I've been busy with all sorts of life stuff. Most of the stuff is not good, but we do the not good stuff because that is what is expected of us. The obligations, the tasks, duties, the chores. The things you need to do to keep the lights on, bills paid and the body above the dirt. You pay in stress, you pay in time, you pay in health. If you make good choices you will stop for a moment and take a look at where you are and smile. And if you really start to win at the game you get to do the stuff that makes you get out of bed in the morning and put up with everything. I have learned that it is in the struggles of life, the challenges, the fights, the hardships, that character and meaning are forged. One of my pet ideas on why so many kids are depressed is that there are no grand challenges and hardships to plough through anymore. Get a kid to do something that requires skill and planning and work, however, and they learn valuable lessons in what their value is... and what their VALUES are.
I finally got my act together and started the vertical cliff of learning and tinkering that is deep space astrophotography. To say this is a tough hobby is a slight understatement. But man, every once in a while all the nonsense you put up with is worth it.
The link is to an Astrobin image of the nearby galaxy M101. Mouse over the image and you will see annotations. There are a few background galaxies; two of the smaller blobs of light at the bottom of the image are in the same part of space, more like our Magellanic Clouds in the Southern Hemisphere. M101, aka the Pinwheel Galaxy, is one of the absolute favorite objects to view visually. The object is about the same size as the full moon in the sky, so it is large. It is also faint. It takes a special night, a big telescope and a lot, and I mean a LOT, of patience, training and mental acuity to make out anything other than a faint indistinct smudge. On a night where I have a shot at seeing the arms of M101? That is where the telescope is pointed. Seeing M101 as anything other than a smudge is one of the best feelings, that knowledge that you did something amazingly hard. The image posted here is two hours of light integration with the new camera and the old telescope. Each image was 125 seconds long. I use a connected telescope and camera to act as a spotter and to help guide the mount all this is connected to. The better your guiding, the better the image and the longer you can keep the shutter open. I can do better. The colours are not right and I need to find out why, but I am happy with this very beginner image.
Next up on the to-do list is to finish soldering and heat-shrinking my battery pack so I can take the show on the road. Battery is purchased, all the electronics seem to work, just have to finish it up. I want to get an electronic focuser (300) a new mount that can handle a heavier payload (3000) and a power box that will also help keep dew and moisture off the end of the telescope (300). And if anyone wants to kick in for a nice toy to play with I'll accept your gifts. I am also going to just suck it up and buy the software to make the images better (300) before I spend any more money on hardware. The nice thing about collecting data like this is that it will sit on a hard drive until you get better at processing and you can always go back and make the images better. I've started the climb by working on the data collection, now I want to work a bit on the "art" component of the journey.
About six years ago, Hubski was mentioned on Reddit, and this seemed like a great idea that held promise as Reddit was already starting to turn to shit. About six months later I made an account, 2000 days ago. Back then I was on all sorts of websites; today I am on only three. By the end of the year I'll be shocked if I am on even one of those. It is easy to say that I hate the Internet, but it is more than that. I've grown to the point that the allure of the internet and its culture just is not my thing anymore. I have too much shit to do. I have too little time. And the big clock is ticking faster. Do I want to waste these few precious moments of my life fighting toddlers, trolls, losers, idiots, fanatics, and psychotics? I've not been active here due to real life being busy and full of activities. The takeaway from my recent life is that the less time I spend online, the less I miss it. I am not all that unhappy about that realization.
If I was to leave you with a message, some profound saying, it would be something like this: We live in a universe of infinite awe and wonder, all of it accessible if you only take a look around you. Push back against the dark. Somewhere out there something amazing is waiting to be discovered.
Thanks so much for writing these thoughts. We live in a universe of infinite awe and wonder.