If you haven't been following Mike Moore's comments, I recommend to take a look! I sincerely appreciate his almost daily comments. Recently, he posted a list of things that can hinder or interfere with our Astronomy efforts. Copying them, I'm relisting them here by topic. Mike, this is a great subject... they are re-printing here and listed by main topics:
- lack of interest/ nothing new to see (hard to believe!)
- lack of knowledge of objects viewable
- your experience (or lack thereof) in using your equipment
- not having a trained eye to recongize what you are seeing
- work (including timing, being tired, having to wake up early; things related to your occupation)
- deciding to spend time with the family instead (or deciding to do other things in general - choices)
- other things, like attending your child's concert at school, etc.
- an illness
Jack's notes: Many of these are overcome by becoming more familiar with the night sky, what can be seen at different times of the year, and simply "what's up." Things to do: Have a mentor that knows the night sky and some things that various pieces of equipment are capable of (or not). Have a Star Party... we had a couple of cookouts last year at my home and afterward the family sat around the front porch while my brother and I had a couple of telescopes set up... we shared the views with the family, and everyone went home happy (there were a lot of "wow's" said!), Reading magazines and books to help familiarize yourself with the objects (some Astronomy magazine articles are the most practical articles of any magazine). Have a goal (a) to view the visible planets, to learn what planets are not visible - but then find out when they will become visible, (b) learn constellations - I sat at my table with my son and we drew the basic outline of Orion from a diagram in a book and then we went outside and I let him find the constellation. (c) Learn what is viewable in perspective of the learned constellations (i.e. how to find the Andromeda Galaxy)... (d) While the Moon might seem to get in the way, take advantage of those times to view the Moon's surface. Mike, I liked your reference to learning at the end of your discussion that day. As the objects in the night sky are endless, so is the ability to learn about them...
Jack adds... dress for the occasion (warmly especially).
- too much wind
- light pollution
- the viewable area you have
- phases of the Moon (i.e. interference from full or partial Moon)
Jack's comments... I have been watching the weather forecast more and more these days, and weather.com is a great resource for doing so. Enter your location and find out about your weather. Then it is planning around the weather. When we have overcast skies, watching a DVD is great! With my wife, I suggest that "...Saturday night after dinner I would like to take the telescope outside for a bit..." and then I have a general plan... She likes to view and will help me set things up, so it's not a problem. When we watch a movie on DVD at home, we will take little breaks. I use those times to step outside with a pair of binoculars... or will have a telescope outside tracking something and it's easy to step outside for a couple of minutes to view something.
While there is a streetlight that has been peering into my back yard, I contacted the City recently and after sending them pictures of the light and of my telescopes, they were able to research and find out a hood for the street light (sadly) was not available. Instead they are going to paint the lens for me to bring down the intensity of the light and to focus it into a smaller area.
- your equipment's limitations
- failure of equipment when set up
Jack's note: Very true. A combination of a lot of light polution, and limitations of equipment is troublesome. The Meade LS software has crashed twice now. It takes about 40 minutes to upload the software again.
- traveling to a new place and finding you are unable to view there for any reason
Jack Notes: Knowing where to go when you get somewhere will help. While Flagstaff has a lot of pine trees all over the place, there is Links Lake and knowing where to go to find an open space is a key to overcome this some of the time.
- realizing that you have left a favorite star atlas or book at home
Jack Notes: learning some of the majore constellations, and favorite objects, and you'll never have a dull moment, even when you forget to bring your laptop, a star chart, your star wheel, or favorite book...
- not having an important, but small piece of equipment with you that you despertly need
Jack Notes... that "favorite" eyepiece, a Moon filter, the tripod (Yikes!)
- having noisy neighbors/friends/someone you do not know show up when viewing/just before
Jack Notes: there's this guy down the block who likes to play rap music loudly when he has his buddies over and they are in his garage partying. It is a little anoying. Since it has been cold out (40's or so) that hasn't been happening!
Jack Notes: Planning...
Mike, seriously, you have given us a lot to think about! I wanted to share your list in hopes of hearing others ideas and comments...
Best regards. Jack
I totally agree with this list of Mike's as well. Jack have you electric company spray the new lens, 75% flat black and leave 25% clear. Have them position the clear portion away from your yard. Our electric co-op did this for me out in the country.
They had never had a request like this and sent someone out to find out what I was requesting. A couple of days later, one of their bucket trucks came out and replaced the lens with the masked lens. I set the precedent for any amateur astronomer in our county and now the individual doesn't have to do anything but ask the co-op. The electric employee was invited to come out and observe on a clear night to see how the change effected the viewing.
My observing equipment includes a card table with folding legs, a folding chair. my accessory case,( eyepieces, filters screwdrivers, red lights, a head band lamp with red LED bulbs;/ white bulbs, extra batteries of each kind used) Laptop with Stellarium up and running with red backlighting. I usually have my Sky and Telescope's pocket altas, the Cambridge Double Star altas. To help find the Messier objects I use the The Year Round Messier Marathon Field Guide by Harvard Pennington. For observing the moon I use an out of print Atlas of the Moon by Antonin Rukl. (NOTE: These are available as used books at Amazon.com. Don't get in a hurry and purchase the book. The prices of available books will fluctate. I was able to purchase mine for under $ 30.00. I also use a Sky and Telescope Moon Map. Mirror reversed moon maps are also availble. In addition, for astronomy outreaches, my pickup is the key component of my outreach and observing equipment and a 2 foot stepladder for children to be able to observe is also part of the load.