James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Population II Amateur Astronomer

How would you feel if you went to bed one night and woke up the next day in a strange and alien world? All your preconceived notions about gravity, physics, the daily operation of life had suddenly changed?

Recently I got into a debate about focal ratio and I thought I knew what I was talking about. I'm an old school amateur raised on old school ways with lots of formulas and a strict adherence to laws governing systems and how they operate. All of this was predictable.

Well apparently the rules have changed when it comes to light collection technology and focal ratio no longer determines how a CCD collects light. The only thing that matters is aperture and because of the nature of sky glow and the efficiency of detection technology, slower scopes may actually be more efficient because they collect more total photons due to integration time. I find it absolutely mind-boggling that something so rooted and perfect is suddenly tipped upside down and forever destroyed, to be relegated to obsolesence, supplanted by superior advancements in technology.

I know that this may have little impact on your world, and if you are new to this the old ideas may not even be relevant because you have never experienced them. But I somehow can't leave this without taking one last jab at these hot young imaging experts - the real world real dollar value of a 400 lb Astrola mounted 10 inch f/7 Cave just went up fourfold. It's time to dust off the relics because what is old is still what is new.

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