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Is purely observing a minority pastime now ?


John
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I just think that the rise in popularity of AP is to do with the availability and affordability of the technology available to do it. 20 years ago, AP would have been prohibitively expensive to all but the most dedicated and fortunate amateur astronomer. Now, a second hand DSLR is within the financial reach of many, if not most. A couple of lenses, a tripod and a laptop and you can start.

Another thing is that it's in our nature to want to see more, see further. To many, myself included, AP offers this opportunity. It's really little different to the visual astronomer wanting to upgrade from a 12" to a 16" reflector. 

I would imagine most people engage in both Visual and AP to some extent.

The next thing I'm going to be getting is a decent pair of bins.

Edited by Astro Noodles
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19 minutes ago, Astro Noodles said:

I would imagine most people engage in both Visual and AP to some extent....

 

I suspect you are correct which seems to confirm my suspicion that purely visual observing is increasingly a minority pastime.

I'm happy to be part of that minority though :smiley:

 

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3 minutes ago, John said:

I suspect you are correct which seems to confirm my suspicion that purely visual observing is increasingly a minority pastime.

I'm happy to be part of that minority though :smiley:

 

To me, there is no boundry or line between AP and visual. They are just two different ways of enjoying astronomy.

It's like the motorcycle club that I am involved with, There are sports bikers, bearded cruiser riders, guys that do track days, trike riders, those that just like to fix old motorcycles, those that go on adventure holidays. They are all members of the same club enjoying their hobby in a way that makes them happy.

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, Sunshine said:

Sometimes I feel like i'm the minority with my eyepieces at star parties, nobody wants to play with me. 😢

Interestingly, when I've attended the SGL star parties, the visual side of the hobby has been really well represented. If anything I seem to recall more folks doing visual but that might be the sections of the meets that I hung out with :icon_scratch:

With my club events and public sessions the majority seem to be doing visual observing.

 

Edited by John
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It's an interesting question, I know a few guys who are solely visual but at the same time I don't think any of them would be found on a forum or social media to say "Yeah, I'm solely visual"; some folk just aren't counted because they don't want the complexity of technology in their past time.

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Telescopes now seem to be marketed for imaging, so it’s undoubtedly a growing trend.  Marketing blurbs that offer flat fields, imaging circles corrected to 44mm, optional dedicated flatteners and reducers, orthogonal 3.5” focusers, etc.

The last two telescopes I bought I haven’t so much as looked through one single time.

But I wouldn’t class myself as visual, or even as an amateur astronomer, I don’t even think I have a great grasp of my way around the sky.  If people ask my interest, I’m always clear - I like to take photos of stuff in space.  In my view, visual is diminishing in popularity.

Im like @tomato, bought a 300P dob to try visual, ended up snapping photos through the eyepiece.

 

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On 20/07/2021 at 12:38, John said:

This is not in anyway intended to be a controversial topic I hasten to add

:)

Without wishing to be controversial also :) may I question the title ?

In John's opening post and most people after, it seems that "purely observing" means visual ? Ie. with an eyeball ?? Well I have been observing various astronomical things for over 65y, I forget (!) when exactly but it was well before SputnikI !! using mark I eyeball followed by assistance with various bits of glass, glass and aluminium, and just recently a bit of glass and lots of tiny silicon. But I am still using my eyeball to observe them. Excluding the time when I built a shortwave radio to listen to the Sputniks, when I used my ears to observe them ! :) 

But gosh, I cannot say which form of observing should be considered pure ! 
 

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14 minutes ago, Malpi12 said:

But gosh, I cannot say which form of observing should be considered pure ! 

I don't think that was John's meaning of the word 'purely'. Rather: 

entirely; exclusively.
"the purpose of the meeting was purely to give information"
Edited by Pixies
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I expect John will be able to speak for himself what he meant ;) 

Do you observe a tree falling in the forest if only your ears tell you so.

But gosh, I am really trying not to be controversial honest guv.

(wanders off-stage into the gathering night  to experiment with his new dslr 😀 )

Edited by Malpi12
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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Malpi12 said:

But gosh, I am really trying not to be controversial honest guv.

Well, I'm very pleased to hear that :smiley:

 

Edited by John
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28 minutes ago, tooth_dr said:

Telescopes now seem to be marketed for imaging, so it’s undoubtedly a growing trend.  Marketing blurbs that offer flat fields, imaging circles corrected to 44mm, optional dedicated flatteners and reducers, orthogonal 3.5” focusers, etc.

The last two telescopes I bought I haven’t so much as looked through one single time.

But I wouldn’t class myself as visual, or even as an amateur astronomer, I don’t even think I have a great grasp of my way around the sky.  If people ask my interest, I’m always clear - I like to take photos of stuff in space.  In my view, visual is diminishing in popularity.

Im like @tomato, bought a 300P dob to try visual, ended up snapping photos through the eyepiece.

 

Yup, neither of the two Esprits on the rig have ever had an eyepiece anywhere near them. The previous scope I bought you can't look through if you tried, your head would block the photons.

But several years ago I had a really great first visual session with a 20" Dob at Eddington Lodge in North Cornwall, unfortunately the dark sky/large aperture combination rather spoilt me, I keep comparing my current visual forays back to that experience.

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On 20/07/2021 at 12:38, John said:

I've just noticed over the past, say, 18 months how many folks are seeking to acquire images now in one way or another, through dedicated astro cameras, mobile phones DSLR's etc.

Is the trend towards imaging growing or am I imagining it ?

 

I think you are right that there is a growing trend towards imaging.
Also I think you are right that it has grown in the last 18m.
Both by already-amateur-astronomers, and by those recently come aboard !

The broad growing may be due to those of a certain vintage looking for new aspects, those displaced by increasing light pollution, and/or lots of other reasons.
New chums on-board may be due to online sources describing the wonders of the latest (insert name of device)

As for 18 months ?  Yep I think so, lots of time on hands due to a certain virus (and in some quarters extra funds that have not been spent on petrol and other essentials of modern living etc  ?! ), to go online surfing - -  showing my age again! - - I think mean twittering :) --- leads newcomers down the path of latest technology, , , 
 

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@John in another topic you have said

"I've owned two 12 inch dobs and one was not a good choice because it was far too heavy but the 2nd one (my current one) was much lighter and much more practical all round."

May one ask which is the lightweight one ?

This is another aspect of the "observing"- observability  question that is near to my heart, due to a recent medical misadventure I could no longer handle my 9.25 and 300p  It was 2y ago - soon I think the 9.25 will be manageable again , and with luck maybe also the 300p, that is the good news,

 the other good news is that imaging with little things is quite interesting :)

Edited by Malpi12
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27 minutes ago, Malpi12 said:

@John in another topic you have said

"I've owned two 12 inch dobs and one was not a good choice because it was far too heavy but the 2nd one (my current one) was much lighter and much more practical all round."

May one ask which is the lightweight one ?

 

The Meade Lightbridge 12 inch weighed 80 lbs in total.

My current 12 inch which is an Orion Optics 12 inch F/5.3 tube on a plywood dobsonian mounting made by an SGL friend weighs 58 lbs in total.

 

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6 hours ago, Malpi12 said:

, , , 
 

In quite a way you've just described me there, due to the v-word finding myself having a lot more time to dedicate to things; it's not that one morning I'd woken up and thought "Right, let's do this" but more that I started building back in to it because with the stop I'd realised how much time I'd got because unimportant stuff had been knocked to the curb.
Sure, 40-odd year old me has a bit more disposable income than 15 year old me did, and also a lot more access to resources and a lot more learned experiences but perhaps at the same time a lot more confusion in things which I'm sure is partially down to marketing departments than anything else.  Then on the other side of it, what has changed in them > 25 years is how much technology has come on to make "technology assisted" observing a lot more accessible; first time around for me was two bits of wood, an AC drive motor and a 35mm film camera so not really that precise and the feedback loop was in the order of a week.  Now it is a lot closer to real time and a bit more accessible with what is available on the market at any sort of price range now, the youngsters today won't understand how crippling it could be to any new pastime with being stuck with what was only available from the pages of a family member's home shopping catalogue, not when there's instant shopping and how much quality can be bought for the same sort of price as what a toilet roll tube and a bit of jam jar could be had from the big book of dreams.

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In my brief 6 month stargazing history I am 100% visual so far, looking for the wonder of seeing what I can see. I am recently intrigued by NV assisting as I come to understand the limits of what I can see purely visually but the cost seems rather prohibitive! I guess live-stacking is another option but I don't particularly want to go down the route of having to hook up a laptop and deal with tracking mounts etc as I enjoy the simplicity of what I do, pointing a largish Dob at the heavens. I can certainly see why folk get a satisfaction from AP but it is not for me at the moment...

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1 hour ago, chrispj said:

In my brief 6 month stargazing history I am 100% visual so far, looking for the wonder of seeing what I can see. I am recently intrigued by NV assisting as I come to understand the limits of what I can see purely visually but the cost seems rather prohibitive! I guess live-stacking is another option but I don't particularly want to go down the route of having to hook up a laptop and deal with tracking mounts etc as I enjoy the simplicity of what I do, pointing a largish Dob at the heavens. I can certainly see why folk get a satisfaction from AP but it is not for me at the moment...

You might be interested in this upcoming webinar by @callump on electronically assisted observing: https://britastro.org/node/26053

 

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I do both visual and ap. I agree with some of the previous comments that the increasing popularity of AP has a lot to do with the affordability and availability of the equipment, the urge to share the experience with others, plus the amount of learning materials available online.

I was given my first telescope when I was in Year 10. I very much enjoyed the visual experience for many years despite the fact it was only a cheap 60mm Tasco. I joined the photography club in uni (even learnt about how to develop films and prints although this knowledge is now mostly forgotten) and thought about taking pictures of the night skies. But I was driven away by the high price of the equipment and the complexity of the process. When I came back to the hobby in 2018 after a 10+ year break, I noticed just how affordable it was to start imaging and the large amount of resources available online to learn about it. I do ap only for sharing with friends and family.

I've applied some of the knowledge I learnt from imaging to the visual side. I made what I call an "eFinder" with rpi (RPi4 + HQ camera + a GPIO button), a 50mm finder, astroberry and some python scripts. By using SkySafari on my phone to control the eFinder, I'm able to get highly accurate PA within a few minutes without the need of a polarscope, precise GOTO without any prior star alignment and plate-solve assisted Push To when using manual mounts. The RPi isn't powerful enough yet for fast live stacking. Maybe in the near future I'd be able to turn a small 5" screen attached to the back of a rpi into an electronic eyepiece. That's when ap for me would probably start to lose its appealing.

Edited by KP82
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Thanks to @JeremyS for the plug!

Regarding the OP's question - imaging has been a growing in popularity for a lot long longer than 18 months (IMO).

The Canon 300d, probably the first affordable consumer digital SLR, came out in 2003. Digital camera technology for the photography market and being re-used into the amateur imaging camera market has developed tremendously since then.

Making images using the latest technology has never been easier, or more affordable.

I used to be mainly a visual observer - don't really have the skies or patience to take multi-hour exposures of single objects. For me EAA and EEVA techniques have helped me get back into doing practical observing since my eyesight took a hit a couple of years ago. If you view my upcoming webinar you'll find out more about that.

As others have mentioned it seems a lot easier for someone to post an image on a forum than write a short note about their visual observation. Although some people on SGL do post their visual observations, I expect 99.9% of visual observers never report their observations anywhere. And that's ok - they are just doing it for their own personal pleasure (and same probably goes for some proportion of imagers) - but it would be nice to read more observing reports.

/callump

 

 

 

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I’d spent over 25 years doing entirely visual observation, John, and loved it. I wasn’t much cop at drawing but I could describe what I saw pretty well and, despite aggressive glaucoma in one of my eyes, I’m blessed with quite keen low-light perception  for faint fuzzies!
 

Then when NEOWISE came round last year, I decided to take some (generally pretty awful!) pics with my DSLR as I’d been dabbling in some daytime timelapses. One of my images had the comet reflected in our local lake with a silhouette of me in the foreground (it even got in the local paper). And that was the moment I became hooked on landscape astrophotography.

A few months later I sold my entire visual setup, which I loved, to invest in some decent lenses, tripods and a full frame camera, to give this new creative outlet a chance. I don’t regret doing that, but I do miss quiet nights at the eyepiece. At some point, when space allows, I’ll reacquire  a visual setup - a 12” dob is hard to backtrack from though so it might need to be another one of those!

If you’d asked me 2 years ago whether I’d turn to imaging rather than visual I’d have said a fork “no” - I lack the attention to detail and the patience. But something has really grabbed me about the night sky in a landscape setting. I think about it ALL the time - it’s become an obsession. I enjoyed visual for so long; it’s nice to be doing something new but in the medium term I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. 😊

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Well if you are interested in visual observing it might be worth giving the Webb Society a look. That is still primarily viusal observing, although we do not rule out other options. It isinteresting that we see a lot of large Dob's at star aprties but don't often see what they are looking at, and what they do outside star parties, and by large here I mean 18" and up. I know there are self contained groups like the Dob Mob who don't really seem to communicate outside their close circle.

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I'm definitely waffling about trying AP.  Having spent decades mucking about with telecom tech / programming / project management, I'm not sure I want to deal with more technology for my hobby or spend hours doing data processing.  But my skies are garbage with LP and driving out to a dark site is not a frequent option, so being able to see at least a few galaxies aside from Andromeda from home would be nice.   I'd also like to be able to do a quick capture of some of the clusters and such that I see in my scope.

Currently I'm leaning toward some form of EAA to supplement visual.  Or maybe I'll (sort of) bite the bullet and buy a DSLR for widefield constellation shots.

The other thought I've had, and maybe it makes no sense, is to put a small mono cam on a finder and keep using the main scope for visual.

 

 

 

Edited by jjohnson3803
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Posted (edited)

Just catching up with this thread after a couple of days offline.

Some really interesting and thoughtful responses and a lot of respect for whatever way people like to participate in the hobby.

Many thanks folks :icon_salut:

 

Edited by John
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