What future for casual astronomy?

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brian livesey
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What future for casual astronomy?

Post by brian livesey »

Considering the wealth of high-tech equipment available to amateur astronomers these days, we might expect a steady stream of new discoveries coming in. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of us, as we know, are casual observers, some, ironically, lavishly equipped enough to detect exoplanets and do cosmological work, such as monitoring quasars, etc.
Most of us scan the skies for the sense of adventure it gives, not to mention the sky's beauty, as with ancient mariners, embarking on a voyage of discovery; and for a "spiritual" uplift to remind us that Nature in its immensity ( or God, if you have one ) is supreme.
We can only wonder what kind of equipment skywatchers ( meaning we casual observers ) will be using in years to come. Will we carry on as now, or will we be vastly over-equipped with new gadgetry as yet uninvented? An embarassment of riches, as we might say.
brian
Leslie Ewan
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by Leslie Ewan »

HI Brian,
Ive not caught up with current electronic gadgetery-and I dont want to either.I take pride in always using my finderscope,binoculars and starhopping to find things,far more satifying than using a GOTO 8) (not that Ive ever used one).Ive not even used my Setting Circles that often over the years apart from the odd time for finding Mercury in daylight.
Regards Les.
peteuplink
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by peteuplink »

At the moment I'm quite happy to stick with my binoculars, telescopes and Mk1 eyeballs. But then I've always been a bit of a luddite when it comes to knew technology. Took me ages to convert from VHS to DVD :mrgreen:
David1952
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by David1952 »

I think today we have the best of all worlds! We have affordable binoculars for casual, or serious, looking but we can easily move up to taking good images through a DSLR and then stacking them if we want. When I compare my efforts from 20 years ago with what I can do today with a DSLR and a 150mm lens, there is really no comparison. Also the images are free, so taking 30 images and stacking them is feasible. Also ever tried stacking 35mm film! That certainly is a labour of love.

However I often just sit out with a pair of 7x50's and scan the milky way. A perfect way to relax after a busy day.

David
sands
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by sands »

I am with you all,you cannot beat the feeling of SEEING a star cluster ,any of the planets,the moon etc., etc.,with no electronic assistance and just enjoy! For me it is the best unwinder going.Then you can do the serious stuff as and when,if you wish.
Steve Anderson
brian livesey
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by brian livesey »

Agreed Steve. A live view of, say, an open cluster or globular has a certain freshness and sparkle that a photograph or electronic image can never quite convey :D .
brian
mike a feist
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by mike a feist »

For me the so-called "casual stuff" is the "serious stuff" and I imagine many dedicated skywatchers would agree with me. maf.
Cliff
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by Cliff »

Dear Brian
I think I understand what you mean by "casual astronomy" but when I looked up "casual" in my old dictionary (my Mum - bless her - gave it to me for my birthday in 1943) the word "casual" ie happening by chance, doesn't seem to really fit the bill. I suspect most amateur astronomers make some sort of effort to observe the stars - these days for anyone living in built up areas its unlikely to see many stars by chance.
However, accepting what I think you mean by casual astronomy I hesitate what the future might hold.
In recent years though sophisticated astro-gear has become more and more readily available of course.
However, only recently I came round to thinking that it might be a mistake to think that people in the past who might be well healed and owned big telescopes were dedicated "amateur" astronomers.
Will Hay used to be one of my astronomical heroes (partly of course because he gained astronomical fame by discovering the 1933 White Spot on Staturn.
However, only the other day I got Patrick Moore's 1913 Astronomy Year book (editted of course not just by Sir Patrick but John Mason as well). I haven't bought the recent past year books but got this as a last reminder of Patrick even though I suspect John Mason did most of the work producing it.
Whatever, the only article I've dipped into so far is about Will Hay.
If I've read things correctly I'm now disappointed by WH because even if he was a good obserever (?) I think he must have been very lucky (although it does seem to knock the bottom out of any recommendation that anyone hoping to make serious observations should only do so when conditions are very good). He apparently got his first proper astronomical scope only in 1932 although he soon owned 2 biggish scopes (150mm refractor and 12.5 reflector. Having observed Saturn the odd time he discovered his white spot which he then observed several times (14 in all I think) over the next few weeks. After that he rarely observed very much at all because of doing his lucrative enternainment\filming engagements. Indeed I think he only actuall recorded making astronomical observations on about 130 nights in twelve years or so. If that's correct then Will Hay might only be thought of as a casual astronomer - anyway he's gone down in my estimation.
Best wishes from Cliff
mike a feist
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by mike a feist »

mmmm. 1913 Astronomy Yearbook!! I too sometime make this mistake as well, Cliff! Managed to do it on an official form recently too! regards maf
Cliff
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by Cliff »

Dear Mike
Thanks for pointing out my 1913 date mistake .
I hadn't realised my error until I just read your post.
To be honest having now dabbled a bit more into the "2013 !!!!!! Astronomy Year Book" I'm not finding it as good as I hoped - I suppose most of my "hopes" had been raised by the seeing it incuded article about "my old hero Will Hay" but unfortunately the "2013 YB" article destroyed the high status I had previously given him.
However, credit where its due, Hay did discover a white spot on Saturn and in apparently poor observing conditions being quite low in the sky and mediocre seeing
However, he was lucky to be well healed and famous and have quick access to well established astronomers. Sorry Will but I've now downgraded your astronomical status - furthermore although I think I enjoyed some of your films when I was a little boy, I think now i might find them corny. I'm glad I didn't buy the cheap Will Hay film DVD box set that I saw on sale a few years ago.
On top of that the 2013 AstroYB article about Saturn's Great White Spots didn't really tell me much more than I already knew and some drawings are reproduced a bit too small for my likingas well .
Best wishes and have a good Christmas from SCROOGE cliff
David Frydman
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by David Frydman »

Dear Cliff,
I was probably the first person in Europe to see Nova Cygni 1975 and I was too inexperienced to know what it was even though I studied it carefully with scope and unaided eyes. It was varying in minutes and changing colour. I did not want to send false claims as I had never seen such a thing, which I discovered in bright twilight with unaided eyes.

Will Hay knew what he was seeing and reported it.
It does not matter if he observed once a year or was well off financially, he was a better astronomer than I was.

Because of this incident I resolved to become more proficient and observe more and more systematically. I also ordered my custom 12.5 inch thin edge mirror Dall Kirkham because of this, so I could make useful planetary observations.

So I tried to learn from my mistake.

Best wishes, David.
Cliff
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by Cliff »

Dear David
Thanks for your comments.
I have to say (admit) as a result of my potential dotage (foolishness:weakness of mind from age - I just checked the meaning in my old dictionary) I might be getting overly cantancarous.
I think I might have been expecting too much of "Patrick Moore's 2013 Astronomy Year Book". I'm now beiginning to wish I hadn't bought it. I got as sort of reminisence of Sir Patrick, but now think i might have been better just remembering the legend that he was.
the same might be said for Will Hay excepting he was a famous entertainer and amateur astronomer who'd discovered the 1933 Great White Spot on Saturn that was about all I knew about him - I had seen some of Hay's old films a long time ago when I quite enjoyed them. It might have been best if I'd left things at that.
I used to buy the Astronomy Year Books regularly but as the price crept up (a £1 more each year I think) and I was finding the monthly gen covering the first half of the book not very useful being covered by monthly astro-mags I stopped buying the Yearbooks. so perhaps I shouldn't have bothered getting the latest 2013 version.
I've decided to leave it for a while, then read it and see if I see how things look when I'm hopefully in a better frame of mind (?).
I was interested to read your Nova Cygni discovery in.
I'll accept what you say ie 'Will Hay was a better astronomer than you', but only because you say it. Whatever, my current assessment after skimping into the 2013 Year Book suggests to me that Will Hay is not as good an "amateur astronomer" as you.
Best wishes for Christmas from Cliff
Cliff
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by Cliff »

Dear David
Thanks for your comments.
I have to say (admit) as a result of my potential dotage (foolishness:weakness of mind from age - I just checked the meaning in my old dictionary) I might be getting overly cantancarous.
I think I might have been expecting too much of "Patrick Moore's 2013 Astronomy Year Book" and I'm now beginning to wish I hadn't bought it. I got the 2013 Year book as sort of reminisence of Sir Patrick, but now think I might have been better just remembering the legend he had become.
The same might be said for Will Hay -a famous entertainer and amateur astronomer who'd discovered the 1933 Great White Spot on Saturn whixh was about all I knew about him - I had seen some of Hay's old films a long time ago when I quite enjoyed them. It might have been best if I'd left things at that.
I used to buy the Astronomy Year Books regularly but as the price crept up (a £1 more each year I think) and I was finding the monthly gen covering the first half of the book not very useful being covered by monthly astro-mags I stopped buying the Yearbooks. so perhaps I shouldn't have bothered getting the latest 2013 version.
I've decided to leave it for a while, then read it and see if I see how things look when I'm hopefully in a better frame of mind (?).
I was interested to read your Nova Cygni discovery in.
I'll accept what you say ie 'Will Hay was a better astronomer than you' arguably on the basis of his Saturn 1933 GWS discovery alone he might have been (?).
Whatever, my current assessment after skimping into the 2013 Year Book suggests to me that Will Hay was not as good an "amateur astronomer" as you.
Best wishes for Christmas from Cliff
mike a feist
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by mike a feist »

Morning Cliff.
Due to this persistent 'orrible weather anything but "casual" observing rather than "a series of planned observations" is all but impossible! I was hope to dig out the new Comet Linear in Ursa Major), at around 7.5 mag should be a good test for my 102mm OG F5 Skywatcher scope........some hope with the present conditions!
I have bought the last two years "Astronomical Yearbooks" mainly because at least they were hardback. and at a reasonable price. I enjoyed the Will Hay article in the 2013 edition and Mobberley's article about which telescope you should buy. The star charts etc in the beginning are of little use to me but the lists of comets to look out for, locations of various asteroids, charts for Uranus and Neptune and information on Eclipses and LPV max are useful. I also get the BAA Handbook and of course most of this is in here as well. I still buy a lot of magazines but am generally disappointed in these.
regards maf
M54
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Re: What future for casual astronomy?

Post by M54 »

I suspect that the attached electronics will change, however a 10" mirror is still a 10" mirror, now or in 10 years time. The Newtonian has really altered much since Issac made the first one. :lol:

Would not be surprised to find there is a lot less casual observing. Why stand outside when you can run an app on a tablet or smartphone. Get a smartphone stand outside during the day and under cloud and it will show what is up there. That is what a lot of the kids these days consider first.

However I am amazed by the people that have had the internet for the last 15 years and are supposidly savvy in such things that seem unable to use it. So many questions asked by a post which are found immediatly by a entry in any search engine.

Would you consider observing to be standing something like a Meade LS outside, it performs all the alignment then a wi-fi link to your PC indoors allows you to see what is in view on the chip? You do not need a range of eyepieces as present DSLR's allow you to zoom in so have the same digital zoom on the scope.
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