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John

Is observational astronomy on the wane ?

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2 hours ago, Moonshane said:

...What has spoiled it for me is inconsiderate people and specifically poorly sited and directed lights. I can cope with ambient/domed general light pollution but other more local lights coming on really destroy the enjoyment...

Good point! :icon_salut:

Since my local authority has retro-fitted or erected new streetlights in my area to LED ones over the last two years, I do find they are brighter, (though above them is darker). I did make a [non-astro] complaint to the lighting officer to say I was getting overspill and was told after 00:30am they will be 40% dimmer until about 05:00am.

Edited by Philip R
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1 hour ago, Philip R said:

... after 00:30am they will be 40% dimmer until about 05:00am.

Ours get turned off for a period.

Edited by StarryEyed

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What matters most to me is that all aspects of amateur astronomy are maintained/increased in the future.   😀

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The ratio of imagers to visual astronmers has definitely shifted away from the visual side but I'm not sure if there's significantly less of us than there used to be?

How many of the people coming into astronomy through imaging would have been interested in visual astronomy if the imaging technology hadn't have been there? Seems to me that for a good percentage their interest wouldn't have been piqued in the first place so it's not like visual astronomy is losing huge numbers, just that imaging is attracting extra people to the hobby?

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I wonder if imaging has brought a new wave of interest in the hobby by providing a new way into it and by being popular it may have surpassed visual observing but not necessarily at the expense of visual observing. Could it be that visual and imaging are both more popular than ever due to lower prices for kit and the free availability of so much information about how to use it. It's just that imaging has grown more? I don't know if this is the case, I am just wondering.

I'm visual only, I like the simple experiences that you can enjoy by being present in the moment. I have enough complications in normal life that I don't want to add to them.

I also think that although I enjoy observing with others when the chance arises, that visual observing lends itself to being a lone activity. 

It's harder to write visual reports as you can't share pictures but for those of us that are visual observers, these reports have a meaning that other astronomers might not pick up on. When I read about someone dodging the clouds, or going for a target and failing to see it despite all their efforts, or getting the best view of a target they've ever had - these all have a big meaning to me. It's almost like being in a secret club where everyone inside understands each other, and everyone outside just thinks we are odd!

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I have spent some time this weekend looking at sales of products typically purchased by visual astronomers, like the Telrad finder, Moon filter and planisphere. Also sales of manual Dobsonian telescopes. I don't know what our competitors are experiencing but, looking at FLO's stats, I cannot see anything that suggests a decline in visual astronomy 🙂 

HTH,

Steve

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Have been giving this a bit more thought. 🤔

I think that yes the imaging side is growing quite a bit but as alluded to in some of the earlier posts it’s the overall hobby that is growing rather than the number of visual observers decreasing.

Also it’s not surprising that thee are more posts re: imaging as first of all they have images to post whereas viusal observers simply don’t bother to post their observing experiences as often. Also imagers need more help than visual in getting things working so more requests for help and advise and sharing of experiences.

Things may differ in the US compared to the UK and EU but I wouldn’t imagine there would be a huge difference.

Conclusio:  The astronomy hobby has never been healthier. 👍🏻

Edited by johninderby
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When I opened my astro guest house I was purely visual. It soon became clear that I wasn't going to get enough customers from amongst the visual observers because most (maybe two thirds) of our guests were imagers bringing their own kit to use at our dark site. More because I felt I had to than because I wanted to, I decided to get involved and sought the best expert advice available at that time. It came (and still does come) from Ian King and I repeat the same advice to newcomers to this day. A big thanks to Ian and all the best for his new venture with FLO.

I had next to no IT competence at all at that time so the process was very intimidating and I wasn't fully embedded in the internet culture, nor was I on SGL. However, once I got going I absolutely loved it and, as I hope is obvious, still do.

I don't draw too many conclusions from the fact that imagers outnumber visual observers for me here. It may be to do with the trek to southern France not appealing or to some other factor and I'm delighted that FLO don't see the same trend in their business. I'd hate to see visual observing decline and I can imagine retiring into it myself, one day. I'm glad to say that our visual scope does still have its devotees, as do our lounge chairs and binoculars. 

Olly

Edit: There's an old saying in the motorcycle world: 'When there only two bikes left running on the Earth, one of them will have a sidecar on it.' I suspect that when there are only two scopes left on the Earth one of them will have an eyepiece in it. Then again, it might be both... :D

Edited by ollypenrice
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19 minutes ago, johninderby said:

 

Also it’s not surprising that thee are more posts re: imaging as first of all they have images to post whereas viusal observers simply don’t bother to post their observing experiences as often. Also imagers need more help than visual in getting things working so more requests for help and advise and sharing of experiences.

Absolutely. It's also a great way for amateurs who don't know how to really describe or talk about what they're seeing to share their experiences.

I'd almost see imaging as a gateway for visual.

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Earlier I commented on imaging from the Carl Sagan cosmos series 1980 and those produced by amateurs today. I would love to know what amateurs will be able to do from their back gardens in another forty years. But I suspect some will still be observing.

So much to see and do and so little time and money.

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In decline; I hope not and I don't think it is.

Astronomy is a very 'broad church' so plenty of room for all, the more the merrier.
I have just read this entire thread and enjoyed the many posts so far, very interesting responses.

I have to say I am a Visual Observer and I like to keep it uncomplicated. 
See my signature 'Make it Simple, Make it Fun'.
Enjoying the simplicity, the hunt for targets, the quiet, the wildlife I hear and sometimes see
and as to Imaging, wonderful stuff I enjoy looking at the fantastic images posted by others, but not for me to take and process.

This week I watched a member at my club during a talk looking at his iPad and watching his remote scope pulling in data.
I was impressed and thought nice one sir, but not for me, where is the under the sky experience as above.
As I said a 'broad church' and the more the merrier.


 

Edited by Alan White
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NO!! Visual observing is so last century! 

Sell your gear before it is too late. Don't ask more than 1/3 of the new price, or you won't be able to get rid of it.

SELL NOW!!

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I'm in the visual camp - I like the immediacy of direct observing, even if detail can be lacking.  Visual has plenty of technical/scientific demands - choice of 'scope and EP, collimation of the Dob and Cat, updating the Cat's firmware, generating tables of mag, FOV, exit pupil for various 'scopes, also data for guidance re mag required for splitting doubles - all useful aids to make sessions smoother.

Enjoyment and sharing are the key issues I reckon, whatever one's approach.  But no @John, I can't see visual declining in popularity!

Interesting thread!

Doug.

 

 

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45 minutes ago, cloudsweeper said:

 .... But no @John, I can't see visual declining in popularity!

 

Thats good news Doug and I'm very heartened by the overall response to this thread from SGL members :icon_biggrin:

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I recently returned from a touring holiday in the USA  spending 4 nights in Sedona. On Sunday 8th, a sign appeared in the hotel reception advertizing 'Stargazing live ' that evening in a dark area just outside of the hotel. I went along and discovered a local guy with several bits of kit, but principally a 28" Dob. I had visions of spending a wonderful evening with a kindred spirit who would allow me unlimited access to his leviathan scope , but  within a short space of time a lot of people had arrived anxious to see objects in the sky, and I became just another person allotted a few seconds before making way for the next. This was really good and I was quite happy listening to the gasps of approval at what was being shown, and several expressed astonishment that such sights were visible at all.

This may have no real bearing on this interesting thread, but I could imagine a good number of those people went away with the idea of observing for themselves.

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I like the idea of imaging but cant really justify the expense. I like sketching as it seems for me to help reinforce in my memory what i have seen. I get a feeling of awe looking at something new i have found using charts compass and frustration even if it is a faint smudge. I like the panorama shots ie milky way over landscape as i like the whole landscape photography thing.  If i want a picture of a nebula etc i am happy to look at a hubble shot and use my minds eye to over lay on what i an seeing in the scope itself. 

Sometimes the equipment and new toys mean more than the subject itself  i have found this with the other hobbies i pursue. I have a nice guitar but got tired of the competition at my local folk club over who had the most expensive one etc  as if it made anyone a better player! I like observing as i am learning new stuff all the time. For me anyway it is about stargazing and understanding what i am seeing than how good my photograph is, or how big a lens I have.

i hope observing doesn't die out, amd especially sketching. I am getting better at sketching but still admire many of the pieces of art i have seen on this site

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Ruud said:

NO!! Visual observing is so last century! 

Sell your gear before it is too late. Don't ask more than 1/3 of the new price, or you won't be able to get rid of it.

SELL NOW!!

And Ruud will take all this out of date gear off your hands. 😁😂🤣

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7 hours ago, Philip R said:

Good point! :icon_salut:

Since my local authority has retro-fitted or erected new streetlights in my area to LED ones over the last two years, I do find they are brighter, (though above them is darker). I did make a [non-astro] complaint to the lighting officer to say I was getting overspill and was told after 00:30am they will be 40% dimmer until about 05:00am.

 

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26 minutes ago, johninderby said:

And Ruud will take all this out of date gear off your hands.

Now that is a good plan, but ...

On dear. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.

I guess I'll have to make at least an effort. Anyone willing to help?

 

 

 

Edited by Ruud
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Just now, Ruud said:

Now that is a good plan, but ...

On dear. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.

I guess I'll have to make at least an effort. Anyone willing help?

Well, you know, if I must.  It would be wrong not to try to help out, really.

James

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6 minutes ago, JamesF said:

Well, you know, if I must.  It would be wrong not to try to help out, really.

Wonderful! James will organise the effort. Send him a PM and let him know how many items you are willing to take in.

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I am not sure of a trend, but I do see constant AP activity across the forums.

The following sums up for me my point if view on Visual Observation.

Visual astronomy is where you stick your eyeball on the opening of that little glass piece on the southern end of your telescope and soak up photons in your retina. You're just sitting there quiet but for the occasional gasp of delight.

It is an intimate activity. It is, on its face, a one way conversation wherein we allow a particular part of the universe to physically enter our body through our eye, or eyes, as the case may be. And for the earliest astronomers it was a profound intercourse with a vast mystery.

Today as we post ourselves in the dark behind our instrument we have the experience of "listening" with our eyes to the story written large in time and space of beginning, continuance, and ending. It is the grand metaphor of our tiny personal existance. It is a renaissance of the mind were we rediscover our humanity in the inanimate light.

These are my peculiar thoughts, as I sit in the dark and listen, unable to willfully respond, passively reflecting the tiniest fraction of this light from the surface of my glistening eye. But there is nothing original in that reflection. It is what has come to me from without.

In speaking to you of what I see I find a mere approximation of what has happened to me. If I describe to you the mechanics of the experience, the physicochemical activity of my eye, it would not do. So I speak in a crude translation of what has changed within me as a result.

There the motion and velocity of thought, which is another mechanism of organized chemistry and matter, cascades in symbols of sound. And this must again iterate in a further translation through ear and in your mind. And just so we convert light into thought.

It is always a pleasure to read here the observing accounts of data. But it is thrilling to read the account of one struggling to express the change that has occurred in ones self as a result of the seeing.

Ok. So where is the practical in all of this palaver?

With AP we have a product. It is now an image preserved, ready to share. After all a picture is worth a thousand words. And there it is. The seeing is worth a thousand words. The eye must engage. But here is the rub

We have not seen the thing. We have seen another kind of estimation of the thing perturbed by the biases of the camara. It is no longer intimate.

The product of observational astronomy is intimacy.

Edited by Natty Bumpo
Typo
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