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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 "," 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!


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