Introductions: How did you become interested in astronomy?

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Introductions: How did you become interested in astronomy?

Post by johnpatrick » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:59 am

This is John Patrick from Florida. I am 36 years old. I am very happy to join here. In this forums there's are lot of things to learn and share. I have registered here very interestingly! Thanks, :D

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Re: Introduction

Post by owlice » Thu May 12, 2011 11:55 am

Welcome to Asterisk!
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Re: Introduction

Post by luigi » Thu May 12, 2011 7:44 pm

Greetings from Argentina. The place where everything is upside-down!

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Introductions: How did you become interested in astronomy?

Post by RJN » Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:27 pm

"Who are you and how did you become interested in the sky?" That is the primary reason for this forum, and, as creator of the Asterisk online bulletin board, the powers that run the board today have asked me to go first.

As with many sky enthusiasts, my interest originated in childhood. I don't remember a key moment, but I do remember being very interested in space in second grade, at about the age of 6. I remember that our school class made time for "science", and that "astronomy" was one topic that was covered. I remember telling my mother that I thought this was great stuff. Soon I could recite the names of the planets faster than anyone in the class, which for some reason was very important to me. Suddenly most of my art scribblings became planets orbiting the Sun, at least until 5th grade when I learned how to draw an airplane sideways.

During my childhood I was a frequent visitor to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and saw many of their planetarium shows. I was just back there at the beginning of this year (2011) and I still get lost there!

Here is another story I once posted to the Asterisk about my grandmother apologizing for taking me to see one of my first space movies, which I loved: ... 35#p129135

I was fortunate enough to be able to continue my interest into adulthood and even more fortunate to make a living at it. In 1987 I received a Ph D. in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1995, I, along with Jerry Bonnell, created APOD. Today I am professor of physics at Michigan Technological University.

Because of my nearly lifelong interest, some of what I know about astronomy I have known for so long I really don't know when I learned it. Conversely, some things I know about astronomy I learned when writing an APOD for that day.

- Robert Nemiroff (RJN)

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by owlice » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:27 pm

Who am I? I recall that question being asked at a vice-presidential debate. :ssmile:

I don't know when I became interested in astronomy; certainly it was in childhood. I suppose astronomy was always in the air growing up, more like wallpaper than as an active pursuit or topic of conversation, however, as my father worked for a while at Goddard, and the Mercury and Apollo programs were in the news. The few books in my mother's childhood bedroom, which I used when I spent weekends with my grandparents, were astronomy books, among them an H. A. Rey book of the constellations and a hardcover book called simply The Planets. So when I read in bed, these books were what I had to choose from. I begged for a telescope, and eventually got one suitable for looking at the moon (which annoyingly kept drifting out of the scope's view just about the time I found what I wanted and had focused on it) but not much else.

I did not grow up with dark skies, and I have no recollection of any adult ever talking to me about astronomy except for the moon landing, which of course we watched on television.

Someday, I'll live somewhere with dark skies and have a telescope again. Until then, I have APOD to guide and inform me, and I am grateful for it.
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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by bystander » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:31 pm

Who am I? Just a bystander, a most pathetic retiree. :mrgreen:

I have always been interested in science and math. My favorite day trips, as a kid, were to the Omniplex, the local science museum. I loved all the hands-on exhibits they had, but my favorite exhibit there was the planetarium. Of course, like most Americans at that time, I was totally engrossed in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Whenever we had a working TV (not often), we would watch the launches, recoveries, and broadcasts from the moon. My dad subscribed to Popular Science. I remember my favorite articles were the occasional ones they had on astronomy.

While I was in the Air Force, I was stationed in Thailand for a year. We had locals who cleaned our rooms and did our laundry. I became friends with one of the "house boys" and he invited me to go home with him one weekend. The bus ride was quite an experience, but when we got off the bus, the sun was down, there was no moon, and it was DARK. At first, it was so dark, I couldn't even see my feet, but my eyes adjusted. Then I looked up. Wow, so that is what the sky is supposed to look like. Amazing. I now try to go to places with dark skies whenever I can, just to watch the stars.

A friend of mine, who knew I had an interest in astronomy, sent me a link to APOD, After looking around, I was hooked. My first visit to this forum was the infamous Lewin's Challenge. After much searching, I correctly identified the phenomenon and posted my answer. Sadly the link I posted is no longer working. I received little recognition for my find and was a little put off by that, but I came back. Most of what I now know about astronomy and astrophysics came from APOD and the Asterisk* (and the research I had to do to keep up).

After I retired, I accepted RJN's challenge and became the not-so-official news feed of the Starship Asterisk*. I am also the person behind the unofficial APOD facebook fan page. I also have two other pages on FB, SDO Pick of the Week and ESA Hubble Picture of the Week. If you are on facebook, come see us.

Meet Jerry Bonnell, RJN's co-editor at APOD
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alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by owlice » Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:03 pm

bystander wrote:A friend of mine, who knew I had an interest in astronomy, sent me a link to APOD.
Most of what I now know about astronomy and astrophysics came from APOD and the Asterisk* (and the research I had to do to keep up).
These things are true for me as well; add RJN's Intro Astro and Physics X courses to the mix, too. Oh, the things I've learned!
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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by tamarshall » Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:32 pm

As a kid I had to do a report on the solar system in grade school; but my real interest developed years later from my time camping in combination with my job as a philosophy professor. When I would go camping I would spend the nights looking at the sky. It didn't take long before I bought a star guide and was looking for constellations. Things just mushroomed from there. In addition, astronomy began to coincide with my academic interests as a philosopher. It was a natural match to do cosmology from both a philosophical and astronomical perspective. Over the years my interest and study of astronomy and the history of astronomy just grew to where it is an integral part of my world view. In a nutshell, I think my interest was simple curiosity coupled with the magic of a starry night in the woods; and when I ponder the cosmos I feel like a character in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe :D

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by SolarisTiger » Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:38 pm

My name is Solaris, I'm 21 and I live in Concord NC :3, When i was a cub I lived back in Fort Pierce Florida. The night of the Endeavor's launch to fix Hubble, I remember being outside with my parents, the shuttle lit up the sky like a small sun. I watched it climb higher and higher into the sky illuminating everything, and all I could think was: "Someday I want to go up there too...I want to know whats out there." After that night I became obsessed with studying the solar system and universe.

My parents would take me to the beach the days we knew there'd be a launch and we'd watch them from the shore as they went up. That one night has stayed with me all these years...If I hadn't seen it, hadn't wondered whats up there...heck if I didn't have the dream of being an astronaut like every kid did...I probably wouldn't have started studying the stars. I owe a lot to the shuttle fleet.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by neufer » Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:57 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.

Who am I?
One of the highest Peers of the Realm forced to post here under a pseudonym.

It is hard to say exactly when I became interested in astronomy. I was certainly stimulated by the following:

1) a trip to Morehead Planetarium with my father.

2) looking through telescopes

3) Jules Verne & H. G. Wells SciFi stories
(often read first as Classic Comics).

4) Science Fiction Theatre & Mr. Wizard.

5) Tomorrow land and Disney space animations :arrow:

6) Mid 50's era science fiction movies: Conquest of Space, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, etc.

7) Saw Comet Mrkos from the dark skies of
a Lake Champlain summer camp in 1957 :arrow:

I read a lot of books on astronomy (including Fred Hoyle's _Frontiers Of Astronomy_) and built my own 8" telescope.

My childhood dreams of seeing Earth from space were eventually fulfilled when I worked with NOAA weather satellites.
Last edited by neufer on Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
Art Neuendorffer

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Walter Cronkite, Ursula LeGuin and astrology led me to astro

Post by Anthony Barreiro » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:06 pm

As a young boy during the 1960's, I grew up watching grainy black-and-white images of the Gemini and Apollo missions on TV, and listening to Walter Cronkite explaining what was going on. During my unhappy teenage years in the 1970's I read a lot of science fiction. Ursula LeGuin's novels especially expanded my imagination regarding what it would be like to live elsewhere and to travel through space. But as I grew older and developed other interests, my fascination with space went underground.

Fast forward to the planetary conjunction of May 2000, which I first learned about through my interest in <gasp!> astrology. Researching that event led me to the Sky and Telescope website, and I started reading "This Week's Sky at a Glance", gradually learning more about the night sky. I kept watching the movements of the moon and the visible planets through the sky, and slowly learned the constellations. I got a pair of 10x50 binoculars, and new vistas opened up. After years of reading their free weekly email, I broke down and subscribed to Sky and Telescope.

The international year of astronomy in 2009 was the next turning point. I bought a Galileoscope (unusable because I got a cheap tripod) and then a Celestron FirstScope. The FirstScope took me deeper into the night sky, but I quickly outgrew it. Now I've got a couple of schmidt cassegrain telescopes, including a go-to, and a newtonian on a sturdy equatorial mount. I have a bookshelf devoted to astronomy, I'm a member of two astronomy clubs, I volunteer at Chabot observatory, and I give talks and lead skywatching events at a resort with a very dark clear sky. I'm planning a trip to Hawai'i next year to observe the transit of Venus.

In light of my personal story, I'd like to ask members of the astronomy community to be kinder to people who express interest in astrology, or who ask astrological questions at your star parties or public observatory. Rather than mocking and belittling them, take a moment to find an astronomical connection with their interest or question, and educate them about something they can relate to. You may just spark a latent interest and lead somebody to a deeper appreciation of the sky and the universe.

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Star gazing

Post by MidTexasAst » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:48 pm

When I was 6 living in Waco Texas I used to lie on my back in the grass and look at the milky way. I would imagine the other people in the universe who were doing exactly the same thing at the same time (didn't know about speed limit of light and that I was actually looking at light millions of years in the past). When I was 8, my family traveled to the Philippines. I used to visit the library at Clark Air Force base where I would see a giant astronomy picture book which contained pictures of star formations much like APOD now post. I would look through the pictures for hours and imagine trying to figure out the secrets of the universe. Same year the USA sent a man to the moon; it kinda all came together in a magical experience for me.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by mmlaneman » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:15 pm

Dare I say "Star Trek,Star Wars"? Yes, they were factors in my interest in Astronomy. The whole "world"/universe just became a much more amazing place after my 11-year old brain experienced these two media phenomenon.
However, it wasn't until I took a trip out to West Texas as a 14-year old that I absorbed the reality of astronomy and was in awe of what had been discovered, what was being discovered, and what still was awaiting discovery by astronomers. My family went out to Fort Davis on a camping trip and we were able to make it to the McDonald Observatory for a day tour of the telescopes (the Struve and the Harlan Smith). Wow! Most 14-year old girls would have no interest what-so-ever in these incredible pieces of machinery but I guess I just went all gaga over it. To think that images of objects that were millions of light-years away - who knows what or who may be there - could be captured through these telescopes was mind-boggling. The McDonald Observatory visitors center exhibits and the Star party at night conducted by the funniest volunteer astronomers (there is such a thing!) compounded my interest in Astronomy. In addition, they pointed out incredible objects (Ring Nebula, Polaris and several satellites) in the night sky that are the first things I am able to find now when I look up into the night sky. I was hooked. To top it off, the Visitors Center showed a documentary called "Universe" that was narrated by one of my favorite Sci-Fi actors - William Shatner.
Ever since then, although not a professional astronomer or even a true amateur astronomer, I make sure that Dark Sky viewing is a regular part of my life.
To the astronomers out there - Thanks for all you do and for spurring the hopes and dreams of many young kids out there.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by DanzziggMang » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:35 pm

:saturn: I remember when I was younger I would have sleep overs with my friends and we would stay up for hours, regardless of school nights or not, and contemplate the existence of the universe and how the heck it got so beautiful and most of all... What is this? I began to learn about it through the internet and then I finally talked my mom into buying me a few books when I became more interested. Staring at the sky at night (even being stuck in light polluted Houston) would bring me to tears when i started learning what everything is. I'm now going into college to be an Astronomy teacher with my inspiration being my own Astronomy teacher, Mrs. Mees. :-D I feel like everyone should know what we are apart of, made out of, existing from, etc.
I started teaching my mom, my grandmother (excellent student) and my friends first with my 8-inch telescope and I am hoping I will be able to bring it to Star Parties and show everyone what I can see. And soon on, my own students. Possibly using the money I get from teaching to become an astronomer. Now I visit museums and planetariums wishing I could have experienced those firsthand instead of books. I feel like I am annoying to others when I point out to my mother different things before the speakers say it themselves. I may just be an amateur now, but soon down the road I hope to become a professional. It started as my hobby and soon it will be my life and i can't help but to get excited for future findings and teachings. :saturn:

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by Larry Turner » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:52 pm

My family went to visit my Aunt at her cabin by the river. We were standing outside. It was dark. I looked up and in awe asked "what is that?" I was thirteen. It was 1950. It was the first time I had seen the Milky Way. I was hooked.

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Re:Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by genej101 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:34 pm

Lying on my back out on our lawn back on the farm looking at the night sky, which you can no longer see from that farm, and just being awed by the size and wonder of it all. Then through the 60's I read Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Loved Carl Sagan' work, Contact, APOD when it began with its incredible pictures, a site I still visit most days. Realizing how much human biology has in common with the universe, from stellar nurseries, to galactic neigborhoods, the cycle of life and death we experience mirrored in the cosmos. Then came the Science Channel, Morgan Freeman, and all those marvelous documentaries about star birth and planet formation, evolution in human scale and in the scale of the universe. I've been hopelessly hooked since those days as a 10 or 11 year old gazing in something like pure rapture into the night sky. :^)

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by cmedina » Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:00 pm

At age 28 now, I have always been interested in astronomy, the stars have always been the topic of my amazement. My first memories related to the night sky are in the beach with my dad, watching shooting stars and looking for Halley's Comet in 1986, witch we didn't find. (Hope to get that done if I get to 2061!) and having the strange idea that the Moon was following me everywhere I was. Then a series of experiences had an important role in my interest for astronomy:
1- Around the age of 12 I had sleeping problems, I couldn't sleep so I spent the nights watching the stars and reading.
2- Total Eclipse of July 11, 1991. It was a spectacular event.
3- Comet SL9 hits Jupiter in 1994.
4- 1996 Comet Hyakutake came out and I bought my first telescope to get a good look at it. Followed by Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997.

Since then I got in astronomy with books, documentaries, and haven't stopped. I enjoy in teaching the knowledge that I have, not much compared with all that is out there, to people of all ages and all types of audience and explaining why reality is by far more surprising than fiction.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by horseherb » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:06 am

What a great question! Thanks for asking.

One day Dad brought home a mysterious box. He placed it on the dinner table and we all stood around just looking at it. Little did we know . . Inside that box was The Mystery of the Universe.

After opening that box, we took the telescope outside, placed it's three shiny legs in the grass and pointed it at the moon. Viola! no more mystery! But, wait . . Something else had happened. It was as though the whole universe and everything in it had become one enourmous box. Just waiting to be opened! Boxes within boxes within boxes!
Each one a precious gift.

Thanks Dad.

Somewhere, something wonderful is waiting to be known. - Carl Sagan
Thanks APOD.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by abhagwat » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:46 am

My father was an amateur astronomer and science enthusiast, and used to take me as a kid to numerous visits to the planetarium in Kolkata (Calcutta, India) and to the science museum, including telescope viewing of the moon, venus, saturn and jupiter. In addition during the summer nights we used to sleep outside under the open skies to escape the heat. So watching the heavens above, spotting the pole star, the big dipper, rotation of the big dipper as the night passed, the majestic orion, phases of the moon, and even watching the Sputnik as it passed over head, got me completed and passionately hooked to Physics and Astronomy!

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Re: It began with a pointy rocket ship.

Post by rstevenson » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:09 am

Hi all,

I don't have any particular recollection of the night sky before the age of eight, which is when we moved from the city and into a subdivision about 10 miles out. It was a new development with few street lamps and lots of available darkness. Suddenly the night sky came alive, the moon becoming a particular friend. Oddly, or so it seems now, I never felt any desire to own a telescope. Back then I didn't pursue things; I just waited for them to happen. And nothing very scholarly or scientific happened in my life, certainly nothing prompted by the poor rural schools I attended, so I ended up working with my hands for most of my life, designing and building furniture and kitchens, and teaching myself programming along the way. It was a rich and fulfilling life, but entirely disconnected from my scientific interests.

But a spark had been lit that could not be extinguished, and that spark was struck and fueled by science fiction. While visiting relatives I was hanging out with my very cool, 20-year old cousin (I was 10, and he probably wished that I, very uncool, wasn't hanging out with him) when I spotted an interesting paperback on his book shelf. It showed a pointy rocket fallen on its side on the Moon, with a few rocket mechanics and scientists looking at it with concern, as well they should -- it was supposed to be their ride home. I've read voraciously all my life and much of the fiction I read from then on was science fiction. I preferred the science end of the genre rather than the fantasy end, so from time to time I'd go look something up to see what the authors were talking about. I must have acquired a basic astronomy education that way -- in 50+ years you can teach yourself anything -- but now I feel the need to push it a lot farther. So in a few weeks I'll be starting studies at a local university which may lead, someday, to a degree in astronomy or something closely related. (My main interest at this point is planetary system formation, the entire process from dust and gas to suns and planets.)

The past couple of years, prompted by The Starship Asterisk* and APOD as much as anything else, I've upped the ante on my reading, trying to get through books like Harrison's Cosmology, Feynman's three volume Lectures on Physics, or Armitrage's Astrophysics of Planetary Formation. I have to say, if you suffer from insomnia I can heartily recommend those books as a cure -- not because they're not well written, but because they are so dense with information. No doubt I'll be doing very little recreational reading for the next few years, but I'll try to sneak in some science fiction when time permits. And, of course, the Asterisk* will be part of my homework every day.


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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by jackmat3 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:41 am

Hi, i'm only 11 years old but i love A.P.O.D and got interested in astronomy as soon as the eclipse of 2008 happened and since the february quake we moved out of christchurch because our house got destroyed :( anyway, we came to lake tekapo about twice a year and now we moved out of christchurch and moved to fairlie just 30 minutes away from lake tekapo where mt. john is and now that we are in fairlie there are not many clouds so now we bought a dobsonian telescope. THE END :lol:

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by Firelamb » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:50 am

When I was a little girl, just 5 years old, my parents decided we would move from California to Florida. I noticed one night that there was a huge full moon. Then I realized that no matter how far we drove, the moon seemed to be right there, just behind us. I started getting scared, and after a while that fear turned to sheer terror as I realized the moon was chasing us! I let a blood-curdling scream, followed by another and another, I was just hysterical. My dad nearly wrecked the car of course and stopped and asked what was wrong. Well after a while he got me to stop screaming and I told him, so he pulled me into his arms, took me out in the night to look at the sky, and gently explained about why the moon seems to follow us. He was the best at things like that. When we got to Florida, the first thing he did after we got settled in was to buy a telescope so we could see the features of the moon. I was awe-struck and have been ever since, both of space and my dad.

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by muneca1289 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 4:47 am

when i became interested in astronomy i was at camp and i was really dark so our camp counselor took his laser light and he pointed to us the stars and i was hooked from there because they looked so elegent and i wanted to know more so i did my research and i found so many more than just stars i found blackholes and dark matter galaxies and so many more 4 years later i found this site and it amazes me how many people like astronomy i also like to draw and sometimes and the night sky just inspires me and the things i draw sometimes all i want to do is go outside and lay down in the ground and just stare up on the stars for a long time. I just space out and be in my own world for a few minutes one of my dreams is to see a lunar eclipse. well that is my story :mrgreen: :saturn:

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Re: Introductions: How did you become interested in astronom

Post by iknowaguy » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:02 am

i remember watching Jack Horkheimer's Star Gazer when i was five or six years old,it woukd air on pbs it was always on at weird hours ,really early in the mourning .i dont remember why i would wake up so early but i remeber jack's show being so was'nt till a couple years later that i was able to find the planets and stars that are visible to the unaided eye.i remember when i saw the planet venus for the first time it was amazing.twenty years later im still looking up .

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Couriciy to know "Who we are?"

Post by babaonet » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:19 am

When i was a child, some questions frequently came to my mind like "who am I?", "from where we human came from?". Later when I started to go to school and study different kinds of books, i was naturally attracted to science. I realized that only science is true and can answer my questions. When I first came to know about the earth, sun, solar system, galaxies, and the universe i became so much exited and stunning that i can't express in words. Further subject like theory of relativity, black hole, spacetime made me crazy.