Looking Up: Which is Better, Visual Astronomy or Imaging? with Tony Darnell

Purpose: Introduce and discuss amateur astronomy and astrophotography to new enthusiasts. Challenges of visual observing vs imaging with cameras and telescopes. Pros and Cons for both.

Tony Darnell: Astronomy and telescope professional and enthusiast. Creator of "deepastronomy.space," a publisher for documentaries, astronomy news, and podcasts.

Dustin Gibson: Fitness consultant and business owner turned astrophotographer and world leader in telescope distribution

This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • Some background on the hosts of this podcast series
  • The realities of observing or imaging in and near various U.S. cities
  • What amateur astronomers need to get started
  • The general practices of and comparisons between visual observing and astronomy imaging
  • What the future of these practices looks like
  • Which method is best for you

Notable Quotes:

“Then you realize all that empty space you’re seeing, isn’t empty at all.”

“Amateur astronomers, this podcast is for you to find information and to help you along your way.”

“For us, it’s all about making space accessible to everyone.”

Main Topics:

8:20 – Amateur Astronomy Simplified

Tony and Dustin bring all the complications together in an easy-to-digest discussion. The challenge of getting into astronomy and astrophotography need not be too daunting, and a little guidance goes a long way.

19:35 – Visual Observing vs Imaging: Which is better? The Pros and Cons

Visual Observing is easiest in that all we do is go outside and observe. We grab a telescope and any other equipment we might have, plant it outside and look up. Even a reliable pair of binoculars would be enough on a clear night. This type of amateur astronomy can certainly become a communal experience likely to change lives and perspectives when viewing the cosmos together. One of the few downsides of this practice are the limitations of sharing it: we are limited to those present while viewing and their ability to later describe what’s been experienced. When done in person, this is undoubtedly the most intimate relationship we can have with the universe. We are looking back in time to the celestial bodies shining upon us.

Imaging is more expensive and complex in that more equipment and knowledge is required to operate imaging devices. The floor is not so high that newcomers have no chance, but the ceiling can expand as far as we want it to. This is by nature a more widely shared experience because we are literally taking a snapshot of these cosmic entities, which of course can then be spread across all forms of media. While imaging is less intimate than observation, we get unparalleled detail from bodies near and far frozen in a timeless image.

35:56 – The Future of Imaging and Observing

Future of visual observing is in eyepiece design and optical coding. The worsening of light pollution will require innovation in these areas.

Cameras and equipment for imaging are dropping in price and improving in quality, removing or eliminating the biggest barrier of entry: price.

45:10 – Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Like what you listened to? Hate what you heard? Let us know in the comments below!

Next Podcast - SpaceFab: A Telescope for Everyone:

Interested in monumental achievements of astronomy and space science? You'll want to listen to our talk with Sean League of SpaceFab. Learn about his company revolutionizing the space industry here.

2 Responses

Scott chandler

February 10, 2022

I’ve listened to all your podcasts since the beginning with great delight. I was sad when you stopped for awhile but really excited when you and Dustin returned. I am an astrophotography imager and liked all the great info from your past shows. However this new format seems like 2 very different shows. Honestly I am not a fan of this new format. Although you present interesting astronomy info I am not interested in that and would rather hear dedicated discussion on imaging techniques on hardware and software and interviews with such guest. To have the majority of the podcast on dedicated astronomy info such as black holes is not for me. Sorry scott

Mike Parsons

January 24, 2022

Hi, I recently found your Space Junk Podcast and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it. I enjoy your discussions which have a lot of humor and are at a level that anyone can enjoy. I always learn something that helps me. I’ve been an astronomy buff since I was a kid and have always had a telescope. I decided to dive in deep in my retirement years and try astrophotography. My initial experience was somewhat frustrating. I purchased an Orion EON 110mm ED f/6.0 Aprchromatic Refractor with an Orion Sirius EQ-G equatorial mount. I was dismayed at the time involved just to carry out everything, set it up and shoot Polaris. I found I wasn’t using the telescope as much as I had hoped because of the lengthy set up and take down. About 6 month after purchasing the EON I saw a video about Stellina which amazed me. I bought it and have been completely blown away by it. It has greatly enhanced my astronomy experience in several ways. First, I have taken some amazing photos which I’ve had printed and mounted and share with my friends. Second, it has helped to guide me into astrophotography postprocessing with various apps. This definitely has a learning curve to it but it’s very enjoyable to see what I can ultimately produce from my telescope in my backyard. Third, it’s caused me to learn more about the stars, planets, nebulas and their locations. Fourth, I’ve recently purchased a 12" Skywatcher Dobsonian Flex-tube telescope for actual eyepiece viewing. I’m aware of some of the “old guard” astronomers who dislike Stellina for it’s ease but it has really excited me to take my astronomy and photography to a higher level. There’s an infinite amount of things for me to learn but I’m thankful to Stellina to start that knowledge journey for me. Once the weather warms up in the spring, I plan on more viewing the EON telescope as I’m more understanding of how the process goes. Thank you for your great podcast. Mike Parsons

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