Will I ever get there?

Forums General Discussion Will I ever get there?

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    Ian Kahler

    So, I have  been a  member  for  a   a  short while  now. I have  not said  much or  contributed  much at all, but I HAVE done a  lot of  reading.
    Why haven’t I contributed  much at all??
    Because I am one  of  those  members  who is  at the  “bottom of  the  totem pole.”
    When I was in my last year of  school I was  looking at careers and  I actually went to the  University to ask about a  career  in astronomy. The  dept. head was  very gracious but I knew  that he must have  sat there in his  office  after  I left, and  laughed  at what a  waste  of  time  it was  for  me  to even ask for  an appointment. I suck at math. Math is  logic… and  I cant even build a wooden box straight and  square.
    But that has  not stopped  me  from enjoying astronomy. I DO read  very well. I can understand  so many aspects  of  astronomy but when it comes  to math; when it comes  to actually using a telescope to find  ANYTHING other  than the  moon and  planets… well let’s just forget that! I have  had  three telescopes in my lifetime  with EQ  mounts. Now  let’s just step aside  for  a  second  and  consider those school experiences where many of  us where the  victim of the  annoying and  sometimes  terrifying bully in the  school. Well, my “bully” has  ALWAYS been an EQ mount. His worshipping followers who were  always  there with him… adding insults and  humiliation, where setting circles, RA and  sidereal time.
    Now  it seems  the  bully has grown to become  an all enveloping cloud of  judgmental humiliation. I look at/study the  other  folks and  your equipment. I read  about your  achievements, and  how  easy it is  for  you to accomplish the  one, yes  the  ONE  process that has tormented  me like a chronic  cough, a painful lower  back.
    The  one fulfilling engagement that I would  so very much want to accomplish before  I go to the  next life, the  next etheral plane, is  to be  able  to operate a  computerized telescope. Also to understand all the  available attributes of  such programs as Software Bisque’s The  Sky, Megastar, C2A,  Stellarium, just to name a  few.
    At this  time, when I look at the  achievements of  so many folks who are able  to see  the amazing and  beautiful universe, to photograph it, to plan useful and  productive  observations, and  finally to write about it, I realize  that I am not even on your  planet!
    IS it true??  Does  one  need  to have a  higher  understanding and  education to be  able  to operate  these  amazing precision machines? Does one really need  to have college  education in computer sciences, digital photography, and  math to be  able  to achieve even somewhat mundane  tasks when operating the  of  scientific software and equipment available today?
    I feel that it is, but I would  not be  opposed  to anyone  telling me  I am wrong and  explaining why. I feel that this  combination of  computer  software, cameras  and  machines are the  domain of  the  bullying hoard, the  “plastics” the nemesis that delights  in denying me my ultimate joy?
    Now before anyone  gets  all in an uproar and  wants  to shout out that I am trashing the  honorable institution of  astronomy, let me  add that I extract a number  of  satisfying goals from such sources as  planetary geology, celestial cartography and  historical atlases to name a  few attributes of  this science. But the  one  goal that eludes  me  with such unwavering consistency is  the concept of  computerized celestial mechanics. I feel that it is  very unlikely that I will ever  master this concept in this  lifetime, and  that I must be  satisfied to live vicariously in the  shadow of  those who excel in this branch of  this science.


    Andy Wilson

    Hi Ian,

    I think you are part of a silent majority who have trouble setting up telescope mounts. It is good that you raise these points as I am sure there are others who will read this post having the same experience as you. Over the years I have comes across a good number of people with an interest in astronomy who bought a telescope but never successfully got it working and gave up.

    I do think things are easier now than 10 or 20 years ago. To track stars you used to need an equatorial mount, but now there are many cheap computerized altazimuth mounts that will track and locate objects from a 2 or 3 star alignment. This does of course mean knowing how to locate the bright stars used for alignment, and this is where I know some people fall down. It is also true that you get what you pay for, but an easy to setup mount is often not the most expensive one.

    While I am one of those who does some fairly advanced astronomy, I still remember learning about equatorial mounts and being confused. Each step has taken me time to learn and then master. I also enjoy casual astronomy where I just look at the Moon, the planets, or a deep sky object without going to the lengths of making a recorded observation. It is important to get the balance right, to ensure you enjoy astronomy and it does not become a burden.

    Apologies if I am stating things you already know, but I would advise that you start simple. A low power eyepiece with a wide field of view, so that accurate mount setup is not as important. Though it is easy to find the Moon and planets without a goto mount, start off by using your mount to find those easy objects which you already know where they are. That way you will spot when something is wrong, and when it is working right. With fainter objects it can be difficult to know whether your telescope is pointing at the wrong bit of sky, or if the object is too faint for your telescope and sky conditions.

    If you still have your telescope(s), then you could try posting specific questions on the mount you use. There may be others on the forum who know that mount and can offer advice. Otherwise someone may be able to post advice on relatively cheap, easy to use mountings from their personal experience.

    Best wishes,



    Ian, you certainly don’t need a college education or an in-depth understanding of maths to use a computerised telescope. It is something which is much easier to learn from someone else, hands-on, than trying to read a manual though. If you have access to a local club or society I would strongly encourage you to get acquainted with them and get some help. Understanding some basic maths is useful for some aspects of astronomy, for celestial coordinates, working out magnification etc, but you’ll get by fine without it. Having an open mind, patience and a willingness to learn something new is far more important, as some computerised telescopes are not always as intuitive as they could be.

    Good luck.


    Grant Privett

    Go to some observing meetings from your local society – they are not experts, they are ordinary people like you and me and are normally more than willing to show you what they do when they set up. It can’t be difficult or we wouldnt all be doing it.

    Alternatively, if you have the means, a Meade LS scope does the trick. Place on level(ish) ground with a decent view of the sky, plug it in, make coffee, come back, start observing. It fails about 1 in 10 times.

    No wizardry required. I borrowed one for 6 months and had a great time. 

    But long term, its better to learn than spend money up front.

    Ian Kahler

    Well guys, I have given my commentary/opinion a great deal of  thought the  last 2 days. I have  decided to give my telescopes to the  physics  & astronomy dept. at the  local university. I am going to remain focused  on what I like  doing best. And  that would  be focusing on the  history of  astronomy…. the  people behind  the  discoveries, the  geology of  the  solar system and  so on. I know  now, that without any doubt than continuing to try an master  the  use  of  a  telescope, EQ or  Alt-Az would  continue to frustrate and  eventually destroy any joy I experience with astronomy.

    As  for  spending time  outside  under  the stars, I have binoculars 25×100, and  a tripod to hold  them. And  so I will wander  randomly without needing to know  what I am seeing. Rather  I will focus on enjoying the  absolute magnificence of  the  view.

    Thank you for  your opinions and  ideas, but the  reality of  it for  me  is  to understand that telescope  operation has always  ended  badly for  me, and  it will not change; so I have  to change  my priorities and  my reality.


    << And  that would  be focusing on the  history of  astronomy….

    Nothing wrong with the history of astronomy!

    I own a telescope, but I tend to use binoculars, simply for convenience and ease of use. I have a small pair for general use and sky browsing, and some “big buggers” which get wheeled out for total eclipses (totality only!) and other short-duration events. I’m not a dedicated observer and binoculars work for me.

    I hope you’ll be able to come along to some historical section meetings (usually held late spring). Are you on our historical section mailing list? If not, send me your email address and we’ll send the section newsletter twice a year. 

    Mike Frost, Historical Section Director



    Are you comming to the Christchurch meeting?


    << Are you comming to the Christchurch meeting?

    Was this one for me? I am unfortunately unable to make it to Christchurch – a really nice part of the world. I hope everyone who goes enjoys the week-end. 

    Mike Frost


    Hi Mike

    Should you come down this way another time you would I would be happy to show you around my Observatory and look at the software I use

    Clear Skies



    Thanks Nick! Hope I can visit some day.

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