view at different times of the year. Sometimes I use a list... sometimes I just try to find objects off a star chart. I also use web sites to research what I'm looking at. Whether folks like them or not, writing logs helps me remember some of the objects designations and characteristics . Sketching is also a huge memory booster IMO. I even do short sketches of star hopping paths I take to specific objects. I have the S&T pocket atlas but prefer the deluxe version. And I never cared for binoculars much, but the Orion 2x54's have been a pleasure to use with a star chart from my light polluted skies.

I'm not saying my learning methods were the best, but I kept myself engaged in the hobby. There will always be someone better than me as far as astronomical knowledge and observing techniques, but I'm fine where I have ended up.  Obviously there is a lot more for me to learn, and I learn something every time I observe.     


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#38 woodswalker88

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 11:45 AM

Learning the sky has been a huge struggle! I have double vision & am nearsighted. I need glasses to look in my binocs & I can't read close print, like my phone apps, unless I take the glasses off. So mostly I use the phone app for indoor study. Outside, pretty much I'm limited to "looking at a planisphere, memorizing the arrangement/location of a few constellations (Orion, Gemini, Pleiades) and trying to find them in the sky. Which isn't always easy since I can't alway see all the stars in the constellation (light pollution y'know.)

Of course discovering Orion & all the Nebulas in there was the big discovery. Now I'm trying to identify a large cluster of constellations that are around Orion. Um, there's Vega, Lyra, Triangulum...Casseopia. Kind of sort of found them, although they keep changing position.
I can very rarely see the Big Dipper because there's a light dome to the nearest city up that way.

Anyhow, a few nights ago I was doing a photo shoot with my Dwarf camera, very late at night. All my constellations were in different places!! it was a big revelation as to how they move. My impression is that Orion goes across the sky, while the Big Dipper kind of stays in the same place. 
 

All this is pretty mind boggling, because reading about it in a book (or even youtube) is one thing, but you don't really KNOW something until you have experienced it personally.
Why else would we go out on cold nights & look up, when we could just look at Hubble Space Telesrope pix. 


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#39 Harry Jacobson

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 12:22 PM

…I'm not saying my learning methods were the best, but I kept myself engaged in the hobby. There will always be someone better than me as far as astronomical knowledge and observing techniques, but I'm fine where I have ended up.  Obviously there is a lot more for me to learn, and I learn something every time I observe.     

Au contraire, I think what’s best is what works for you. Your learning methods prove that.



#40 PKDfan

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Posted 16 January 2024 - 07:45 PM



I have difficulty learning stuff generally and so when i got into the hobby I found that the easiest way to learn the sky was to take the hour of right ascension and scan slowly along its hour line from horizon to zenith with low power offsetting by a degree or so i sweep up and down to find any objects worthy of closer examination and discover what they are with Uranometria 2000 by Wil Tirion Harry Rappaport George Lovi.

Or Sky & Telescopes jumbo star atlas

I also use bright stars to locate dim DSOs like M81 & 82 in ursa major for example.

Eventually a fairly accurate global portrait of the sky was drawn up in my mind and every year i try and renew the old processors recollections and find something new but honestly my location is so terrible right now that only the brightest of them are visible so i stick to what i love most, lunar and open clusters and the planets.



Clearest skies
P.s. dark skies ?? Whats that ??!
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#41 Chris K

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Posted 22 January 2024 - 08:45 PM

These three things had the most influence on my learning

 

1. Using a planisphere to forced me to see sky motion and constellations

2. Using Stellarium/SkySafari "as a planisphere" forced me to see sky motion and constellations

3. Watching iLectureOnline astronomy series

 

Reading books and Cloudy Nights were also helpful of course.

Applying it all outside was also important.



#42 firefoe

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Posted 24 January 2024 - 09:29 PM

Absolutely Chris all those things have helped me too. Sky Safari at the telescope, Stellarium at the computer inside the house. Also paper charts, books, anything you can get your hands on helps. I have to say the thing that helps me most is looking up at the sky every time I go outside. Makes me think. Also teaching and learning this hobby with my son. We started to dig into things like sidereal time, moon phases,RA and Declination of objects. etc. And going to observe at Robert Moses with my friend Chris has been a great motivator even though it is too few and far in between.



#43 Delightful Liberty

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Posted 06 February 2024 - 05:33 AM

Only been stargazing three weeks.

 

My primary learning tools are YT, Stellarium App, and just doing it :)

 

I will be starting my astronomy log/scrapbook this weekend and will make notes to help my learning.


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#44 Epick Crom

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Posted 06 February 2024 - 07:32 AM

I started my journey in amateur astronomy proper in 2019 with a pair of 10x50mm binoculars and paper charts at age 38 after a lifetime of admiring the night sky growing up. 

 

In 2020 I bought my first ever telescope, a 10 inch dob and started using Sky Safari. In 2021 I joined Cloudy Nights. All these events have helped me greatly in learning the night sky. 

 

Im purely a starhoper and visual observer.


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#45 Nankins

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Posted 06 February 2024 - 10:30 AM

I use CN, Stellarium (on my phone; perfect replacement for when I don't want to spend too much time browsing a star map for something that takes me forever to find while meantime my target drifts out of sight).  I also have the Uranometria star maps, which have also been a big help when I don't mind taking them outside. Also helping with outreach with my club and once using the 16" SCT in the West Lafayette Observatory dome.



#46 AstroBoyInTheCity

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Posted 06 February 2024 - 05:28 PM

I'm super new to astronomy as a hobby, and to this site. early last year on a camping trip in Wyoming while staring up at the brilliantly clear night sky, I randomly pointed a pair of binoculars up in the night sky and was absolutely blown away by how many more stars I could see. I mean, I knew there were billions of stars up there but I had never realized that you could actually see so SO MANY from the surface of earth. It was one of the life changing experiences.

 

When I got home, I purchased a used pair of 10x42 Celestron Trailseekers and started spending a few nights a month on my back deck in the Oakland hills scanning the skies. I'd use a basic app on my phone to look up what planet I was looking at, or to help identify a constellation  but there was no clear direction in my stargazing.

 

Then, this Christmas I was gifted an Orion Starblast 4.5" reflector and everything changed. After texting an astronomer buddy of mine about my new gift, he suggested checking out Jupiter, Pleiades, and the Orion nebula which were all in good positions to be viewed this past January. Lining up Jupiter and viewing it at 45x was stunning. Even through the hazy Bay Area skies, I was mesmerized by seeing the moons and the blurry ribbons of clouds that would dance in and out of focus. Changing directions to the Orion nebula blew my mind... I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. The more I stared at it, the more I could see structure within the haze. Pleiades astounded me at how a faint smudge in the sky could resolve into such a beautiful and complex cluster of stars. That night in bed, reading up on Wikipedia about the history of these objects only got me more enthralled. That was it. I was hooked.

 

Since then, I've been going out every clear night and sketching my observations of Jupiter and it's changing moon positions. I also became enthralled with the idea that you can see objects other than stars and printed out a free list of the Messier objects along with basic star maps showing their positions. I've been using the list as my main way of exploring the skies every night. I started with finding the objects in Orion, then Taurus and Auriga by star hopping using the printouts as a guide. For me, spending a number of nights focusing primarily on one or two constellations and the Messier objects inside them has been a great way to learn star names, recognize what a DSO looks like, and to familiarize myself with orientation and star hopping.

 

The past two weeks has been nothing but rain and I've been occupying my time with searching various sites like CloudyNights sucking in any knowledge I can about astronomy and astro-gear. Chris and Shane's Actual Astronomy Podcast has also been tremendously helpful in getting a feel for the world of amateur astronomy. I'm about a quarter of the way through their episodes and It's been an amazingly entertaining resource of information. I also picked up a very dusty but well-kept 10" Dobsonian on Facebook Marketplace for $50 which I cleaned up and collimated during these starless nights. Researching on Youtube and learning how to clean the mirror and focuser was a tremendous learning experience in how Newtonian telescopes work. I'm also eager to meet up with my local astronomy club which has weekly meetups for viewings when the rain stops.

 

It's still very early days of learning astronomy for me, but I'm having a blast so far!


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#47 woodswalker88

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Posted 07 February 2024 - 03:33 PM

Orion has really been the key because it is so distinctive, I can always find it. So I have been learning the constellations that surround it. Canis Major/Sirius...Monoceros...Canis Minor (procyon)...Gemini...Auriga...Taurus.

Off to the corner of Taurus is my favorite asterism, The Pleiades. 


I can't usually identify these individual constllations because there are no lines connecting them like on my app...just a big mob of stars. But at least I sort of have the general area. 

The reason it's important to know them is...I have been taking pictures with my Dwarf camerascope, and all these constellations are loaded with interesting things like Nebulas & clusters. 

 

​Unfortunately these constellations are changing position over time & I guess by summer I won't be able to see them.


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#48 Mike Q

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Posted 13 February 2024 - 08:59 PM

Two years in and the constellations still don't make any sense to me.  I recognize 3 of them, after that they are nothing more then lights in the sky.  I guess i dont have enough imagination to put them tigehter.  So for me its an app and setting circles or go to 



#49 northernmike

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Posted 13 February 2024 - 11:48 PM

My interest in astronomy started at a young age , here in Quebec , we had an astrophysicist called Hubert Reeves

who had a way of vulgarizing things to make youngsters understand  astronomy . He recently died (late 2023) and 

it was a bit of a shock here. A monument as we call him.

But despite all that love for astronomy , I never bought a telescope until last September . Like most of beginner

(I presume!) , the first thing that got my attention was the moon , Jupiter and Saturn. But after a while , I started to

search for DSO and couldn't find any , very frustrating you might say and ya! I didn't know anything about the sky ,

constellations etc...

So before Xmas , I spent a lot of time watching videos about constellation interpretation , but there are so many in

the sky , where do I start?

After getting the hang of handling my new Dobsonian ( not easy at first ) , I found the Orion constellation and finally ,

my first DSO , the Orion nebual ,the most obvious one and yesterday , I saw the Pleiades for the first time. thanks

to Janine Bonham and her videos  , she has a simple way of explaining things.

 

My wife just recently gave me a good tool to navigate , a book called  ''turn left at Orion'' , I'm almost done with the

moon section and getting in the map section soon  , so my DSO observations will increase gradually hopefully.

 

I only have a 32 mm Q70 and the goldline series. I had my eyes on a Hyperion 8 mm , but a lot of people says it not

suitable for a f/5.9 Dob or f/5 reflector ( I have both)  I was told to try the X cell 7 mm with both and the 25 mm for my

f/5 newt 

 

A lot of people also talk about the ''curse'' of buying a new telescope , so I don't know if it's the fact that I bought 2 , but

clear skies in my part of the world feels like searching for the treasure at the end of the rainbow...

 

Next week looks so so  , but cold , -17 to -20C for the clear nights.coldday.gif


Edited by northernmike, 13 February 2024 - 11:51 PM.


#50 Tony Flanders

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Posted 14 February 2024 - 06:44 PM

Two years in and the constellations still don't make any sense to me.  I recognize 3 of them, after that they are nothing more then lights in the sky.  I guess i dont have enough imagination to put them tigehter.  So for me its an app and setting circles or go to 

I'm curious if you tried and failed to learn some of the constellations or if they just never held much interest for you.

 

For what it's worth, if you expect the official constellations to make sense in any truly rational way, you're flat out of luck.


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