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Littleguy80

How has technology changed Astronomy for you

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I just found myself considering how using SkySafari makes something like finding Neptune, Uranus or Comet 46P quite trivial. I can replicate the view through my Telrad, Finder and Eyepiece with ease and within minutes, sometimes less, be observing my target. I’m quite aware that a number of members have been in this hobby for decades, possibly longer than I’ve been alive. I was born in 1980 for those wondering. How has technology changed astronomy for those who observed in a time before GOTO and smart phones? Was observing Neptune, asteroids and comets a much greater challenge than it is now? I wouldn’t want to give up SkySafari but I can imagine observing these targets had a much greater sense of achievement when found without today’s gadgets. 

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I find Stellarium and Cartes du Ciel useful but otherwise I'm very happy with a star atlas and my manually driven scopes. So minimal use of technology ticks the box for me.

I do have a mobile and a tablet with Sky Safari on them but I don't find that I reach for these devices very often at all.

I think I'm moving into my "dinosaur" phase in the hobby though so I'm probably not representative of many :rolleyes2:

Some might suggest that I've been a dinosaur for quite a while already ......

I don't mind at all how other folks like to do things though - whatever floats your boat ! :thumbright:

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 I spent my first couple of years or so using paper maps and no computers. When I discovered sky safari I didn't consciously change approach but in hindsight  I stopped taking my maps out into the field pretty much.

 

 

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I got into this hobby before the invention of the first led device and the first video game, which was Pong, a tennis game that consisted of a single white moving dot on a black screen.  Yes, technology has come a long way, but I'm still a visual only observer and prefer to enjoy studying my star charts in planning a session; and then make the most of what the conditions have to offer.  I like to keep things simple, and tracking mounts with setting circles work for my kind of observing.  Technology has not changed Astronomy much for me, but I do appreciate what it has done to further our hobby.

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I started off with a manual EQ Mount, struggling to find anything at all really. It would take me hours to find M81 or M57 in the early days. I added dual axis motors and enjoyed the tracking ability. Goto came along with a Vixen Sphinx Mount and over the years I learned the sky so that I can find plenty without assistance. Most of my observing is done on manual Alt Az mounts these days, although I do have goto options available. The biggest single thing I’ve found to have improved my enjoyment of astronomy (outside SGL) is SkySafari. I love the idea of paper maps, and own plenty, but somehow my brain works better with white stars on black, and the flexibility and ability to tune the display to your needs is amazing. I love planning what to look at, or looking into the future to see what events might be coming up. Having it available on my phone so it is always with me is a major benefit too.

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No technology in the field, just charts and notes and, comically, plenty of straining to see them with a magnifying glass misted up reading glasses, ridiculously dim red emitting head light. Just old school in my approach, still use paper maps to go hill walking to.

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Initially I found books and iPhones a burden when out observing because they needed illuminating, and I believed that the darker it was, the better it is for my eyes. Even got to the stage when using my 'Dob-tent' , that changing an eyepiece was all done by memory and touch alone, so dark inside.

I don't have technology on the scope either,  its all manual, but I do have v15 Stellarium, which I use to locate stuff before I go outside. My sky availability/view is relatively small, so anywhere between Cassiopeia and Ursa Major is fare game , the rest of the viewing angles are generally obscured by structures, tree's and buildings.

One thing that I've discovered, I've still lots to learn up there, the names, the positioning of each constellation in relation to each other. I'm just glad its still a learning process and its taking some time to grasp, so there's plenty to be getting on with, and I've had my first session this year, tonight, and still no electronic wizardry of any kind, and at -4° with snow and ice all around and a Bright Moon, Mars was perfectly placed for me around 1900 hours' and I'm sure I saw the tint of blue that was Uranus.  Thats ThreePlanets total, perfectly positioned in  just over 5 years maybe, what with seeing conditions, the continual weather and sodium street lights.................all changed for the better now, except the weather.
It was also slightly misty when I started tonight, and took about two hours for the air currents to look anywhere  near calm in the scope, mainly viewing at 100x.

Edited by Charic
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I've needed nothing but the National Audubon Field Guide to the Night Sky, a practical 4x8 handbook, in my twenty years of Dob activity.

Though I'm thankful to have a new imaging rig, I find the capturing process an impersonal thing, all business (and that business has started off with intense growing pains!), nothing like sitting next to a big reflector in the middle of a night so dark I can only see my hand in front of my face with the wrist red-light on, and all those glorious opportunities overhead.

It's changed a lot for me.

But that's a good thing.

Edited by Seanelly
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Technology has given me my scanning tunnelling telescope which has allowed me to see all the way to the surface of last scattering lol kidding. I wish, i'd say for me, software has been a great help, the use of apps and computer software has made planning sessions and finding/identifying objects a lot easier.

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I have to say that one of the biggest leaps forward for me was when I got my first computerised scope (ETX80). Before that I had tried a number of scopes (including a 10" dob) that I just could not get on with, so it was all done by 7x50 binos. That little scope was so easy to setup and use - and actually find things! - that it met the first qualification of any useful scope - it got used. Moved on a long way since then - virtually all imaging now, using not only goto, but automatic platesolving and live stacking. I know there are many who enjoy the "thrill of the hunt" and I respect that, but for me it is the end result that I enjoy and anything that cuts down the hassle of getting it is a good thing.

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I love everything being as computerised as possible. I don’t have a lot of time to observe and now I’ve got to grips with my Goto mount it’s a godsend. Really can’t be bothered learning to star hop etc and I am learning as I go anyway. 

A mobile is useful for just sense checking my memory that it is actually a particular star I’m aligning to etc. 

Of course getting into the photography side makes technology pretty much a must these days although I marvel at the really old images the early astronomers were able to take. They are really captivating. 

Honestly, and I don’t mean this as an offence - just an observation, I find astronomers who say everyone should star hop and Goto is the work of the devil the same as ham radio operators who bemoan the fact Morse is no longer part of the license requirements (another hobby of mine). 

Technology moves on and the way people can operate changes. If you like to star hop - brilliant and all respect to you for learning. I don’t have to, don’t want to do and will take every little bit of help I can. 

I am of course slightly hypocritical in all of this as don’t get me started on so called DJ’s who can’t mix vinyl :D

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For me it is EAA technologies that defeat the shocking local light pollution that prevents me seeing any DSOs via an eyepiece. 

Using two Intel NUCs with Iris Plus 640 Graphics and Windows 10 Desktop I now remotely control scope, camera and autofocuser from inside my warm 'mission control' and enjoy a complete 'end to end' 4k UHD experience by observing on a ultra high definition monitor.  Hyperstar makes my 8" scope f/2 hence even the most challenging of targets can be viewed 'near live. This beats sitting freezing in a field with numb fingers. The only trouble is I often lose my target on screen, spend 10 minutes fiddling with histogram, focus etc before realising the issue is 100% cloud.  One does tend to lose touch with reality when immersed in a large 28" display, but I prefer feeling like Buck Rogers than Scott of the Antartic

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Technology is superb for everyday life, but for my observing sessions, never, for me it

takes all the fun and excitement out of finding targets, and the satisfaction I get from

simple star hopping, yes technology is a fantastic tool, but not for my observing sessions.

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I guess for me technology has changed the hobby for me by the introduction of high speed manufacturing and distribution systems making high quality and dependable telescopes and equipment widely available and then the introduction the internet blew the throttle wide open, I started with a sears 60mm frac and watched Startrek with Captain Kirk on a black and white television after school the only smartphone in the universe then the Captains now infamous communicator. The first industrial control systems I repaired and built used mechanical timers and relays it was another time...

Like some others I haven't got on well with goto and a single tracking motor on a good eq mount for visual does the trick when needed, but all the computers programs smartphones and applications that now assist me in planning execution and documentation of my observations does tip the scale too.

 

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Interesting to see that almost all the above comments using limited technology are observing. I wonder whether there is a clear divide in this regard with imaging as, for me anyway, technology makes imaging some of the things that used to be impossible for amateurs, possible. 

I think if I was doing visual only I'd probably atually consciously limit the use of technology as I can see this is part of the fun. However, as I primarily image, I'm not sure I'd enyoy it as much as this element of it is part of the enjoyment for me (getting everything working for it to work once and then have to get it all working all over again).

Edited by RayD
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I seem to be moving away from GoTo these days, preferring to start with very widefield views (inc. In conjunction with the 8SE), but I always work with Stellarium, and sometimes Sky Safari.  Without SS I would not have found 46P, and I was so impressed that I have just bought a better version, and a 10 inch tablet to use it on! 

Doesn't matter how you go about it though.  The one constant seems to be expenditure! 

Doug.

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The Internet - access to all of that knowledge!! ....... and all of those classified ads...

Maps on the iPad whilst observing (another SkySafari fan here). I wish that it were otherwise, but it saves hours! Anyway, my paper star atlases are far to precious to take outside in the damp.

I don’t GoTo, push to or track, but can see the attraction.

Do dew heaters count as technology?

Paul

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15 minutes ago, Paul73 said:

Do dew heaters count as technology?

That is a great question. I resisted for a long time because I never wanted a session to end because a battery ran out. In the end, I decided sessions ending because everything dewed up was no better!

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I will break the trend. I love my Nexus and would never contemplate observing without at least push-to.

i get maybe 4 nights out per month and I want to spend that minuscule amount of time actually observing targets, I have a bad back and have absolutely no interest in trying to find stuff myself (of course needing glasses to see the sky and having to remove them to observe is another blocker to a manual process).

if others love to find stuff then that’s fine with me. My hobby is my hobby and how I do it is for my satisfaction. 

Of course, I have come full circle and night vision technology allows me to see targets that are not even present in sky safari so I am back to manually trying to find stuff, I usually just mark up areas in sky safari where the target should be and push and pull while looking through the eyepiece to find the target.

i have recently bought a skywatcher AZ gti and love that too, (once i got the hang of the alignment process!).

As said above, with diminishing stars visible in the sky, it seems inevitable that star hopping will become consigned to the history of star gazing so make the most of it while you can (if that’s your idea of fun). 

Alan

Edited by alanjgreen
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Great point about Neptune. Technology is very important for that. I suppose monthly magazines might have published up to date maps which would work pretty well with Uranus but Neptune is so star-like it would be a real challenge without Stellarium and the like. I'd be interested to hear of anyone you doesn't use technology to look up the location of Neptune and Uranus. 

The first time I saw Neptune I was awestruck partly because of the distance for a non-shining object, partly because of the way it was discovered, but mostly because of the (guessed) fact that so few people have seen it. Before personal computers it must have been so difficult- I'm guessing very close conjunctions with bright objects would be the way forward.

So come on old-timers- Did any of you see Neptune or Uranus without a computer program? Was it the pinnacle of your achievements at the time?

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@Littleguy80 I would never have guessed your year of birth. I wasn't sure if your user name gave it away or if it was your age at the time you joined SGL 🙂.

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15 minutes ago, domstar said:

@Littleguy80 I would never have guessed your year of birth. I wasn't sure if your user name gave it away or if it was your age at the time you joined SGL 🙂.

Haha do I come across as being older? I get mixed reactions to my age. Some expect to me older as I have 4 children. My wife considers me to be a child ;) 

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Just now, Littleguy80 said:

My wife considers me to be a child ;) 

I'm well in my 50's and I get the same, so that never changes! 😉

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19 minutes ago, Littleguy80 said:

Haha do I come across as being older? I get mixed reactions to my age. Some expect to me older as I have 4 children. My wife considers me to be a child ;) 

Same here. 

And just as well it's not compulsory to append your birth year to your ID - in my case it almost goes back to when they thought the Sun orbited Earth.  😉

Doug.

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To turn things on their head, I could have said street lighting has has been the technology that has most changed my astronomy practices. 15 years ago my house was surrounded by fields. Now 6,000 new houses; football stadium; floodlit rugby Club; two vehicle retailers that illuminate showrooms all night etc.  I would be delighted to pursue traditional star hopping visual astronomy but it's now impossible, hence EAA us the only solution else travel prohibitive distances.

 

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