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John

Is observational astronomy on the wane ?

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17 minutes ago, Natty Bumpo said:

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.

I haven't read the whole thread, but I agree with you completely.

I never realised how addictive that AP would become (or how expensive).

And yet, my best images are just in my memory.  I can clearly remember my first views of Saturn and Jupiter (and moons!!!)

My best memory is the view of the Perseus double cluster.  One of them struck me as a diamond ring.  I've never seen an image that had anywhere the colour and vibrancy that I thought that I saw.

 

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44 minutes ago, don4l said:

My best memory is the view of the Perseus double cluster.  One of them struck me as a diamond ring. 
I've never seen an image that had anywhere the colour and vibrancy that I thought that I saw.

This made me smile, Visual Observers memory of a sight that has stuck, it's what it is all about.
I think your Diamond Ring is my Reindeer face with antlers.
 

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On 22/09/2019 at 20:49, Natty Bumpo said:


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.

I liked your post very much and many points resonated with me. This last one, though, misses a key point about astrophotography and, more specifically, about image processing, which is (for me) the most rewarding part. Your choice of the term 'intimacy' is an excellent one, but it applies just as perfectly to image processing as it does to visual observing. It's a different kind of intimacy, sure, but it's a closely related one. Our data often contains the merest hints of signal just above the background sky and who knows what faint structures might lie, tantalizingly, within that signal? They might be tidal tails from ancient interactions, they might be vast extensions of better known and brighter nebulae, they might be ghostly outer spiral arms rarely seen or they might be traces of the Integrated Flux Nebulosity. Then again, careful sharpening might find new structural details on the finest scales. The object becomes a friend, gradually revealing more of itself, providng answers yet posing new questions. What, for example, might the source of that particle wind which must surely be sweeping through Orion from the west, imploding the western side of Barnard's Loop and shaping the Meissa Nebulosity? No visual observation can know even that this phenomenon exists because it is both too large and too faint for any eyepiece yet for me, processing an Orion image, it became a source of fascination, an intimate interaction with that constellation. 

I don't feel I know an object until I've imaged it. Looking at someone else's image doesn't work.  I need to work through the data processing to feel confident that I know it.

Olly

 

Edited by ollypenrice
Typo
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Hell, Olly - if that ^^^^ doesn't win over some converts, nothing will!  

Now, what's a good camera to start with?  😉

Doug.

Edited by cloudsweeper
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35 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

I liked your post very much and many points resonated with me. This last one, though, misses a key point about astrophotography and, more specifically, about image processing, which is (for me) the most rewarding part. Your choice of the term 'intimacy' is an excellent one, but it applies just as perfectly to image processing as it does to visual observing. It's a different kind of intimacy, sure, but it's a closely related one. Our data often contains the merest hints of signal just above the background sky and who knows what faint structures might lie, tantalizingly, within that signal? They might be tidal tails from ancient interactions, they might be vast extensions of better known and brighter nebulae, they might be ghostly outer spiral arms rarely seen or they might be traces of the Interated Flux Nebulosity. Then again, careful sharpening might find new structural details on the finest scales. The object becomes a friend, gradually revealing more of itself, providng answers yet posing new questions. What, for example, might the source of that particle wind which must surely be sweeping through Orion from the west, imploding the western side of Barnard's Loop and shaping the Meissa Nebulosity? No visual observation can know even that this phenomenon exists because it is both too large and too faint for any eyepiece yet for me, processing an Orion image, it became a source of fascination, an intimate interaction with that constellation. 

I don't feel I know an object until I've imaged it. Looking at someone else's image doesn't work.  I need to work through the data processing to feel confident that I know it.

Olly

 

Great post Olly.

Reminds me of

Image result for rutger blade runner

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If I could see with my naked eye and telescope anywhere near the detail that the camera can see then I probably wouldn't bother with AP.. that said its nice to have a hard copy of the images to look back on and keep. Doesn't matter how technically brilliant the photos are as long as you as an individual enjoy them. Whatever you enjoy doing most don't forget to take in the wonder of the night sky in which ever way you prefer..

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An interesting thread! I did once tease an art-loving GF with notions that
e.g. photography "had rendered the whole of fine art" redundant? lol. 😬
Living dangerously? If needed, I have learned the "error of my ways"...

In my favour, I had bought books on "how to draw/paint"... I Did *try*!
I have rarely found MANY people showing an interest in "my" science...
To me, the thing is experience... To discover and learn NEW stuff etc. 😎

To some extent, I sense, like "Athletics" some folks are better equipped
physically... More sensitive eyes? Greater visual acuity? I once showed a
total novice the Sun via PST. He could see (describe) stuff I couldn't! 🤓

Above all I feel I am (despite my critics) an "Egalitarian"! I want to find
out WHY people are attracted to different stuff... different techniques? 
I suppose the danger is I become a "Jack of all Trades etc." But Hey! 😸 

There is a (life) time / funding thing: Staff? "Go fund me" maybe? lol 😛
(Trying to live to the next "Solar Max"... Favoured Planet positions etc.)

Edited by Macavity
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2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

and who knows what faint structures might lie, tantalizingly, within that signal?

This reminded me of the Michaelangelo quote.. "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it..... I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Going through that dark stack step by step teasing every little bit out you can, then redoing it over and over until its just right is a great joy. It's the pay off for the frustration, hours of cold, setup and tear down. A bit like panning for gold dust in the paydirt you spend days digging I guess. Imagers invest so much time, frustration, money, patience into gathering up those photons and that moment is what is was all for.

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On 23/09/2019 at 08:17, Moonshane said:

Great post Olly.

Reminds me of

Image result for rutger blade runner

PN In Cool Hand Luke Shane ??

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Images from TV, magazines, books and the internet whet my appetite for years until I gave in and spent the cash!

I'm so glad I gave in. Remembering the first time I observed Jupiter with my own eyes at 150x. Those few minutes had a profound effect, almost spiritual. A real "at one with the universe" moment.

Reading some of the replies here, I'm sure I'm not the only one, and many more will follow.

Some of those will be enticed by the dark art of digital imaging sorcery. Whatever path people choose, it seems amateur astronomy is more accessible than ever before and long may that trend continue.

 

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In this age of social media and wanting to have an audience it appears that AP is more popular than OA/stargazing. We all want a tangible result and a picture tells a thousand words. 

Observational astronomy, however, can only be expressed in words and the online world does not have the patience to read reams of text. Shame, as it's a rich store of knowledge to find out what can be seen through various optical apparatus under a variety of skies. 

I for one, use the search function often for that purpose as it aids my own observing journey...

 

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Observational astronomy could be considered to have been on the ascendance in contemporary times, in relative terms. At the very least it is a niche activity, yet accessible in a wide range of equipment, reasonable cost and supportive online forums, to anyone who may develop an enthusiasm, compared to a couple of decades ago. The appeal to observational astronomy is the immediacy and relative simplicity, combining with the rush of excitement on locating and discovering a target. Scrutinising the night sky connects those of us who go out to visually observe perhaps with an ancestral impulse. Distinguishing something for what it is, at the parameters of visual attainment, accepting those photons is truly engaging.

Having been once a part of an astronomical society and attending star parties, whilst welcoming, the clear focus of attention was on imaging and lap top observing. There is a slight conflict of interest in getting fully dark adapted surrounded by gadgets and a general opinion that imaging is the natural progression. Visual astronomy perhaps serves best those that are OK to go it alone and share / interact on here (thank goodness for that), or can formulate informal groups of like minded people. Whether it is on the wane, yep it probably is; encroaching light pollution, excessive air traffic, poor weather is enough reasoning. Does it matter? Perhaps unfortunate but no not really, modernity will continue beyond this generation to connect successive generations with the sky at night. 

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15 hours ago, dweller25 said:

Rutger Hauer - Bladerunner

Ah! you're correct, but the resemblance to Paul Newman's character is 
remarkable. He looked a sorry sight after his  fight with George Kennedy 😀.

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Glad you have some clear skies.  Good luck with both your imaging and observing.

Edited by Gina

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2 minutes ago, kirkster501 said:

Scopes’ a-imaging whilst I’m observing 

So you are both enjoying yourselves ? :icon_biggrin:

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Just seen this John, I am not doing so much at the moment due to requiring an operation to remove a bit of my insides, so this alone prevents me from doing as much as i would like for lifting and not getting cold is another factor. I am into imaging at the moment but have been for a couple of years now.

I still have the Dob which has not been out this year and may appear as a waste, but I am sure once better i will come back to it. I don't think any amount of imagining can take away the joy of first seeing that sharp Jupiter at x238 in 18  inch or the Veil Neb with the Olll in place, the first time I split Sirius and later Antares , photos can't take that away or for me replace it.

Alan

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32 minutes ago, Gina said:

Glad you have some clear skies.  Good luck with both your imaging and observing.

I spoke too soon, it’s totally clouded out in the space of 15 minutes 🙄

Edited by kirkster501
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I have only been doing astronomy for just less than two years. I am utterly hooked, obsessed my wife says. I am purely visual with the exception of a couple of ep moon shots and some wide field Milky Way pics.

Money no object and I would be doing astrophotography but personally I need to see as much as I can with my own eyes for my own satisfaction.

Being a ‘fanatic’ I talk to non astronomers who enquire about our pastime and run into a continual problem. Disappointment that what you see is not anything like a Hubble image! In this age of pictures before information the image has more impact and the reality for a lot of first timers is just ‘not’ graphic enough.

Visual and photo require dedication and both are valid but with astrophotography you get a souvenir not a memory. A souvenir is something powerful and graphic, materially real after the event. Try getting someone engaged with the description “small grey fuzzy blob””

For me personally I am just glad some people are interested and not watching tv all day. If we need the glossy pictures as well as quiet contemplative ep work then people are looking up! That’s what matters.

Marvin

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2 hours ago, Marvin Jenkins said:

I have only been doing astronomy for just less than two years. I am utterly hooked, obsessed my wife says. I am purely visual with the exception of a couple of ep moon shots and some wide field Milky Way pics.

Money no object and I would be doing astrophotography but personally I need to see as much as I can with my own eyes for my own satisfaction.

Being a ‘fanatic’ I talk to non astronomers who enquire about our pastime and run into a continual problem. Disappointment that what you see is not anything like a Hubble image! In this age of pictures before information the image has more impact and the reality for a lot of first timers is just ‘not’ graphic enough.

Visual and photo require dedication and both are valid but with astrophotography you get a souvenir not a memory. A souvenir is something powerful and graphic, materially real after the event. Try getting someone engaged with the description “small grey fuzzy blob””

For me personally I am just glad some people are interested and not watching tv all day. If we need the glossy pictures as well as quiet contemplative ep work then people are looking up! That’s what matters.

Marvin

Good points Marvin.  We're all different in our wishes and expectations of course.  As for me, the memories are sufficient, and although non-astro folk care not a jot for faint grey fuzzy patches, they really "do it" for us visual-only astro fans.  I captured galaxy NGC 772 a few days ago, and was awestruck by what I was observing - a galaxy twice the size of our Milky Way.  In my eyepiece.  Fantastic!

Doug.

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Couldn’t agree more Doug. I love visual, my eye seeing something in the heavens. I also love the images that astronomers are able to create. As for the original idea for this thread (John) with technology being easily accessible at a lesser cost each year then visual may take a back seat for a while.

What I have learned in my first two years is that without direct hands on help, proper DSO photography is rarely accomplished, as new persons such as myself need to learn the basics of astronomy before leaping into photography.

In that initial period I feel the seeds of the wonders of the heavens are planted. Pictures are truly revealing but seeing is the truth that cannot be denied.

I am also aware on the photo side that many of the greatest and simple pictures reveal a view of the universe that is simply not possible through the eye piece. It is simply two pieces to the puzzle and they pendulum one way, then perhaps in the future the other.

Nice one John, our paths have crossed a few times and I always look out for your input as I always know there is something that improves my skills, this has really got me thinking. Marvin

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Thought I would return for a moment to this thread. Touched on SGL Challenges competitions heading and every entry was photography, is this a tech problem or are some people’s fears confirmed.

Marv

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On 21/09/2019 at 10:44, johninderby said:

I wonder how  future developments will change the observation vs imaging discussion. In a few years you’ll be able to buy a completly automated remote observing setup that you just bring home, open up and plonk down in the middle of the lawn and it sets itself up leaving you to go inside turn on your TV and select whatever you want to look at and just press a button to capture images with no technical knowledge or effort needed. 

Hmmmmmmm 🤔

Having spent the last 6 weeks building a dedicated  imaging observatory, I’d be up for one of these, but my enjoyment of AP comes from the effort and knowledge needed to make it all work. And interestingly in contrast to Olly’s eloquent post on the joys of image processing, I find this rather onerous. For me, nothing beats seeing the first sub download of an object  and catching sight of all the detail too faint to see visually.

As I see it, it is all visual astronomy, with AP there is just more faff before the photons hit the retina.

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I Have not read the entire thread.

I have dabbled in both visual and astrophotography. I have enjoyed them both for different and also similar reasons.

When imaging you can reveal far more detail than you are able to pick out visually, Also you can more readily share your results.

You can only share your results visually if you are observing with a colleague

I came to a bit of a crossroads recently where I wanted to make a substantial purchase. I could have bought myself a decent imaging rig or a large dob. I opted for the large dob as I love being out under clear dark skies, hunting out obscure faint fuzzies which I have found with my eyes, no go-to, no motor drives, just good old fashioned visual astronomy. I have had and been fortunate enough to share some "wow" moments when observing visually and am hopeful that they will keep coming since I have upgraded my scope.

I think it all comes down to personal preference but for me and most of our club, visual all the way.

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