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How did we, and at what age, get into Astronomy


alan potts
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About three or four years ago, when I was 13. Didn't really pursue my interest in space until a couple of years ago though. Since then I've bought telescopes, met professional and hobby astronomers, met astronauts, and secured a physics work experience placement at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge this summer, as well as much else.

Astronomy is more than just a hobby to me - pursuing it changed my entire life. Cliche, but it's true. A lot has happened in the last two years for me, and I'm now working hard and set on a career in physics. But I still make sure to get out every now and then and have a gander with the scope, after all, that's where it all started for me (:

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I have always had an interest in space. The first film I can remember seeing at the pictures is Star Wars. I don't know if that was released in '77 or '78 in the UK but I would have been 5 or 6 anyway. Shortly after for either Christmas or Birthday I can't remember my Grandparents bought me a 60mm Prinz Astral 400 (I guess it was from Dixons). It got set up and pointed at the moon or Saturn once a year for the next 30 years but that was as deep as my practical 'astronomy' went.

Some time 2009 I took my kids to @Bristol. We went in the planetarium and they were both fascinated. All they way home to Glos. It was 'you've got a telescope Dad, show us all that stuff. We want to see the seven sisters, we want to see the ring nebula'. Well of course a 30 year old 60mm refractor on a wobbly wooden tripod isn't much good so I bought a pair of binoculars (Patrick Moore said that was how get started). It turned out that I don't get on with bins for longer than about 3 min. I come over all queezy, but not when using a telescope so I set out to see what such a thing cost and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could afford something worth having. In the course of searching I found my way to a wonderful forum full of people willing to pass on some of their vast knowledge :D

I was all set to purchase an 8" Dobsonian, when both my wife and my best friend said 'as soon as you look through it you're going to want to stick a camera on it and share it with people'. I didn't believe them, but I trusted them, and a quick phone call with Steve at FLO confirmed that an 8" Dob wasn't the right choice for me but my budget would cover a 150P on a driven EQ3-2 which would get me started at least.

'Hooked' isn't word. I would say committed, my wife would say I probably should be ;) Since getting that scope I have spent almost every spare minute either stargazing or mooching around on SGL. Both my Sons have telescopes, my two brothers in law have scopes, I have four (including the 60mm Prinz in its box in the attic), I look after two others for my astro-society, and I am a very much happier, healthier, more contented (if poorer) man than I was. Long may it continue :D

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I think I was just into long trousers, we had one of those rare Science teachers where everyone wanted to be in his class, cardboard tubes and 3" glass objectives were the order of the day, first film I can remember was something like Expedition Moon , and radio programs like Journey Into Space, It was some years before SPM made his first TV début, seen on a very small screen, and dark skies were not a problem with the odd modern gas street light :)

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I have always had an interest in "space" but never looked seriously at the stars. I guess I thought there would be nothing to see! It has only been in the last few years that I became more serious about what is up there as there have been changes for better and worse in my life down here on Earth.

My friend has similar interests and got some binoculars. I saw Jupiter and her Galilean moons and realised that there is a lot more than my eyes can see. From then I started to recognise constellations and took more notice of the phases of our moon. One borrowed telescope was soon followed by a purchase and although I am on a very steep learning curve, I enjoy the thrill of finding an object as if I am the only person in the world (and maybe the universe!) to be looking at it.

I suppose my interest may have been partly due to the Brian Cox effect as astronomy was getting more prominent in the tv scheduling and my friends started talking about the common interest we never knew we had!

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I read a few books quite keenly when I was a boy, but never took it further until a few years ago aged maybe 37 when I turned my 60mm spotting scope on the sky looking at the moon, Jupiter and Saturn. It was Saturn that got me excited, at 60x could make out the rings but not much detail, but that was enough - the sense of reaching out across that huge distance to see something so immense, so far away and yet near enough to respond to a bit of magnification. I looked at the Orion Nebula in the winter, but wanted to see more detail - I also really wanted to see Galaxies, but thought the 60mm would be too small and didn't really try. A couple of nights before my 40th birthday I showed my 5 year old son Jupiter in the Fieldscope and he was so excited, and then I got very lucky with birthday money and put it into an 8" Newtonian on an eq5 to see those galaxies! And that's been great, and my greatest pleasure is hunting for faint fuzzies. The other night I took out the 60 mm fieldscope as a grab and go and found I could see galaxies after all; not just M31, 81 & 82 which I knew about, but M65, 66, NGC3628, M84, 86, 87, 51 and NGC5195, so I was wrong about that.

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My greatest pleasure is hunting for faint fuzzies. The other night I took out the 60 mm fieldscope as a grab and go and found I could see galaxies after all; not just M31, 81 & 82 which I knew about, but M65, 66, NGC3628, M84, 86, 87, 51 and NGC5195, so I was wrong about that.

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a galaxy come into the filed of view and knowing what you're looking at.

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  • 8 years later...

I know it's an old thread, very old, but I've really enjoyed reading people's stories. It's brought some fond memories back of my own. Maybe some others will add their's.

For me, I reckon I was about the age of 7 or 8 when my uncle gave me an old monocular which was among the hoard of dusty bits and bobs in my grandfathers shed. I loved spending time in there routing around though buckets of rust, cobwebs, and crushing various things in the creaking bench vice for the fun of it.

Fascinated with the monocular, I used to lie down on a bitter cold concrete shed roof, hold the instrument up to my eye and look up until either I couldn't hold my arms up any longer, or I had a crick in my neck.

I could never understand why the stars never really increased in size despite the magnification, and I never did manage to find and of those elusive UFO's.. or Santa.

 

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I got my first cheap scope for Christmas at about 6 or 7 years old.it came with a star chart and I thought I was the bees knees! 
 

about 10 years ago I built this. BC3D78B2-99C0-4203-8C9C-9284E37AA47D.thumb.jpeg.7d09013a01585cb01841f78235af0476.jpeg

Gave up shortly after completing as I had started my own business and had zero time! Sold the lot. 
 

Caught the bug again now things have settled down, but with a completely different setup

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I’d say that I’ve always been interested in astronomy, I was 6 in 1969, regularly watched The Sky at Night (in black and white), vividly remember seeing the stars glitter during the power cuts in the 1970s, was blown away by the Voyagers’ grand tours, and Hubble … well, what can you say about the impact Hubble’s images have had on everyone?

However, for some reason I just never thought was for the likes of me (I didn’t have the thousands of pounds I imagined I’d need to actually see anything, or a phd in astro-cosmo physics ).

It was when my daughter was young, and I’d moved to Dorset from London that I got my first scope (cheap and useless refractor on a shockingly wobbly mount), and a pair of charity shop binos, that I got proper hooked. Managed to see Jupiter’s bands and moons with the refractor, once, and had a few glimpses of the moon, but it had to go.

Next came a 5in reflector on an EQ2, then made to jump to a dob, and haven’t looked back 🙂

Kev

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Nothin' wrong with thread necro. It's still relevant and highlighted just how really old some of the members are! I hope I can still enjoy this hobby at their age!

I'm a latecomer to practical astronomy but always had an interest in science and science fiction. I do remember watching moon landings as a kid but they were probably Apollo 17... Another memory of primary school is of drawing a huge map of a moon base and sketching an astronaut, which was put on display by teachers. Probably my finest moment. I peaked too soon! The Sky at Night and Patrick Moore were on my radar. I loved watching but I don't recall a single one of my peers ever showing interest. Computing became my primary hobby aged 17 when I received a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k and in 6th form we were the first computer studies class. How the world has moved on...

So after many years watching science programmes, reading the odd book and magazine I'm not sure what prompted me but aged 49 I took a friend to Liverpool Astro. Society's observatory at Pex Hill, Cronton. After looking through their 12" LX200  at Uranus and a spiral galaxy that looked like a black and white photo I was hooked! A second visit with my partner confirmed those feelings and not long after, a 130mm newtonian reflector was purchased and I've been skint ever since!

I'm now well into a couple of online courses, digested several books, considering part time higher education, a B.A.A member, and a pending member of Liverpool Astro Society. (Sadly the pandemic has stalled full membership inductions but I am allowed to attend their online events. ☹️)

These forums have been instrumental in making all that happen. SGL has been an integral part of my astronomy journey and thanks to all those who take the time to reply to posts, or at the very least acknowledge they've read them with an emoticon. 👍

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
has
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7 minutes ago, Peter Drew said:

You will enjoy Liverpool AS, a good bunch of regulars.  I made the dome for the Pex Hill observatory.    🙂

Well belated thanks Peter. Standing in that dome put me on a path to a significant life change. You're partly the reason I'm skint now! 😉

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11 hours ago, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

Well belated thanks Peter. Standing in that dome put me on a path to a significant life change. You're partly the reason I'm skint now! 😉

But richer in many other ways!    🙂

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I was around 21 - 22 and working in an opticians in London (around 3-4 years ago). I was bored one day and went into a WHSmiths and was looking for a book to read. I don't often read in all honesty, but on the rare occasions when I do, I usually prefer something factual. I found 'The Human Universe' by Proffesor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen, later learning (after reading it) that it accompanied a popular TV series too. The book primarily covers topics related to profound questions about the Universe and how we came to understand our place in it.

This book sparked my interest in Astronomy and Science, where there was previously none. From there I went to college to do an access course in science, I dont really have GCSE's, nevermind A-Levels as I mucked around in high-school. I did that access course two days a week whilst working in the opticians the other 5 days a week to pay the rent, attending GCSE Maths and English in the evenings after my actual access to science lessons during the day (Those were long days! Out at 7 am, back at 10 pm!).

After around 4 months or so, and after completing a good few assignments in Maths/Chemistry/Biology/Physics modules at merit/distinction level I was feeling pretty burnt out of the 7 day weeks. I contacted a University enquiring about whether or not I had done enough to earn a place to study with them, and was told to apply and basically keep your fingers crossed! I assumed it was subject to space and availability as technically speaking I still had absolutely no real qualifications.

I am now going into my final year of studying Astrophysics at University, and hopefully obtaining my degree in less than a year from now! During my time at University me and a few friends have often borrowed the telescope from the lab in Uni (Newtonians and the like mostly, they won't let us near the big one up on the roof just yet.. :D) for basic visual and imaging the Sun.

This year I was finally in a position to purchase my first Astrophotography setup. I bought a mobile and lightweight setup owing to travelling around a lot, back and forth Uni and dark sky sites. So I am just learning the basics of the trade with my William Optics Z73, a SGP and an Astro Modded Canon 600D. And thanks to the guidance from SGL members, I have loved every second under the stars with my first AP setup and feel I am able to do basic processing now :)

I have future plans to upgrade the mount and establish a guiding system as I now feel comfortable with my current setup, I think I would be ok with adding another layer of complexity. I can't wait for that!

Big thank you to the folks here at SGL, your advice has been invaluable :)

 

IMG_20210909_173728_935.thumb.jpg.34601ca8f6a73316ebc85bf55b6a3dc1.jpg

 

IMG_20210909_210002_060.thumb.jpg.84b82485c0c7b4085136c1c4d001ceeb.jpg

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47 minutes ago, Iem1 said:

I was around 21 - 22 and working in an opticians in London (around 3-4 years ago). I was bored one day and went into a WHSmiths and was looking for a book to read. I don't often read in all honesty, but on the rare occasions when I do, I usually prefer something factual. I found 'The Human Universe' by Proffesor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen, later learning (after reading it) that it accompanied a popular TV series too. The book primarily covers topics related to profound questions about the Universe and how we came to understand our place in it.

This book sparked my interest in Astronomy and Science, where there was previously none. From there I went to college to do an access course in science, I dont really have GCSE's, nevermind A-Levels as I mucked around in high-school. I did that access course two days a week whilst working in the opticians the other 5 days a week to pay the rent, attending GCSE Maths and English in the evenings after my actual access to science lessons during the day (Those were long days! Out at 7 am, back at 10 pm!).

After around 4 months or so, and after completing a good few assignments in Maths/Chemistry/Biology/Physics modules at merit/distinction level I was feeling pretty burnt out of the 7 day weeks. I contacted a University enquiring about whether or not I had done enough to earn a place to study with them, and was told to apply and basically keep your fingers crossed! I assumed it was subject to space and availability as technically speaking I still had absolutely no real qualifications.

I am now going into my final year of studying Astrophysics at University, and hopefully obtaining my degree in less than a year from now! During my time at University me and a few friends have often borrowed the telescope from the lab in Uni (Newtonians and the like mostly, they won't let us near the big one up on the roof just yet.. :D) for basic visual and imaging the Sun.

This year I was finally in a position to purchase my first Astrophotography setup. I bought a mobile and lightweight setup owing to travelling around a lot, back and forth Uni and dark sky sites. So I am just learning the basics of the trade with my William Optics Z73, a SGP and an Astro Modded Canon 600D. And thanks to the guidance from SGL members, I have loved every second under the stars with my first AP setup and feel I am able to do basic processing now :)

I have future plans to upgrade the mount and establish a guiding system as I now feel comfortable with my current setup, I think I would be ok with adding another layer of complexity. I can't wait for that!

Big thank you to the folks here at SGL, your advice has been invaluable :)

 

IMG_20210909_173728_935.thumb.jpg.34601ca8f6a73316ebc85bf55b6a3dc1.jpg

 

IMG_20210909_210002_060.thumb.jpg.84b82485c0c7b4085136c1c4d001ceeb.jpg

Brilliant. Good luck for your final year. 👍

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As far as I remember, it was probably this:

index.jpg.829d6826ca984c3f8c51a8f2c0a49a72.jpg

 

Reading back to some of the older entries in this thread, I see a couple of mentions for The Observer's Book of Astronomy by Patrick Moore, which I also had.

And that made me remember the 700th anniversary edition of The Sky at Night, which included a "how did you get into astronomy" segment featuring Brian Cox, Chris Lintott, Jon Culshaw and Brian May. All of them (unsurprisingly) credited Moore as an inspiration, and Cox produced from his pocket the copy of that Observer's Book that he had received as a boy.

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9de3010a702b63046300b7585554c4f0--shooting-stars-book-illustrations.jpg.43842676817083aa2ed0d54654ae22a0.jpg

I must have been 7 or 8 when I first started looking at the stars,  I used to borrow a book every week from the school library called " lightning and Thunder",  the teacher asked me to try another book for a change and I picked up the Ladybird book "The night sky", the page with the picture of the meteors above the church must have flicked a switch and I became so curious about the sky, Leslie Peltiers book "Guidepost to the stars" also struck a nerve with me , I kept log books of my observations with binoculars tracking down most of the messier objects and followed suns spots by projection every lunchtime.  I joined the an astronomical society early teens and was encouraged to observe with the large scope in the dome and was given a scope on loan,  With the arrival of Halley's comet I received a Zenit B camera for my birthday and thats where the fascination with astrophotography began.  And it progressed from there with a break in my late teens and early 20s where I discovered other interests ;-), Ive been lucky to observe aurora storms, total eclipse of the sun and view the southern sky from the Namib desert to name a few.  Safe to say astronomy is a part of me 😉

 

Mark

Edited by Astroscot2
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On 09/09/2021 at 10:01, ScouseSpaceCadet said:

 It's still relevant and highlighted just how really old some of the members are! I hope I can still enjoy this hobby at their age.

I don't know how to take that, lol. I know I'm out of action for a while due to having an op at nearly 63 but come on, 😂. BTW, I got hooked by watching the first moon landing and Neil Armstrong's first step for man and mankind, lol. Never gone away. 

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Launch of Telstar, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programmes for me... Apollo 1 fire and death of Virgil Gus Grissom (Thunderbird 2!), discovery of LGM-1, and 1960's dark skies of Norfolk!

Entranced by the night sky.

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I think for me it was age 12, when one of our science teachers announced that he was going to bring his planetarium into school one day for those who were interested and willing to give up a lunch break. I think I was more intrigued at the time at how he was going to get a planetarium into the school hall, but lo and behold this inflatable dome appeared in the hall. I was hooked from that moment, laying back and gazing up at this projected image of the stars and constellations, everything so clear.

There was a bit of a gap from there (ok, about 30 years gap) when my wife bought me a Skylux refractor for Christmas and the spark re-emerged. That got me back into stargazing, to the point where I upgraded the scope a few weeks ago for the 130P reflector. Along with a healthy enjoyment of StarTalk Radio and pretty much anything by Carl Sagan (Contact is right at the top of my favourite films, alongside the book), together with Moore, Hawkins and Cox.

Oh, and @Zermelo I had that Ladybird book as well, that picture brought back a lot of memories.

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Nice thread! Good to have it re-floated.
I've always liked to gaze up, at the dark night sky, the moon or even at clouds or airplanes. My kids received a telescope last Christmas, and was then when the bug bit me deep. We soon upgraded the gear, and now I spend the scarce clear nights trying to pick "digital glimpses" of our universe and absorbing bits of knowledge from this forum the cloudy ones.
BTW, thanks to all the helpful people of this forum. Keep goin'!

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Aged around 8yr old. I grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales (very dark skies back then in the late 70's but as the surrounding towns have grown in size & horrible LP those jet black skies are sadly not as jet black) & used to sit in the bottom fields on clear nights gazing up & listening to War of the Worlds on my 'ghetto blaster' 😂 My best mate got a 75mm Tasco Refractor a year or so later & we were both hooked. We then went to Jodrell Bank for my 16th birthday & its pretty much continued ever since apart from a few breaks here & there thanks to life generally getting in the way.

It was only when I joined this forum back in 2012 that I bought my first scope & to cut a long story short, I slowly upgraded scope sizes until  eventually turning to the dark side about year ago after moving to a tiny village with no street lights at the foot of the Northern Pennines. I've been skint but very happy ever since 😃

Steve

Edited by nephilim
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On 10/09/2021 at 09:45, Iem1 said:

I was around 21 - 22 and working in an opticians in London (around 3-4 years ago). I was bored one day and went into a WHSmiths and was looking for a book to read. I don't often read in all honesty, but on the rare occasions when I do, I usually prefer something factual. I found 'The Human Universe' by Proffesor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen, later learning (after reading it) that it accompanied a popular TV series too. The book primarily covers topics related to profound questions about the Universe and how we came to understand our place in it.

This book sparked my interest in Astronomy and Science, where there was previously none. From there I went to college to do an access course in science, I dont really have GCSE's, nevermind A-Levels as I mucked around in high-school. I did that access course two days a week whilst working in the opticians the other 5 days a week to pay the rent, attending GCSE Maths and English in the evenings after my actual access to science lessons during the day (Those were long days! Out at 7 am, back at 10 pm!).

After around 4 months or so, and after completing a good few assignments in Maths/Chemistry/Biology/Physics modules at merit/distinction level I was feeling pretty burnt out of the 7 day weeks. I contacted a University enquiring about whether or not I had done enough to earn a place to study with them, and was told to apply and basically keep your fingers crossed! I assumed it was subject to space and availability as technically speaking I still had absolutely no real qualifications.

I am now going into my final year of studying Astrophysics at University, and hopefully obtaining my degree in less than a year from now! During my time at University me and a few friends have often borrowed the telescope from the lab in Uni (Newtonians and the like mostly, they won't let us near the big one up on the roof just yet.. :D) for basic visual and imaging the Sun.

This year I was finally in a position to purchase my first Astrophotography setup. I bought a mobile and lightweight setup owing to travelling around a lot, back and forth Uni and dark sky sites. So I am just learning the basics of the trade with my William Optics Z73, a SGP and an Astro Modded Canon 600D. And thanks to the guidance from SGL members, I have loved every second under the stars with my first AP setup and feel I am able to do basic processing now :)

I have future plans to upgrade the mount and establish a guiding system as I now feel comfortable with my current setup, I think I would be ok with adding another layer of complexity. I can't wait for that!

Big thank you to the folks here at SGL, your advice has been invaluable :)

 

IMG_20210909_173728_935.thumb.jpg.34601ca8f6a73316ebc85bf55b6a3dc1.jpg

 

IMG_20210909_210002_060.thumb.jpg.84b82485c0c7b4085136c1c4d001ceeb.jpg

Hi Lem.

My route into higher education was through an access course which I did back in about 1990, so it was nice to read your post.

Going to university as a mature student, having had to really work hard to get there gave me more of an appreciation of the privilege of a university education.

I hope you get as much out of the experience it as I did. 

 

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