Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fortress of Solitude

I've been passionate about Astronomy and night sky observing since my early teens.  Decades of visual observing with telescopes large and small - purchased as well as hand ground mirrors.  The only detector was my eye and brain working together to tease out dazzling details or observe the faintest of objects.  At star parties the visual folks are sharing views and working on casual or serious observing projects.  There is a distinctly social element to it.  Who can resist sharing a crisp view of Saturn's rings, a bedazzling globular cluster or the challenge of a barely detectable distant galaxy.

 Meanwhile, over in the other part of the field are the imagers.  Friendly yet serious, and not a little bit mysterious with their high tech gizmos enmeshed in an unruly tangle of cords.  Often fussy about stray light (tho the visual folks can get a bit testy as well) there is a separation not only physically but also in the gear and goals.

For a little over a year now I've pushed pretty hard into the imagers world.  It really is different.  Not better, not worse ... just different.  I don't want to over generalize but one observation I've had is that it is a much more solitary journey - even when in the company of friends.

The setup is more complicated.  All those cables and USB connections.  Batteries.  Computers.  Cameras and filters.  A million little details to keep track of.  Any oversight means a waste of precious dark time.  All of which requires focus.  And I don't know about you but I just can't carry on a conversation while I'm aligning or keeping track of exposure times or trying to remember to refocus after changing filters.

When all goes well there is still time to converse and enjoy the company of others.  Heck if all is going really well I like nothing more than to wander over and steal views from my visual friends.  But there is no doubt to me that imaging is a much more solitary journey whether with others or not.  And I am certainly much more likely to go out alone if I am imaging even if I still much prefer the company of friends.

One June night in the Fortress - taking one last frame before moonrise.
A imaging friend of mine calls it the Fortress of Solitude.  Time alone under dark skies is good for the soul.  Even if surrounded by technology and gear.  Besides, keeping busy with all those gadgets helps keeps me distracted from all the scary rustles and glowing eyes from yonder bushes :)

No comments:

Post a Comment