04 January 2011


When we were planning our astronomy holiday as part of Christmas/New Year, we decided to go to two dark places, over six nights, because we figured we'd get to observe maybe half that time. Seemed reasonable.

In the end, we observed every night, for a total of probably 16 hours. On the sixth night we came inside before midnight for the first time. Each night we were out by 10pm, doing alignments etc. That's a lot of time observing.

I'm the sort of person who has the unfortunate habit of putting pressure on herself. Seeing clear skies, and knowing we'd transported all of that gear, I felt like I absolutely had to get out there and make the most of it. I felt guilty at the very idea of wasting all that precious dark time. This was not a good thing! - especially when, by the last day or two, I was really quite tired; despite sleeping in most mornings, it still takes it out of me, to be up so late so many nights in a row.

One of my other problems is that I both wasn't quite prepared enough, nor quite as easy-going as I would like to have been. See, not only do I think I should be out there looking at the sky, I think I should be actively using it: this, in my head, means looking at as many things as possible, especially new things. Because... what's the point otherwise? Sure I could just look at Orion all night, but isn't that a waste of time?? And then when I wasn't as prepared as I 'should' have been, I got frustrated at 'wasting' time and opportunities.

A wise friend pointed out to us, halfway through this epic, that he likes to think about astronomy as similar to gastronomy: a small amount, savoured, rather than stuffing yourself silly. I like this a lot in theory; it's just going to take me a while to get my ahead around to accepting it as being 'allowed'.

I've come away from our adventure with some things to think about, then. I realise that I have to give some thought to what I actually want to get out of my astro hobby. Am I looking to tick off as many doubles as possible, seeing all the globular clusters, being able to navigate my way around the whole sky... or am I doing it because I enjoy looking at the majesty that is the night sky? Seems there's an obvious answer there, really. I've also learnt that I should just put on more clothes when I need to rather than pretending I'm not that cold (stoooopid), and that maybe observing for 6 nights in a row - especially when it's just me and J, with no one else either to suggest interesting objects to view or break up what does get a bit monotonous - is probably not a brilliant idea. But that's ok; learning is a good thing. As long as I do learn it.

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