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What got you into astronomy and what sustains your interest?

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So guys, we've had the thread about your greatest passion aside from astronomy, so what actually got you interested in astronomy in the first place?

For me it was a mixture of things. My Nan bought me a small refractor telescope when I was about 9. My uncle used to have one and my Dad used to bring it home with him occasionally and look at the Moon - I used to love it. I used this to look at the Moon and over the years I really enjoyed just looking up at the stars whilst on family holidays in West Wales. Then when I was 10 years old in 1997, my Mum got me out of bed to see Hale Bopp - what a sight. It was around this time I remember identifying my first constellations - Ursa Major (or more precisely the Plough) and Orion - I always feel a little emotional when I see Orion marching up higher and higher in the winter months, makes me realise why I love this hobby so much. Then began a love affair with space and the stars and even if I've veered away from it over the years, I've always come back to the subject - enjoying the photos in books and reading up on the life of stars and so on.

Then over Christmas just gone I took a real interest in astronomy again, as Venus was blazing down every evening and looked mighty interesting.... so I got out the old binoculars that I normally use for bird watching and well... it all started. In February my boyfriend and I went to the Greenwich observatory for a Valentines Day observing evening, which made me even more passionate about beginning my journey into astronomy So I guess I haven't been into astronomy 'seriously' for very long - about 6 months now - but it's been pretty much a life long passion for me. Even from the youngest age I can remember being fascinated by the night sky. All in all, it was my family that ignited my interest - taking a young Amanda's fascination with the night sky seriously, and fuelling this interest with my first telescope. My Dad also studied for a Science degree as I was growing up, which is the main reason for my interest in science to this day.

As for sustaining my interest, right now, I am so enthralled by this magnificent hobby I don't need to be sustained! I also don't really view it as a 'hobby' - for me it's more of a way of life... it is who I am. A sweeping statement for someone who has only really been into it seriously for 6 months, but it is how I feel. At the moment, my hunt to expand my note book with the search for more DSOs is keeping the flame alight. I also love double stars - there's nothing more satisfying, for me, than getting that split :) Of course, SGL has played a massive part in getting me where I am today. I'm a much more confident amateur astronomer than I ever have been - thanks to the encouragement and advice from all at SGL.

So, what about you lot? What got you into astronomy, and what sustains your interest and 'lights your fire'?

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I really have no idea what got me interested in astronomy... I think that the interest has always been there! But it didn't really evolve into anything untill I was 11.

SGL has also helped me more times than I care to remember, from the friends that I've made to the advice that I've received. Without SGL I doubt very much I would be where I am today, both equipment and experience.

It's funny you mention Orion like that, I always stop to look at Orion - at the Autumn star parties it's almost a mystical sight, watching Orion rise just before dawn. No other constellation has the same affect on me.

Cheers

Ant

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I'd always been into all things space for as long as I can remember which so long ago I can't recall what inspired it, I suspect the TV programmes of Gerry Anderson.

My Dad was keen to encourage my interest in the night sky and I got a small terrestrial zoom (8x - 30x) refractor, which provided me and my friends first views of a magnified moon.

That was it, hooked!

A 60mm refractor followed sometime later and that gave me jupiter and saturn, fantastic!

Life got a hold of me at 19 and my observing took a back seat for 25 years with the occasional look at the gaseous ones just to remind me.

Finally about 2 years ago I bought my current scope discovered this forum and like you I've realised that this is what I am and I don't mind a bit!

John

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A bit long.

For me always been a matter of fact person and an athiest believing that everything has a simple and calculatable answer. This is what took me along the science route at school and eventually into Liverpool University to do Physics and Computers.

I went to every physics lecture and love Nucleur, Particle and Astrophysics. Got a real buzz of understanding relativity and all those amazing things. I could explain so much to anyone that asked me about why things worked etc.

The computer side was my interest as a programmer and now a senior consultant and was my wage. I guessed that Astomony / Science would not give me a decent life with nice houses / cars e tc, so computers was my career and trade.

I always wanted to persue the stars, but at the time, scopes / time etc was limited.

Now at the ripe old age of 37, after giving up Amatuer MotorCycle Racing (about 2 sessions and won some trophies) I needed to settle down. Got re-married and my priorities changed.

So after picking up photography, landscapes and glamour I eventually stumbled across a forum with astro pictures on. Thought, wow I have forgotten about all this and picked up my DLSR with a 50mm prime lens and pointed it upwards for 10seconds.

Was absolutely amazed how much technology had progressed over 15 years and I was hooked.

My mind was alive again with theories, how it all worked. I dug out old Uni lecture books etc.

Instead of the boring mundane day to day thinking of customers / servers / deadlines / millions of £ deals. My mind was working and enjoying it. I had got too lazy and my mind had died :)

So typical me, sold all my remote control planes and helicopters and dived head long into this hobby. The wifey was glad because now I wasn't disapearing off all w/e to fly planes. Instead I was in the garden and she could join in before heading to bed.

So about £2500 later and in 3 weeks i ended up with

NEQ6 Pro Goto Mount

Skywatcher ED120 Pro Diamond Black Refractor

Skywatcher ED80 Pro III Refractor

Guiding camera and all other bits.

23226d1244592971-hi-everyone-catanonia-here-very-eager-newbie-uk-dsc05001.jpg

and started the learning process.

My mind loved it and it fitted my learning curve well. I am a quick practical learner and computers / digital is second nature to me.

I started to ask questions, stumbled on this website and ask even more questions and post away.

My first proper picture was

23227d1244592988-hi-everyone-catanonia-here-very-eager-newbie-uk-ring-nebula-ed120.jpg

I posted it asking loads of questions and the good folks on the other forum and SGL told me how to improve, try guiding, about stacking, subs, darks, etc.

So I have computer and with forums and google and my keen attitude, the learning curve got steeper and more enjoyable. I got to use computers and technology to look at things that were millions and billions of years old.

So upto today and 4 weeks later

23772d1245833693-finally-worked-out-guide-scope-properly-m51-loads-more-detail-m51-23rd-june-2009.jpg

Still so much to learn and some think I am diving in way too fast. But thats is just me, I am afraid. I ask many questions and do listen. In the beginning I nearly impulse bought a ETX90 Goto. I was talked out of it and hence the ED range I got. I didn't see the point of hitting a blind alley when expeienced people were telling me why I shouldn't. The beauty of forums on the net .......

Currently fascinated in DSO imaging, but recently split my 1st double and want to look at Jupiter and Saturn when they become visible to me at my location.

I am also so interested in all the theorectical physics science regarding Dark Matter, Dark Energy, String Theory etc and most of today I have been watching and posting videos on these in the Theory section of SGL.

Later I am out in the garden to finish the leveling off of the ground for my Observatory I am building this w/e

Well that is my 4 week hobby so far and hopefully I will continue to learn at the same rate.

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Ever since I can remember I've always been interested in astromony, the things that that were popular at the time were the pictures from the Pioneer and Voyager probes and Sky at Night so I'd guess they were major factors.

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I always enjoyed books and documentaries about the universe. Just find it all so amazing and fascinating.

Then about 18 months ago, I saw some amateur images on the internet. I was unaware that these kind of images were even possible, and decided right then that I was going to take my own!

Since then its been a learning curve and large expense! But worth every minute of it.

I really should have a look through some scopes at some point though :)

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Seems alot of us are indebted to SGL for getting us to where we are today with astronomy :)

ant, I actually find Orion quite awe inspiring and really quite moving. Partly because it reminds me of my younger self, looking up and not really understanding it all but trying hard to fathom it. Orion always gives me a little smile :)

Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' was a big influence on me, still give it a re-read once a year. It's a fabulous book. I'd love to actually see the whole Cosmos series, my mum thinks I'd love it. There are some clips on youtube but I'd love for it to be released as a box set.

Cat, what a whirlwind adventure you've had into astronomy :headbang: it's wonderful that you are so enthusiastic and that M51 is coming on beautifully. Are you thinking of adding more data?

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For me (per my introduction message of today) it can only be described as a a natural interest - I always remember as a young lad craving for information and reading anything I could get hold of about Astronomy!

I even rang Patrick Moore once at home in Selsey to ask him a question on a school project I was doing - There were no internet forums back then!

The night sky, especially the winter months, never ceased to amaze me and I used to spend hours just looking up at the heavens in wonderment.

The ongoing changing skies was always fascinating and seeing the classic 'Orion' winter sky after a long hot Summer (we had sunshine back then) was like seeing an old friend again - Brilliant!

Well, the 'gut feeling' and passion to become involved again has just returned with vengeance so here I am!

Mike

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I have always had an interest. My Grandad helped by showing me the constellations and years of my Dad filling my brain with Sci-Fi certainly had an effect!

Lee

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The ongoing changing skies was always fascinating and seeing the classic 'Orion' winter sky after a long hot Summer (we had sunshine back then) was like seeing an old friend again - Brilliant!

Mike

Perfect way of putting it - he certainly is an old friend for me too :) and signals the longer nights, sparkly winter night skies :headbang:

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I suppose my first fascination with space started with the Moon landing back in 1969 just before starting school. My first real interest started when I was a teenager in the mid to late 70's. I bought a small refractor with some money I had earned and used it to view the Moon and Planets etc. I then sold it after a couple of years as girls came on the scene

In my mid thirties with a family in tow. I decided to get another scope which unfortunately didn't get used as much as it should. It eventually got damaged by my son and it ended up gathering dust in the attic.

In my early forties I decided to buy another scope this time a goto version. My first purchase was a high street one with no research done on the web. I bought a Meade ETX90 form Jessops, which when I got to use it, I was severely disappointed in it. Maybe my expectations were too high but I took it back and got a refund. I then went mad and spent 4 x times as much on a Meade LX90.

I wish now that I had found a place like this to make some informed decision on what to buy. The Meade LX90 has now been sold and I am currently imaging with a widefield APO refractor/QHY8 set up on a Orion Sirius EQ-G mount (HEQ5 clone). My portable set up is an AstroTrac and DSLR's. I also have a 12" dob for visual use whilst imaging at home or to take to star parties.

I would say to anyone starting out to listen carefully to the advice given here and take time to decide on what kit would be best for them. One thing I have learnt is that this hobby cannot be rushed it requires time and patience.

Regards

Kevin

Edited by BeyondVision

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Wise words Kev... I know my first scope purchase back in April was after ALOT of help and advice from SGL members... I didn't know where to start but thankfully you all got me on the right track and I am so pleased with my scope so far. Aperture fever is a dangerous thing though.. and coupled with a new found interest in imaging I need a money tree in the garden.

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Perfect way of putting it - he certainly is an old friend for me too :) and signals the longer nights, sparkly winter night skies :headbang:

Hey, it could almost be described as an Astronomical "Facebook!"

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Funnily enough, no real interest at all until I read "Sleepwalkers" by Arthur Koestler and then a few months later bought a scope.

Now 4 scopes and 3 pairs of bins later.....:)

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I think my mother started it. She was able to show me Orion, my first constellation, and Betelgeuse. As I never had a good telescope when I was young, and couldn't afford one when I was raising my family (Scopes are much, much cheaper today,) I didn't actually have a scope until about 11 years ago. Most of my observations through all those years consisted on learning the constellations and gawking trhough binoculars.

I read about astronomy all my life, and took an astronomy for arts students course at University in 1967, when Quasars were just being discovered, and black hole theory had just reached popular science books.

So, I maintained the interest and now I have two scopes, and plans to buy and build more.

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I've been a scientist all my working life but only got into astronomy a couple of years ago when I bought a cheap skywatcher refractor - I've been streadily upgrading ever since. Its a great hobby, one of the few areas in science where amatuers can really get involved. What sustains me I think is the sense of wonder. Many of the objects we view are not especially striking visually - I was very pleased to recently view a couple of the galaxies of the virgo cluster, and whilst these, at least through my scope, are simply faint smudges its knowing what you are looking at that makes it so amazing. Strange to think that if anyone in those galaxies have radio receivers pointed towards us it'll be 50 million years or so before they catch the first episode of the Archers!

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I got started being interested in astronomy when my Great Uncle showed me Halleys comet up in the sky (1986? I think) and explained that he had seen it the time before as well!

Then I learned where the Southern Cross was and how to find it with the pointers. I got a small telescope before ccomming to the UK and had a few viewing sessions of the southern sky. Most of my gear I have got here so I now know the northern sky heaps better than the southern.

Being on SGL has helped me hugely with imaging etc.

Sam

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Cat, what a whirlwind adventure you've had into astronomy :) it's wonderful that you are so enthusiastic and that M51 is coming on beautifully. Are you thinking of adding more data?

Most definately.

M51 and M101 are going to be my summer pet projects for a few years :headbang:

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Lying on my back in a lounger on warm nights in France did it for me.

It just struck me that I didn't know anything about what I was seeing, and it was beautiful. I decided to do something about it when I was 40.

Bit late, eh?

But then, I didn't read War and Peace until I was 35 - and that was amazing.

Gives me hope that life's got other nice surprises lined up for me. :)

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Better late than never lulu, I am so glad you decided to do something about it :)

Here's to more nice surprises :headbang:

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I was intrested in it at an early age got a small dob when i was still at home but was not very impressed with scope :) since then work and uni has taken over but im back on it now and getting my scope very soon!

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I have always been looking at the stars and would sometimes just stop and look at Orion...still do now and I suspect I always will.

I got some bins for bird watching and remember going out into the cold to try and find Andromeda...oh and watching Sir Patrick Moore on tv. that was early 80s for me when I was 11/12.

I am now 36 and managed to buy an LXD75 with an SPX 8" 2 years ago...quickly realised my mistake and saved up for an EQ6 (should have bought that first). It is only recently I had the spare money and dark skies to take advantage of it.

I have always been a daydreamer and just love staring up at the stars...one day I would like to go to a dark site in Arizona.

Neil C

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I was 9 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and that really started my interest in space I guess.

A couple of years later I discovered we had an astronomy club at school which included a dome with an 8" skeleton tube newtonian and a shed with a small planetarium installed (this was in 1971). Best of all was an enthusistic local chap called Ken Ball who came along one evening a month to run the club and try and teach us unruly 11 year olds a little about the wonders of the universe. Well Ken - it worked for me :)

About the same time I borrowed a 60mm refractor from a friend and spend night after night with it poking out of my bedroom window drawing all the details I could see on Jupiter - I was really keen but lack of pocket money restricted my own equipment to 7x30 binoculars until I got my own 1960's vintage Tasco refactor in 1981. I stayed up until 3.00 am one morning and saw Saturn ........ that totally hooked me of course !

John

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