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Naf

Who or what inspired you to take up amateur astronomy?

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As a child my parents took us camping, cottages in the country etc. and I was always fascinated by the millions of stars you could see from these places.

I asked for a telescope one christmas (a Tasco 60mm which I still have) and that really got me started.

Edited by laser_jock99
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Always had an interest and fascination with space and the stars, though the only one in the family to have this - then again I was born shortly after the dawn of our space age; an interest in sci-fi seemed to run in parallel.

I suspect I was partly inspired by my grandad, he was a shepherd so would have spent many nights under the stars.

Oddly enough I can still recall the tales of my parents watching Sputnik go over, they always claimed they could hear it - which must have been a false memory by them.

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now, this is getting me to think!  Like some of the others, being a child of the '60's helped, sputnik, the Tornadoes (remember them?), SF (reading and writing) - the British New Wave as well, the general space race and a dash of curiosity, oh and the music - Hawkwind, Floyd, Tangerine Dream and then the ongoing German Head Music - synthesiser based of course.  All added up to what I would call a background interest until I left school and was able to buy my first telescope the orange C8.  Had that for a few years, other distractions; study, marriage (mistake that one! :)  ), travel, military and professional practice, then radio astronomy  and now with teaching our kids at home and my continuing interest in photography allowed me to get back to it.  There's also been some astronomy studies along the way.

Scary when I think of all that!:)

michael

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So many factors.  As a child, I was always fascinated with all things space.  I liked to imagine what it would be like to live in a cloud city on Neptune, or under the ice of Europa, or what it would be like to fall into a black hole.  I would pick out a random star in the night sky, and wonder if there was anyone in my line of sight looking back in my direction.  It also helped that I grew up in a time when Hubble was starting to return some spectacular images.  As a birthday present (11th or 12th I think), my parents bought me a telescope.  A refractor with an aperture of maybe 3 inches.  But I took it outside, pointed it at the brightest object I could see, and noticed that it resolved to a disc with 4 smaller dots arranged in a line going through the centre of that disc.  If I stared long enough, I could just about make out the cloud bands.  I was so happy to be able to identify what it was on my own.

Then I grew up a bit, went to university, got out in the world, and my concerns became somewhat more mundane.  I sort of drifted away from it, because there was enough down here to keep me interested.  But I always kept one eye on the sky.  On a holiday in Spain, I stepped outside one night for some fresh air and some contemplative alone-time.  I could make out the Orion constellation quite clearly, and see that little smudge under it's belt.  The more I looked up, the more stars I could see, until I realised I could see the faint glowing band of the Milky Way galaxy.  Each star that I could see was surrounded by a faint mist, and I realised that the mist was just more stars.  That got me back into it.  As a child, it was always the types of things in space that interested me.  Now, it's more about the scale of things and the age of things.  I was no longer satisfied with the space [removed word] returned by big professional observatories like Hubble, I wanted to see it for myself.

Last year, I bought myself a 5 inch newtonian telescope, and a few months after that, a 10 inch dobsonian.  Started taking some pictures of planets.  Sometimes I head out with the big dobsonian to the middle of the countryside, try and set up as far away from the nearest town as I can possibly manage, and just spend hours slewing it around, seeing stars for which I know no name, sometimes spotting a globular cluster or galaxy.  I love every minute of it.  

Edited by SlyReaper
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Grew up in the 1960's,when new fangled space travel was a media obsession.However,I think that the first real step in an interest in Astronomy (as opposed to Spacetravel-real or fictional) was the tremendous book 'The Stars' by H.A. Rey. Here was a book that showed the constellations as recognisable patterns as opposed to random lines connecting stars.'The observers book of Astronomy' soon followed,Cheap bins, and then a 90mm reflector. A gap of 35 years,and back to serious interest again!

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Nobody inspired me to take it up. Growing up with no light pollution and looking at the space section of an old encyclopedia as a kid. We had a few thick volumes but I was only interested in the astronomy section.

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Was on a walk just over a week ago and saw some of the biggest and brightest "stars" I had ever seen and wanted to know what they were. Were they planets? Stars? Galaxies? Turns out it was Jupiter and Venus. I had seen bright stars in the past, but for once was determined to find out what they were!

I'm not going to throw myself in because it will distract me from work and other interests, but I also like the idea of "citizen science" as well as having something to do that isn't drinking. I don't do much anyway, but still. 

Regards 

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My aunt bought me this book for my birthday when I was 12, completely out of the blue.

post-37135-0-82762400-1429962986_thumb.j

6 months later I read it one night and was instantly hooked. It was so practical and inspiring, and the DIY observatory it featured was the coolest thing I'd seen. The following Christmas my parents kindly saved and bought me a 4.5" Tesco reflector (which I still have, though it's quite tatty now). When I couldn't work out what to do with it I did the most logical thing for any 12 year old and wrote to the guy who'd definitely know the answer. This was the response I got:

post-37135-0-42276400-1429963202_thumb.j

I was so chuffed he wrote back!!

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I saw a single star peeping through UK clouds and thought that

 there must be a few more up there, I'll take a gander. :grin:

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I picked a random book off the shelf at the library called "The case for Pluto" by Alan Boyle and was pretty interested in it. Then I picked up another called "Chasing Hubble's Shadows" by now my girlfriend had noticed a pattern and bought us tickets to the Lick Observatory summer visitors program. That observatory is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I bought a telescope the next day.

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My Dad, and the 1999 total eclipse. I was only about 7 years old at the time of the eclipse, but I remember it very fondly! My next door neighbour brought out a welding mask that me and my brother could use to watch the event, so there we were, sat in the sunshine on our quiet cul de sac driveway in awe at the ever growing chunk in the sun.

My Dad was always into space and astronomy. I remember when we visited him on the weekends, he would have a total eclipse or a supernova set as his screensaver on his Windows 95 powered PC and whenever I asked him about pictures like that, his face lit up and he'd go into plenty of detail telling me anything I wanted to know. He would always poke his head round my bedroom door in my teenage years to give me a heads up about shuttle launches and things, but during that time I had taken up other much less conventional interests. Though, if I had a partner or a friend special enough, I would take them to my favourite stargazing spot at an empty open cricket field to watch the Perseids in August and chat about philosophy all night. So I always had an embedded interest and personal love for it.

But it was only when my Dad suddenly passed away in Summer 2012 that I really embraced how fierce my passion for astronomy had quickly become. I bought a bunch of books, got myself a pair of bins and later my starter scope, fully immersed myself in it and each time I look up at the stars now, I feel like I'm that bit closer to my Dad and finding out where he's gone.

I'm agnostic. I won't drag religion into this thread but for me personally, as far as I'm concerned, the universe is the only observable Heaven that we have and I'm doing everything I can to learn everything there is to know and see everything I can possibly see.

But that's just me.

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some brilliant stories on here cant top any. but astronomy is brilliant and i think the people on here sgl inspire me to keep going with stories like these :tongue:

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I remember learning constellations in the scouts, with modest success. Much more influential was looking up at the moon knowing there was someone who shared my first name standing on it -mind boggling for a 7 year old!

I got a 2" reflector on a 'toy' tripod. I remember being amazed by the moon and frustrated that mars (or jupiter, I thought it was mars) just kept running off the view although it was just a bright dot.

Then about 18 months ago I pointed my bridge camera at Jupiter wondering if the very long lens would show it as a disk instead of a spot.

It was, and was accompanied by a few bright dots. i had to repeat teh exercise the next evening to check tehy weren't just lens flare. They were there, but in different places!

I then tried processing and these two dark bands appeared!

I then discovered stacking and the bands got a bit clearer.

Jupiter And moons composite

Then a year ago I found saturn and when I zoomed in to the dot on the first shot I took I saw rings.

Saturn

From that point I've been working up the getting a scope. i even collected together the stuff for making RA drive six months before getting a scope!

Now getting a kick from getting improvements that are mostly in my imagination.... who cares, it's fun.

Jupiter 45 To 47

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Just curious to see and to know more about what there is in the sky.

Unfortunately I interrupted this hobby for many years due to a few factors, but I am happy to be back again.

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So many factors.  As a child, I was always fascinated with all things space.  I liked to imagine what it would be like to live in a cloud city on Neptune, or under the ice of Europa, or what it would be like to fall into a black hole.  I would pick out a random star in the night sky, and wonder if there was anyone in my line of sight looking back in my direction.

...

The more I looked up, the more stars I could see, until I realised I could see the faint glowing band of the Milky Way galaxy.  Each star that I could see was surrounded by a faint mist, and I realised that the mist was just more stars.  That got me back into it.

...

try and set up as far away from the nearest town as I can possibly manage, and just spend hours slewing it around, seeing stars for which I know no name, sometimes spotting a globular cluster or galaxy.  I love every minute of it.

I can SO relate to this!!

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Was on a walk just over a week ago and saw some of the biggest and brightest "stars" I had ever seen and wanted to know what they were. Were they planets? Stars? Galaxies? Turns out it was Jupiter and Venus. I had seen bright stars in the past, but for once was determined to find out what they were!

I'm not going to throw myself in because it will distract me from work and other interests, but I also like the idea of "citizen science" as well as having something to do that isn't drinking. I don't do much anyway, but still. 

Regards 

spot on with the citizen science movement too!  I think that that's one of the things that amateur astronomers have always had, the opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of the universe.

some brilliant stories on here cant top any. but astronomy is brilliant and i think the people on here sgl inspire me to keep going with stories like these :tongue:

I suppose that there is an element of truth in the idea that we are (all) story tellers and that inspiration can be found in fora like this.  It is in the stories, the problems - how they are overcome, the successes and of course the suggestions from others in their sharing of experience and expertise.

It's thoughts like these that I appreciate and it allows I think, that sense of community to come into being for each new member.

michael 

others that provides 

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Unfortunately I interrupted this hobby for many years due to a few factors, but I am happy to be back again.

This seems to be a common factor- a childhood interest, followed by a 20 year gap to allow for carreers/marriage/children, then interest is regained when time and money allow.

I was surprised by the leaps and bounds amatuer astronomy had come on in the intervening years. Back in the day we had no GOTO, CCD's, computers/internet, cheap telescopes etc.  Today you can take an image that a professional would have proud of not so long ago!

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and there lies the topic of an interesting thread methinks!

All of the changes over the years, opinions as to the good, bad or indifferent, advantages to some types of equipment and their disadvantages as well.  New objects to observe (I'm thinking here the ISS) and so on.

As well as maybe how different people see amateur astronomy and how that may have changed in the relatively short time since say, the '60's.

michael

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I've never described myself as an Amateur Astronomer. I'm a Stargazer!

My interest in the night sky goes back further than my reliable memory, but I got a toy telescope on my 8th birthday and that acts as a bookmark in my mind.

Later I played with some lenses as per the Ladybird book "Light, Mirrors and lenses". Best book ever!

My motivation to learn was driven by the deep and sometimes worrying questions that were growing in my mind.

After a life of enquiring I still can't answer the questions that unsettled me as a boy. So I make do with looking out on the Universe in awe :)

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Paul do you remember any of the How and Why books?  I think that they had ones on telescopes and microscopes similar to the Ladybirds.

michael

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I was browsing the shelves of WH Smiths when I caught sight of a little Observers book on Astronomy. I bought it and read it, the week after I bought Guide to the Moon. I sat for six hours as I read the book from front to back. The week after that I bought Guide to Mars. That was back in 1980, I was 18years old back then and I've never lost that initial feeling of wonder, awe and excitement that good old Patrick instilled in me through the pages of his books.

I was then fortunate enough to come across a copy of Starlight Nights by Leslie C Peltier. That was like throwing petrol on a fire. I read that book at least once a year, usually in the miserable wet, cold months when sitting by the fire is more appealing than dying of hypothermia. Peltiers love for the stars and his telescopes is contagious and inspiring and I'd recommend his autobiography to anyone who loves astronomy from the heart.

Mike :-)

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Going off at a bit of a tangent. I'm a big NFL fan, and support the Vikings. One of their players from a few years back is a keen astronomer. He retired from playing and started coaching, but also let the kids use his scope (looked like a 14" lx 200) to teach them about astronomy

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As a school child and the enthusiasm of an Astronomy minded Science teacher, encouraged years later by the programmes of the late Sir Patrick Moore :)

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General interest in photography -> Forrest tanaka (was looking into youtube how to go about capturing M31 with a dslr and a flimsy tripod) -> Hubble images -> SGL -> Visit to the local astronomy shop -> Hooked :D

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