Author Topic: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?  (Read 1313 times)

Zachary Tenk

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Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« on: December 27, 2017, 01:27:47 PM »
When I was a kid, some 50 odd years ago, I occasionally got a gift the likes of department store toy binoculars or retracting 'pirate' telescope, made of plastic. They magnified a bit, you could see stuff a couple of times larger than it was. We'd run around with them and spy on each other, drop them, drag them, break parts off them. Eventually the lenses and eyepieces became scratched and dirty, the image faded and soon you couldn't see anything out of them. My mom or dad always said they 'lost their power'.

I accepted what they said, I imagined that as the lens was used it would lose it's ability to magnify. But as I got older I couldn't figure it out. There were no batteries, no wires. It was just glass (well, plastic in this case). Why would it lose it's power unless it somehow changed?

When I was a young teen, K-Mart had a damaged 30x surveyors style telescope, just a tube with a helical focusing eyepiece and a 30mm objective, all metal and proper lenses. The tripod it stood on was damaged but it was just a few dollars so my mom bought it for me and I managed to juryrig the tripod and get it to work. It was originally intended to use a ball joint, I replaced it with just a screw and simply altered the position of the legs to reposition the scope.

It was the first time I saw craters on the moon and I couldn't believe what I saw. I spent night after night looking up at the moon in it. There was the moon, a quarter of a million miles away and I could see parts of it other people couldn't.

I took it all apart, had the eyepiece all in pieces, rearranging the components in different ways. I had the objective out, a cemented doublet achromat, trying to figure out how this large piece of glass in the front and these small pieces of glass in the back worked together.

Unlike my plastic toys as a kid, this never wore out. It always brought those craters into view, and I could carry it around, look at stuff here and there, it was with my all the time. Eventually I damaged the objective when it got wedged in the cell and the poorly coated eyepieces couldn't hold up to my constant tinkering but I was hooked on optics ever since. I realized that my parents were wrong, these things don't wear out and they don't lose their power. It was math and physics at play.

Then cameras came, and SLRs and lenses and binoculars and telescopes and microscopes and research into design and theory and stuff. And it's still incredible fascinating that a piece of glass or a mirror a couple of inches big can be made in such a way that we can peer into the details of objects millions of miles away.

I think this is what fascinates me most in this past time. It's just metal and glass, that's it. And look what it can do and can do forever it you let it.



Zack Tucker

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2017, 02:22:21 PM »
I'm right with you. It was a view of the moon through a 3" reflector that got me started. But my fascination with lenses and optics
was what kept me going forward.  Magnifying glasses, parabolic mirrors, eyepiece configurations. Astronomy and photography
had all those things.

Although I majored in Geology in college, my first job after graduation was with Hoya Glass in Japan. Started from learning how to melt glass, pressing blanks
and learning how optics are ground and polished.  And I'm still an optics nut today, working with lasers and similar things

So a fascination with optics may not be integral for everyone's love of astronomy. But it sure enhanced mine.

Jay Garcia

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2017, 12:52:50 AM »
Seeing what glass can do,
I became fascinated with its magic
and the precise skill of the opticians
who have to come very close to perfection,
or it is obviously not good enough.

Jason Muse

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2017, 07:34:18 PM »
My parents got me a simple sliding spyglass toy when I was probably under 8 and I still remember those craters for the first time. And then by 13, there was the first reflector, 3" mirror, and two toy like eyepieces. But I loved it. Later, graduated to a 4 1/4" from Edmond Scientific, and not long after that, bought my first extra eyepiece, which, by the way, I still use today. A 28mm with a wide field of view. It was $7 in the Edmond Scientific catalog. That was more than 50 years ago. That lens is still available today: https://www.edmundop...sion-eyepieces/  But mine was before they invented the red stripe.

What I also remember is how clear the stars all looked when I looked at them. Didn't have the problems with astigmatism and nearsightedness that plagues me today and I certainly remember the difference. For instance, the Pleiades had a look that my eyes just don't duplicate today. So my solution today is to image the night objects and not trust my eyes to see them correctly anymore.

mingchepspatu

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2018, 10:00:29 AM »
Nope.

I let the glass (and appropriate coatings) do their thing. I just suck in the photons and smile.

suppsilzuning

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2018, 08:06:47 AM »
Don't think so, I'm pretty useless when it comes to engineering, mechanics, DIY etc. Just glad that others can figure it out, enabling me to parasitically feast on their endeavours.

bardeperdi

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2018, 01:43:31 PM »
I remember getting a small plastic magnifying glass in a box of Cracker Jacks.....ants feared me...and bits of paper.

Mayur Wilson

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2018, 05:13:20 AM »
Quote
When I was a kid, some 50 odd years ago, I occasionally got a gift the likes of department store toy binoculars or retracting 'pirate' telescope, made of plastic. They magnified a bit, you could see stuff a couple of times larger than it was. We'd run around with them and spy on each other, drop them, drag them, break parts off them. Eventually the lenses and eyepieces became scratched and dirty, the image faded and soon you couldn't see anything out of them. My mom or dad always said they 'lost their power'.

I accepted what they said, I imagined that as the lens was used it would lose it's ability to magnify. But as I got older I couldn't figure it out. There were no batteries, no wires. It was just glass (well, plastic in this case). Why would it lose it's power unless it somehow changed?

When I was a young teen, K-Mart had a damaged 30x surveyors style telescope, just a tube with a helical focusing eyepiece and a 30mm objective, all metal and proper lenses. The tripod it stood on was damaged but it was just a few dollars so my mom bought it for me and I managed to juryrig the tripod and get it to work. It was originally intended to use a ball joint, I replaced it with just a screw and simply altered the position of the legs to reposition the scope.

It was the first time I saw craters on the moon and I couldn't believe what I saw. I spent night after night looking up at the moon in it. There was the moon, a quarter of a million miles away and I could see parts of it other people couldn't.

I took it all apart, had the eyepiece all in pieces, rearranging the components in different ways. I had the objective out, a cemented doublet achromat, trying to figure out how this large piece of glass in the front and these small pieces of glass in the back worked together.

Unlike my plastic toys as a kid, this never wore out. It always brought those craters into view, and I could carry it around, look at stuff here and there, it was with my all the time. Eventually I damaged the objective when it got wedged in the cell and the poorly coated eyepieces couldn't hold up to my constant tinkering but I was hooked on optics ever since. I realized that my parents were wrong, these things don't wear out and they don't lose their power. It was math and physics at play.

Then cameras came, and SLRs and lenses and binoculars and telescopes and microscopes and research into design and theory and stuff. And it's still incredible fascinating that a piece of glass or a mirror a couple of inches big can be made in such a way that we can peer into the details of objects millions of miles away.

I think this is what fascinates me most in this past time. It's just metal and glass, that's it. And look what it can do and can do forever it you let it.

I don't think so. No more than understanding how an internal combustion engine works is necessary to enjoy driving an automobile.

But as tends to be the way with most hobbies if you stick with them long enough, you acquire adjacent knowledge and that eventually expands the scope of your interest beyond the "how to" and into the realm of "why".

Best,

Jim

Freddy Banks

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2018, 12:39:56 AM »
I think every astronomer, amateur or professional, should at some time construct a telescope and mount out of loose or surplus parts. They should also attempt to repair or improve an existing instrument of some type or other.

Reading through and understanding books and articles on mirror grinding or telescope construction is a good idea, even if you don't intend to actually put the info into practice. Books on the history of telescopes and the -astronomers- who built them are worthwhile reading.

The above seemed the rule rather the exception when I was growing up, back in the late Cretaceous. These days some people seem content to throw money at the hobby.

Eric Graf

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2018, 05:45:24 AM »
idk...I will admit that I have had a love of lenses since the first magnifying lens was handed to me as a child...Although back then it was my solar-powered destructo ray.

But lenses leading me to astronomy? no... The trick for that was lying on my back looking at the stars thru the rear window of a 13-14 year old 1952 Buick Roadmaster while driving to Illinois for a family visit when I was but a wee child of 3-4. Lenses were for the most part to me for looking at very small things close by, not the large and far away - aside from their superior use as solar powered-destructo rays of course

re: everybody should build one...agreed...but... I have no real space for diy. I have the will, I have the mind, the skills, and most of the necessary tooling, but I don't have sufficient work space. No garage and the basement (cellar more like) is unusable for anything like that due to it's high moisture content and dirt and dirt and dirt and flagstone floor. (that was no typo!)

Leon Vale

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2018, 07:53:18 PM »
It obviously can be. But this hobby, like cooking or water skiing for instance, can be done many different ways and be done right if the practitioner is having fun. But it doesn't have to be.

neukascome

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2018, 11:34:30 PM »
i wouldn't say fascination with optics is "integral" to [amateur] astronomy, any more than fascination with chemistry is integral to cooking. on the theme, amateur astronomy can include a fascination with photography, with processing software and the artful color management of stacked imagery, a fascination with possibly discovering a new asteroid or planetary system, and so on.

i do feel that an understanding of the big seven optical elements of astronomy -- aperture, focal length, focal ratio, magnification, light pollution, seeing and collimation -- are very handy to understand what a specific instrument can or can't do, to fix or avoid many basic problems, and to put telescopy in place with all the other methods available to observe and measure the universe.

and i suppose knowledge of aberrations is also helpful, although liking the view you get is adequate on that topic, and knowing you have aberrations doesn't often help you to any solution other than using different (better) equipment, or using the equipment you have more appropriately.

during one patch of my amateur astronomical trajectory, i spent quite a lot of effort reading optical texts, researching optical issues, learning optical principles and lurking optical debates in CN. my sense is that the more someone knows, the more they focus on practical issues, and the more someone has learned without practical experience, the more they engage in pointless debates.

but i certainly understand the point of view that says, i race cars because i love to tinker with engines.

bayretide

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2018, 09:35:56 AM »
The interests can combine. My fascination with astronomy began with just naked eye views of the Moon and stars as a child. I did find what prisms and lenses do fascinating and I tried to make telescopes from cardboard tubes, etc. I still enjoy reading about others' telescope-making endeavours.

Robert Cavalli

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2018, 03:58:20 PM »
I don't think they are linked as a specific requirement. I find that I end up trying to explain too much of what is basic optics to people.
Also engineering is much the same I can easily visualise why a DSLR needs more inward travel then an eyepiece, many do not.

I do get the idea that using the correct terms with trying to explain some bits optics leaves the person that asked as lost as if I didn't say anything.

It helps to be able to understand the optics but is in many ways not required. Have read of some sort of extreme cases of somone not understanding the optics, one was really "extreme".

Patrick Zhu

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Re: Is a fascination with optics integral to astronomy?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2018, 04:28:44 AM »
Quote
re: everybody should build one...agreed...but... I have no real space for diy. I have the will, I have the mind, the skills, and most of the necessary tooling, but I don't have sufficient work space. No garage and the basement (cellar more like) is unusable for anything like that due to it's high moisture content and dirt and dirt and dirt and flagstone floor. (that was no typo!)

I built some telescopes and mounts while living in apartments. It helped to work nights so that I could make noise during the day.